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Monday, May 11, 2020

Just the news on COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, for the week starting May 11

The latest info, short and sweet, mostly from the province but also Halifax.

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 3:44 PM

NOTE: This week is now over. For the very latest news, please go here. But for an informative look back at exactly how Nova Scotia responded to COVID-19 in realtime, keep on reading.

For a smaller, mobile-friendly version of The Coast's Nova Scotia COVID-19 case graph, click here.

Editor's note: The Coast has never aimed to be a just-the-facts news service. After all, there are lots of those and far-too-few media outlets that specialize in context, depth and engaging writing. But these are strange times, so we're experimenting with this news centre to be able to give quick-hit updates for our readers who want them. And for readers who don't, the rest of the site is bringing that beloved Coast approach to covering our beloved Halifax during the pandemic.

Sunday, May 17

Three new cases

Yeah, three more cases have been diagnosed according to Nova Scotia’s daily case report. We’ve asked the province for clarification on how many of those, if any, are at Northwood, and will let you know when we find out.

Saturday, May 16

Popping the family-only bubble

Remember Friday when Strang and McNeil introduced their made-in-Nova Scotia take on the “two-household bubble” innovation that New Brunswick started?

Ours was different, more designed to create #bubbledrama, less well-punctuated. The “immediate family bubble” would allow two households of blood relations to interact without physical-distancing precautions, excluding one set of grandparents and preventing BFFs, chosen families, friendly neighbours, those with no family in Nova Scotia and those with no family, period, from enjoying the social rewards earned by a couple hard months of isolation and lockdown.

Saturday the immediate-family restriction was lifted by the premier. Although it is still called an immediate family bubble on the provincial site, showing New Brunswick we came up with something totally different and announcing to the world we don’t know how to use a hyphen properly, it is now a two-household bubble. Here's how the province describes it to scrupulously avoid using New Brunswick terminology:

You can combine your household with another household to create an immediate family bubble. If you’re not able to bubble with immediate family, you can decide who will be in your bubble. The bubble lets both households spend time together without social distancing. 

Whatever behind-the-scenes political drama lead to this welcome change, we bet you can top it. So don’t forget to send your tales of real-life bubble drama to bubbledrama@thecoast.ca.

Warning about exposure at Dollarama

In an effort to fight community spread of C19, the Nova Scotia Health Authority occasionally sends out alerts about “potential exposure” at a certain place over a certain timeframe. Saturday one of those warnings came out, for the Dollarama store at 85 Damascus Road in Bedford, from April 29 to May 14.

If you were there then, you might have been exposed to the coronavirus and should be especially watchful for symptoms of the disease—fever, cough, sore throat, headache and runny nose are the biggies. Usually COVID presents itself within 14 days, so if you were at the Dollarama on Friday May 1, if you were going to get sick it should have happened by yesterday, But if you were there a couple days ago, you could be living with uncertainty as late as May 28.

NSHA’s advice is that you should phone 811 for assessment if you develop any two symptoms. And that holds whether you’ve been to Dollarama or not.

Clarification on today’s cases

We heard back from the province about those three 😷 new 😷 COVID-19 😷 diagnoses. It turns out two of them were at Northwood, but one wasn’t. So that’s more pain for the province’s largest long-term care facility and more for the wider community. 💩 💩

Three 😷 new 🤒 cases 🤕

It’s Saturday on the long weekend and beaches are officially open 🥳

But there’s ☔ on the forecast from one end of the province to the other 🙁

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 infections are dropping 🎉

But with three 😷 new 😷 cases 😷 in today’s report from the province we’ve still never had a zero-case day 😿

Northwood had 25 sick residents yesterday and is still at 25 today 🏆

The provincial report doesn’t say if any of the new cases are at Northwood, so we don’t know if some residents recovered but others got sick and the unchanging statistic of 25 infected people is obscuring the outbreak's continuing spread, or if Northwood actually had no new infections for a bit of good news 😬

We’ve asked the province to 🔍 the case numbers the way 👨‍⚕️ did at the briefing yesterday, in hopes of finding out if this day has a bit of 🌞 or is total 💩

🤞

Friday, May 15

Bubbles and beaches

“Another long weekend is upon us,” said Stephen McNeil at the start of today’s C19 briefing, ”and I know a lot of you need a break from being cooped up and shut in.”

Two weeks ago, McNeil and top doc Robert Strang used their Friday briefing to loosen the lockdown, opening parks and trails, cottages and marinas. Now the premier praised Nova Scotians for handling that bit of freedom responsibly, going outside while sticking to the physical distancing rules that are designed to stifle COVID-19’s spread. “Our case numbers have been going down,” he said. The loosening could continue.

McNeil said the concern he hears most from people is, “When can I see my family?” So to address that, he unveiled something called the “immediate family bubble.”

Yeah, it’s a weird name.

When New Brunswick introduced the idea to Canada three weeks ago, they used the efficiently descriptive term “two-household bubbles.” In Newfoundland and Labrador, it got a twist of character to become “double bubble.” Instead of everyone isolated in, umm, isolation, people in two households can create a social bubble.

At Wednesday’s briefing, CBC reporter Shaina Luck asked Strang if double bubbles would be coming to Nova Scotia, and he poured cold water on the concept because it could leave some families unbubbled. “They can visit one set of relatives, but they can't visit another set of relatives, or maybe they have to choose between grandparents or grandchildren,” he said. “There are some, you know, some some pros to that. But it's a complicated piece actually.” Strang allowed that our province would consider bubbling up, while also exploring other avenues.

Two days later, we have the immediate family bubble. This is not a requirement that all families immediately form a bubble, and it’s not technically permission for a pair neighbours or besties to open their doors to each other. Nova Scotia’s version allows two households to form a bubble, as long as they are each other’s close family. (A hyphen would help, as in the immediate-family bubble, if anybody besides government officials ever needed to call it something besides the double bubble.)

We know how this is going to go in Nova Scotia. And it’s not going to go well. Right now Aunt Judy invited Aunt Cathy, but Aunt Cathy already called her daughter with a newborn, who’d actually already called her wife’s parents, who were thrilled but actually happen to be enjoying themselves. While your family ties unravel in the battle for the bubble, share the carnage with us at bubbledrama@thecoast.ca.

In other restriction-loosening moves, beaches are open! You can go for a walk, you can go to surf, you can go to swim, you can go to lie on the sand in hopes of the sun coming out, but as usual, you cannot go within two metres of other people or be in groups larger than five—unless they’re in your double bubble.

Strang also announced six sports that people can do, all of them well suited to keeping people apart. (Tournaments or other such events that would cause masses of people to gather are strictly off limits, natch.) The sports are golf, paddling, sailing/boating, tennis, horseback riding and archery. Good news for golfers, great news for horseback archers like Nova Scotia’s own Lance Bishop.

Happy long weekend, everybody. Stay safe.

The latest numbers, and more easing

The province just announced the latest C19 stats, and for this week at the tapering end of the curve they feel like a setback: Four more people have died at Northwood, and eight new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed.

The provincial press release doesn’t make clear where the newly diagnosed patients live.

Premier McNeil and Doctor Strang do have a briefing today, which starts at 3pm. The press release says they will be talking about “the easing of some restrictions around COVID-19.” You can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

Thursday, May 14

Counting woes

At yesterday’s C19 briefing—there was no briefing today—doctor Strang announced that the data collection behind the stats report finally got fixed. We’ve reported on this issue before (see the heading “A blast of bad numbers”), which has been a frustration for amateur statisticians who are parsing the government’s numbers to try and understand what’s happening.

Basically the COVID case numbers from long-term care facilities were reported so differently than other numbers, we could never really trust where things stood on any one day. “Much of this difference was due to the fact that we're using two different data sets and different timelines from those data sets,” Strang explained yesterday. But now thing are better, “and we have a much truer picture of our number of active cases.”

For the Northwood seniors’ centre, this cleaning up of the data collection also brought a sharp drop in the number of infected residents: On Tuesday there were reportedly 157 residents with COVID, Wednesday there were 64, today there are just 27.

The idea that the scary Northwood outbreak, which a week ago involved 200 people, is currently contained to 27 residents (plus 15 staff) is heartening. We will embrace it. We will put aside our concerns about how any sort of lag in counting could overlook an unprecedented 130 residents recovering from the disease. We will take deep breaths and not wonder what it says about our tracking ability that 130 people out of a sample of 157 had to suddenly be reclassified. We will don’t worry. We will be happy. Because now that the data has been cleaned up, things look great.

Today there were two new cases of C19 and no deaths. That brings us to 66 active cases in Nova Scotia, and 44 of those are among staff and residents at Northwood and two other nursing homes. In the whole rest of the province, only 22 people have COVID-19.

We don’t know where they are, at least not yet. They could be all over the place like seeds in a field, or they might be the dregs of one community cluster, a lone puddle evaporating to nothing. Doctor Strang told us last week that he’s working on making that information public. It will be welcome. Knowledge is power, after all, even if it’s just the power to see the physical distancing and isolation measures, the economic slowdown and public sacrifice, actually working to curtail the virus.

Two new cases

The latest statistics have been released from the province, and there are two new COVID-19 diagnoses. Nova Scotia’s infection rate is clearly slowing down, but still we have not had a day with zero new cases.

Wednesday, May 13

Hump day deaths and cases

Come on this week, get with the program! We’re looking for no new cases, no new deaths, not three people dying and four people getting infected.

All three people who died were Northwood residents. "On behalf of all Nova Scotians, I offer my sincere condolences to those families who are grieving the loss of a loved one today," Stephen McNeil said. The premier is right, this sucks.

Musquodoboit Valley ER closed until Saturday

A public service advisory from the Nova Scotia Health Authority says an emergency department is closed for the next few days. It’s at the Musquoboboit Valley Memorial Hospital, and it’s happening today, tomorrow and Friday. The MVMHER—which has probably never been called the “move ‘em here” before this—reopens at 8am Saturday, May 16.

MuMoHo has had many temporary closures since the beginning of the province’s C19 odyssey. As warned at the NSHA site: ”Many Nova Scotia Health Authority services are being reduced or suspended until further notice as part of the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.” If you find yourself suddenly needing the move ‘em here when it’s closed, you should call 911 instead. If you’re not sure if your need is urgent enough for 911, try 811.

Tuesday, May 12

Almost zero cases

So close today! Nobody else died from this dumb disease, and only one new person got infected with it. When tomorrow’s provincial numbers come out, we’ll have another chance to get our first day with no new cases.

Briefly about the briefing

They’re back! After a few regularly scheduled days off, premier Stephen McNeil and NS top doc Robert Strang have their regularly scheduled COVID-19 briefing today. It starts at 3:00pm. You can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

Monday, May 11

Rural internet update

Back in March, as the lockdowns were getting rolling, the government used unusual foresight and clarity to identify a big problem of the COVID age. (Another big problem, after COVID itself.) A huge number of Nova Scotians—about 30 percent—don’t have access to high-speed internet.

Fast internet access enables working from home, distance education from elementary school to university, frustration-reduced videochats with family members, business pivots to online-centric models and countless other enhancements to pandemic life and/or the economy. And Nova Scotia is only 70 percent there. So on March 20, the province announced $15 million to something called the Internet for Nova Scotia Initiative, to quickly get more people on high-speed

The INSI has been around a while. It started in 2018 with a goal to get the province from 70 percent high-speed to 95 percent, i.e. it’s going to bring fast internet to a quarter of Nova Scotians. That's a big project, and it's not nimble. In February 2020, INSI announced that its first round of projects would be starting, slowly bringing high-speed to something like 42,000 people—upping the connected percentage from 70 to 86 percent of the province.

The government put $45 million into the first round. Then came COVID, and the sudden realization that INSI’s pace sucked. That $15 million announced on March 20 as pandemic preparation was just to light a fire under asses; a $45-million project ballooned into a $60-million project so high-speed didn’t happen in slow motion.

So how fast did $15 million get people moving? On April 29, more than a month after the announcement, The Coast asked the premier for an update during the regular briefing session. He said he’d get back to us.

Today, May 11, the answer came in the form of a press release. “High-speed internet is now available in Shelburne County and areas surrounding Canning in Kings County,” it reads. There are 18,000 people slated to get fast connections six months faster than they would have. And connecting the balance of the 42,000 people “will be substantially complete within 12 months.”

That works out to a $15 million speed tax to get 42,000 people connected in a year. Or $357 per person for 365 days. Basically a dollar a day, every day for a year, for every single person who gets a new high-speed connection. It adds up fast. 

Starting the week slow for cases and deaths

Today begins our ninth week under the shadow of the coronavirus, and we’ve got a good feeling about it. Nova Scotia is past the peak of active cases, plus the number of new cases reported each day is dropping. Friday there was just one new COVID-19 infection diagnosed, a number not seen since March. This week, there could be a day when no new cases are announced.

But Monday is not that day. The latest C19 report from the province says there one new case has been diagnosed. One new case is a low number, infrequently seen. However it’s not quite zero, a number we’ve never seen in the past nine weeks. Come on zero, you can do it!

Today the province announced that another person has died of the disease. The patient was a resident of Northwood, where now 42 of Nova Scotia’s 48 coronavirus casualties lived. In a small mercy, there were no new diagnosed cases today at Northwood, the province’s largest nursing home facility.

———



The collection of news updates from the May 4 week is here.

April 27 week is here.

April 20 week is here.

April 13 week is here.

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