Minister of seniors and long-term care Barbara Adams, left, with Nova Scotia's deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Shelley Deeks.

Nova Scotia reports 111 weekend COVID cases and an outbreak at a Pugwash nursing home

The surge in cases and long term care outbreak are connected to a multi-day faith gathering.

Transmission of COVID-19 from a single, multi-day faith gathering is linked to an outbreak at a Pugwash nursing home impacting four fully vaccinated residents and one staff member. The outbreak is serious enough that the province announced some details in its regular Monday disease report, then minutes later issued a notice to media outlets that there would be a briefing today from provincial officials about the case numbers.

The officials at the briefing were Barbara Adams, minister of long-term care and seniors, and deputy chief medical officer of health Shelley Deeks. Doctor Deeks declined to say if the nursing home staffer with COVID was vaccinated, citing privacy concerns. She did confirm the source of exposure at East Cumberland Lodge long-term care home is a staff member whose case is “linked” to the faith event, though she didn’t say if the staff member was in attendance. Of the 116 staff at the home, 96 percent or 111 people have shared proof of vaccination, Adams said. All residents are fully vaccinated.

“We’ve seen secondary transmission related to a faith-based gathering that occurred in late October. Unfortunately some of the secondary transmission is the source of the outbreak at East Cumberland Lodge,” Deeks said Monday afternoon. The multi-day event hosted about 100 attendees. Exposure from this event is connected to “several clusters of cases” in the Northern and Western health zones.

Nova Scotia is reporting 111 new cases Monday, capturing all cases identified since Friday’s update. Five of these cases are connected to the Pugwash long-term care home, one of the residents is in hospital. The number of cases may rise in the next couple of days, as many tests are still pending, Deeks said.

The 100-person event did not check proof of vaccinations, Doctor Strang said at a COVID briefing with the premier Friday, which goes against public health policy. Regular weekly religious services don’t require POV, but additional or special events like youth groups or the late-October multi-day event do.

Deeks said Strang reached out to faith leaders Friday to remind them that external activities must have vaccinated attendees and that masks are to be worn in regular services when proof of vaccination isn’t required. 

At this stage there are no plans to penalize or fine the faith-based organizers, though minister Adams said it’s not off the table. When asked about issuing fines to the faith event organizers for not following public health orders, Strang said Friday he’s most interesting in “moving forward and dealing with these communities in constructive, positive ways.”

During that less-hastily convened briefing, Strang also said he was optimistic that the exposure among the faith communities would not spread to the wider public. Strang said Friday his team is watching these clusters closely and that the affected faith groups have been cooperating with public health.

Of the 111 new cases reported Monday, 52 cases are in Western zone, 31 cases are in Central, Northern has 19 cases and there are nine cases in Eastern zone. There are 255 active cases of COVID province wide, with nine people in hospital and one in intensive care.

About The Author

Lyndsay Armstrong

Lyndsay is a city reporter covering all things Halifax, health and COVID-19. She is a data journalist who has covered provincial politics for and represented Nova Scotia in a national investigation into lead in drinking water with the Toronto Star and Global.

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