Nova Scotia top doc Robert Strang says he’s watching New Brunswick closely and is ready to take action if needed, following a spike in COVID cases over the week. NB has reported 44 new cases since last Saturday, and Friday it shifted to phase green—meaning no more masks, physical distancing or capacity caps.
Given that COVID-19 has about a two-week incubation period, and symptoms are typically experienced two-to-14 days after exposure, it’s unlikely the influx of recent cases is connected to Friday’s restriction changes. New Brunswick removed public health restrictions on July 30, so the impact of that decision will likely not be seen until Friday, August 13. Instead, the delta variant and plateauing immunization rates are to blame.
“There’s a cluster of cases in un-immunized individuals in Moncton. We will be watching that very closely,” the NS chief medical officer of health said during a COVID briefing Thursday afternoon. “We’ll take action as appropriate.”
Last week, Strang announced the end of the regular briefings he’s done throughout the pandemic alongside the premier. Today’s session was only for media, and with premier Iain Rankin on the election campaign trail as the candidate for Timberlea-Prospect, Strang appeared at the briefing alone. He said it’s not yet time for action, but if needed Nova Scotia is prepared to reinstate restrictions on New Brunswick travel or recommend Nova Scotians avoid visiting.
“We’ll continue to assess the situation,” he said, “but we’re not there yet.”
While commenting on Alberta’s recent restriction changes, which mirror New Brunswick’s, Strang made clear that Nova Scotia is not prepared to follow suit. “Every jurisdiction is going to make their assessment… but we’ll remain cautious,” he said.
“I think it’s pretty clear that it's premature to say that the pandemic is over and we can treat COVID like it’s the same as any other respiratory virus. We will not be following those steps.”
The chief medical officer said the New Brunswick outbreak is “not a surprise.”
“It’s another example that where we see the delta variant take hold is when you have under-immunized population. And frankly, it’s all been in the younger population.”
Today, New Brunswick reported 13 new cases and a caseload of 51 active cases. Of those new infections, nine of the patients live in Moncton and are between the ages of 20 and 29. The province says 68.6 percent of New Brunswickers “aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated,” which translates to about 60.6 percent of the entire population (yesterday The Coast explained why). Vaccine rates have levelled off recently, NB top doc Jennifer Russell told CBC.
Strang said public health is working on reaching out to Nova Scotians who may have visited NB to let them know about recent exposure sites.
For its Thursday, Nova Scotia reported four new COVID cases, and a caseload of 15 active cases. To date 1.38 million doses of vaccine have hit arms, and 636,900 Nova Scotians are fully immunized. Strang said this makes up about 66 percent of our entire population.
That number is scheduled to grow, because people have already booked appointments for second doses later this month, as well as into September and October. The chief medical officer said that if each Nova Scotian with a vaccine appointment was immunized, the fully vaccinated population would pass 75 percent of the province, which is the target for moving into Phase 5.
“I need to be blunt,” Strang said. “Whether or not we have restrictions into September is in the hands of Nova Scotians who have a second dose booked but have not moved it up to August.”