114 New Cases of COVID-19, Omicron Variant Cases, Long-Term Care Outbreak / Restrictions Return Provincewide

The Covid Chronicle

****  HEALTH/WELLNESS Media Release

114 New Cases of COVID-19, Omicron Variant Cases, Long-Term Care Outbreak
Today, December 13, Nova Scotia is reporting 114 new cases of COVID-19.

There are 55 cases in Central Zone, 52 cases in Eastern Zone, five cases in Western Zone, and two cases in Northern Zone.

Because of the outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, the number of positive cases being released today are lab results, not Panorama results. This continues to better reflect the situation on the ground.

Those infected in the outbreak are experiencing relatively mild symptoms and the cases are mostly young people who are fully vaccinated.

Due to the spike in testing and positive cases, public health is experiencing some delays in follow up. People whose lab test is positive will continue to receive an initial contact from public health within 24 hours and they will be provided information on required isolation and testing and asked to contact their close contacts. Detailed follow-ups are being prioritized and may be delayed. Public health will continue to support contact tracing in schools, long-term care, correctional facilities, shelters and other settings.

All close contacts, including those who are fully vaccinated, now need to isolate until they have a negative result from a lab-based (PCR) test. The lab test should be performed at least 72 hours after the exposure. Public health strongly recommends regular rapid testing for all Nova Scotians.

It is important that people who test positive with a rapid test self-isolate and get a lab test regardless of vaccination status. If that confirmatory test is negative, they may stop isolating if they have no symptoms. Testing has been increased in the Antigonish area, including extended hours at the testing centre and mobile units have been deployed.

The National Microbiology Lab has confirmed 40 Omicron variant cases. These cases were previously reported.

The Province is reporting an outbreak at Parkland Antigonish, a seniors living community. Two residents and two staff members from the retirement home have tested positive and one staff member from Mary’s Court, the licensed long-term care neighbourhood, has tested positive.

No one is in hospital. All staff and residents are fully vaccinated, and all residents of Mary’s Court have had a booster shot. Public health is working with the facility to prevent further spread. Increased public health measures and restrictions are in place.

Over the past three days, 17 schools were notified of an exposure(s) at their school. As always, all staff, parents and guardians are notified of exposures if a positive case (student, teacher or staff) was at the school while infectious. A list of schools with exposures is available online: https://backtoschool.ednet.ns.ca/school-exposures

Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 3,882 tests on December 10; 4,766 tests on December 11; and 5,304 tests on December 12.

Six people are in hospital, including two in ICU. There are no hospitalizations in Eastern Zone.

As of December 12, 1,681,621 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Of those, 790,778 Nova Scotians have received their second dose, and 46,537 eligible Nova Scotians have received a third dose.

Testing advice:
Symptoms and self-assessment:

Regardless of your vaccination status, anyone with symptoms should immediately self-isolate and visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to do a self-assessment and book a COVID-19 test if in the past 48 hours they have had or are currently experiencing:

— cough (new or worsening)

Or two or more of the following symptoms:

— fever (chills, sweats)
— headache
— runny nose or nasal congestion
— sore throat
— shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

People should call 811 if they cannot access the online self-assessment or wish to speak with a nurse about their symptoms.

Testing advice for people without symptoms:

People who do not have symptoms and should get tested are listed at https://www.nshealth.ca/visit-covid-19-testing-site. People who do not meet this criteria can get a rapid test at a pop-up site or a mobile unit. Locations are listed at https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus/covid-19-rapid-testing .

People who were advised by public health that they were a close contact may need to self-isolate. Information about self-isolation requirements for different situations is at https://www.nshealth.ca/what-do-i-need-know-about-covid-19-self-isolation .


Restrictions Return Provincewide
In light of recent COVID-19 outbreaks and the threat of the new Omicron variant, physical distance and gathering limits are returning to help protect Nova Scotians and the health system over the next few weeks. Mask requirements are also being tightened and there are enhanced measures at schools.

“We don’t know enough about this variant to let things go,” said Premier Tim Houston. “I’m not taking chances with the lives of Nova Scotians or the ability of our health system to care for people. We need to act quickly to get things under control. The way we fight this is no different than what we’ve done all along. That’s why we need to bring back some of the previous restrictions.”

Effective Tuesday, December 14, enhanced public health measures at schools until the holiday break next week include:
— school sports are limited to team skills training only
— no assemblies and no holiday concerts
— no mixing of classes, including a pause on activities like Reading Buddies
— essential visitors only in schools
— masks are required indoors and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained
— limited access to cafeterias

Fully vaccinated community members can use school gyms and theatres after hours if operationally feasible.

“We have acted quickly and cautiously throughout this pandemic and that has served us well,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia. “We’re focusing on tightening up in three key areas to try to get this latest variant under control – masking, gathering limits and physical distancing. These restrictions are an interim step while we learn more about this variant and get more people vaccinated.”

Starting at 9 a.m. on Friday, December 17, and lasting until at least the new year, the following restrictions will be in place:

Physical distance and mask requirements
— physical distance of two metres (six feet) is required indoors and outdoors, except among people in the same household or a consistent social group of up to 20 people
–places like fitness and recreation facilities, retail businesses, malls, museums, libraries and personal services like hair salons can operate at the maximum capacity possible with physical distancing
— food establishments and liquor-licensed establishments must have physical distance between tables and a limit of 20 people per table
— people must be seated to remove their mask for eating or drinking; all other mask requirements for indoor public places remain, including wearing them when seated for other activities
— masks are required in areas of workplaces where physical distance cannot be achieved, as well as common areas, areas where people are serving the public and areas with poor ventilation
— individuals, businesses and organizations all have responsibility for ensuring mask requirements are followed and can all be subject to enforcement action

Gathering limits
— indoor and outdoor informal gatherings, typically at home, are limited to 20 people from the same household or consistent social group; physical distance and proof of full vaccination are not required; masks are not required except in indoor public places
— gathering limits of 50 per cent of capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors and 250 outdoors apply to social gatherings, regular faith services, weddings, funerals and their associated receptions and visitation, special events, meetings, training, festivals, and audiences for sports events and arts and culture events (like performances and movie theatres) that are hosted by a recognized business or organization, including faith organizations
— a limit of 60 participants indoors and outdoors applies to sports practices, games, and regular league play; tournaments are not allowed; physical distance is not required, and masks are recommended when possible indoors and outdoors
— a limit of 60 participants indoors and outdoors applies to professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances; competitions are not allowed; professionals must have a plan for their workplace; physical distance is not required, and masks are recommended when possible indoors and outdoors
— children age 11 and younger continue to be restricted from entering Nova Scotia to participate in sports and arts and culture events and from participating in them outside Nova Scotia
— specific organizational plans will be considered for large venues such as Scotiabank Centre, Halifax Exhibition Centre and Halifax Convention Centre.

Long-term care
— a limit of two visitors at a time with long-term care residents; it does not have to be the same two visitors each time
— it is strongly recommended that visitors have a rapid test within 24 hours of the visit
— visitors can have quick close contact like a hug but then need to stay physically distanced for the rest of the visit
— the requirement for visitors to wear masks and be fully vaccinated, except for end-of-life visits, remains
— residents can only leave the facility for overnight visits if they are fully vaccinated and it is strongly recommended that they have their booster dose as well.

There is no change in the requirement for proof of full vaccination for discretionary activities. It is still required for attendees and volunteers, even in places where gathering limits and physical distance will apply.

Additional Resources:
Nova Scotia coronavirus website: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/

For more information about COVID-19 testing and online booking, visit: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/symptoms-and-testing/

Government of Canada: https://canada.ca/coronavirus or 1-833-784-4397 (toll-free)

The Mental Health Provincial Crisis Line is available 24/7 to anyone experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis, or someone concerned about them, by calling 1-888-429-8167 (toll-free)

Anyone with a non-crisis mental health or addiction concern can call Community Mental Health and Addictions at 1-855-922-1122 (toll-free) weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Kids Help Phone is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free)

For help or information about domestic violence 24/7, call 1-855-225-0220 (toll-free)

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