Nova Scotia removes travel from COVID-19 testing requirements

The testing lab that handles all of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 results moved to round-the-clock operations Monday, on the same day the province identified 31 new cases of the virus and removed travel as one of the screening requirements.

That brings the provincial total of known cases to 293. Those known cases range in age from under 10 to older than 90.

Previously, one of the prerequisites for getting swabbed was having travelled recently outside of the province. To get tested, people will still need to use the province’s self-assessment questionnaire and get an appointment.

The questionnaire now simply asks people if they have a fever greater than 38 C, or if they have a new cough or a cough that’s getting worse. If they answer yes to either question, they should phone 811.

Nine people are currently in hospital and 64 are listed as recovered.

To date, there have been 10,218 negative test results of COVID-19 in the province.

Applications for workers, small businesses ready on Friday

Premier Stephen McNeil said staff are working to have applications for the province’s Worker Emergency Bridge Fund and Small Business Impact Grant up and running by Friday.

Last week, the province announced $20 million to help self-employed and laid-off workers who do not quality for employment insurance, as well as another $20 million to help small businesses.

“People will be working all weekend to process applications to get the money flowing as quickly as possible,” McNeil said.

The applications will be available online.

New measures for long-term care homes

Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said the province has also directed long-term care homes to follow certain measures to prevent COVID-19 from entering the facilities and reducing the spread if someone tests positive.

Strang said the directives to long-term care homes include screening staff and residents at least once a day, and twice if it’s feasible.

All staff members will be required to take their temperature at the start of their shift, as well as undergo a health screening.

This map shows the breakdown of known COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia by health zone, as of Monday, April 6, 2020. (Province of Nova Scotia)

Any new admissions to a facility will also require a health screening to ensure someone hasn’t been exposed to COVID-19.

Strang said the province is also reinforcing practising physical distancing, enhancing cleaning and placing restrictions on visitors.

There are also instructions on how to take appropriate testing and identify potential contacts if anyone tests positive.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said at a COVID-19 briefing on April 6, 2020, that he’s frustrated ‘by those who continue to be reckless with our health by not following public health protocol.’ (CBC)

Long-term care homes must also continue to report any respiratory illnesses to public health, even if it’s one single case.

The directives take effect immediately.

“We now feel we need to move this from a guideline that facilities are being asked to do, to make it a clear directive,” Strang said.

Peak case numbers expected in late April

Strang said they have started mobile testing where they have the greatest need, but said they are looking to include more across the province.

He also said Nova Scotia will probably be hitting its peak number of cases toward the end of April.

“How big that peak is and how dramatic that peak is all up to us,” Strang said.

“What it looks like afterwards, you don’t just come out of this quickly.”

He said there will likely be a full eight to 10-week period where case numbers will decline after the peak.

‘I am frustrated,’ says McNeil

The province continues to urge Nova Scotians to stay home as much as possible.

Strang clarified that police will not be stopping people to ask why they are driving, but he asked people to use common sense when going out on the roads.

He said essential trips like going to the pharmacy or for groceries are OK, but people should not be driving for social reasons.

“While we are still frustrated, and I am frustrated, by those who continue to be reckless with our health by not following public health protocol, I will say the vast majority of Nova Scotians are starting to recognize the importance of self-isolation and the six-foot distance,” McNeil said.

This site in Elmsdale, N.S., has been transformed into the first temporary assessment centre for COVID-19. It opened on Sunday, April 5. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

“But if things persist, particularly at our beaches and other parts, we’ll continue to look at what are our options for penalties we can put in place.”

Temporary assessment centres will be established in communities where it is known the virus is present, with the first such centre being set up in Elmsdale, N.S.

Two SUVs will also be used as mobile testing centres, with one in the Halifax Regional Municipality and one in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Another possible public exposure

Public health is also advising people of a potential public exposure to COVID-19 at The Magnolia, a long-term care facility in Enfield, N.S. The possible exposure was on March 11 at a celebration of life.

People who were there and have experienced symptoms are asked to call 811.

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