May 7, 2021

Nova Scotia Canada COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 7

Nova Scotia Canada COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 7
RevBlogTranscriptsCanada COVID-19 Briefing TranscriptsNova Scotia Canada COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript May 7

Nova Scotia, CA officials held a press conference on May 7, 2021 to provide COVID-19 updates. Read the transcript of the news briefing here.

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Speaker 1: (15:05)
Good morning. My name is Violet MacLeod, and I will be your moderator for today’s press conference. Before we begin, I’d like to introduce the Premier of Nova Scotia, the honorable Iain Rankin and Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. Dr. Robert Strang. Premier, go ahead.

Premier Rankin: (15:21)
Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. Today is another difficult day for Nova Scotia, a very difficult day. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to report another death due to COVID-19. One death, a person in their seventies has died at home. On behalf of all Nova Scotians, I want to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of that individual.

Premier Rankin: (15:48)
More bad news. Unfortunately, we are reporting, officially, 227 cases today. That’s 227 more infected people and mostly in HRM. And it is a sign that, of course, the variants are still very much on the move across our province. Add to that is there is still more than over 200 other cases that still need to be entered that are positive cases sitting to be entered into the system. Our system is still catching up, but we will continue to have obviously high numbers for the next several days.

Premier Rankin: (16:22)
If you’ve been tested and are waiting for your results, please stay isolated to stop the spread. We have to assume the variants are in every community of our province, and we need to stop that spread. That means we have to stop our movements. We have to do what we did in the first wave. I’d say even more than we did in the first wave. And today we are locking down with even more tighter restrictions. Effective 8:00 AM tomorrow, our border becomes even more closed for the whole month of May. That’s no coming in and out unless it’s absolutely essential. If you bought a house and are moving here, you’ll have to wait. If you have a closing date, you’ll have to do that virtually. If you want to spend your summer here or go to a summer home, you cannot do that right now, delay your trip.

Premier Rankin: (17:09)
If you’re an essential service worker, of course, and you have a medical legal or childcare commitment, that’s the only exception. If you are a snowbird or a student returning to your permanent residence, you can come home, but you must still follow the protocols, including proving that’s your status. And there will be penalties if those are lying, or if they have falsified documents, you can be fined the $2,000. Please stop looking for loopholes. Please stay away to slow the spread.

Premier Rankin: (17:41)
For retail, we’re tightening up again with our retail. We’re limiting our shopping patterns. So businesses are asked to stop selling products that are non-essential. Essential products include groceries, pharmacies, and the needed hardware that you need to repair something in your home. Also, pet supplies are needed. Of course, we need to feed our pets.

Premier Rankin: (18:02)
Do not travel between communities. This is really important. We’ve put strict parameters around this. There’s a legal, specifically legal, to stay into your municipality, but don’t use the loopholes. An example in HRM is a big municipality. We had to draw the line somewhere, but you shouldn’t be if you’re in Timberlea, for example, you shouldn’t be going downtown to get anything that you need. If you’re in Dartmouth, stay on that side of the bridge and go to a grocery store or a pharmacy if you need something. Stop looking for loopholes.

Premier Rankin: (18:32)
Police can stop you and fine you $2,000 if you’re outside. And if it’s not urgent, do not shop in person. And Dr. Strang will have more to say on that, but like the last previous wave, you should be going out on your own. If you can pick one person in the household to do that and go out infrequently, whether it’s once every couple of weeks, ideally, or once a week to get what you need. Shop online, buy local, use takeout and curbside pickup where possible. Just a word on rotational workers. And I want to thank those rotational workers who travel in and out of this province, supporting their families. I know it’s difficult work, difficult to be away from your families at times. And you are following strict protocols with modified isolation. And we do have a very good compliance, but there are a number of sites that are deemed hotspots across the country. And we do have workers going there. I know people see flights that are coming in, and that includes those. We don’t have essential travel coming in, but obviously people have to come home when they’re working in different provinces. Some places have that state of emergency, like Fort McMurray, for example. So we do need to tighten up for the month of May, just to take that extra step. So effective immediately, if you are a rotational worker and you’re based in a declared hotspot, and you want to come home on your days off, you will need to self isolate for 14 days, completely away from family and friends. For the month of May, there will not be a modified isolation. It is a full quarantine On schools, it’s not a surprise, schools will definitely remain closed for the rest of May at least. We’ll reassess at the end of the month to determine whether students can go back in class in June. I want to take this moment to thank all the teachers that are working really hard with their students over a computer screen. And of course, parents that have that extra burden of having their kids and helping them learn at home. I know it’s not easy, but I’ve been checking in a lot with the minister and deputy minister about how things are going and I’m hearing it’s going well.

Premier Rankin: (20:32)
A special shout out to those teachers teaching kids in grade one and two. I know this is a critical time to teach them how to read and equipping our young people for the future. Also, to students, it’s a very difficult time, but keep up the good work. We’re very proud of you during these challenging times and learning at home.

Premier Rankin: (20:52)
Daycares, We’ve had a limited capacity at our daycares, and I want to thank early childhood educators who continue to stay open so that our essential workers continue to work and have a place for their children. I know that you’re on the front line and I want to thank you very much for the work that you’re doing over the course of this third wave.

Premier Rankin: (21:11)
These restrictions are in place to protect our province and all of you. It’s absolutely critical that you follow them or we won’t get through this third wave together. Isn’t that right Dr. Strang?

Dr. Strang: (21:22)
Absolutely Premier. Thank you and good afternoon, everybody. Sadly, we are reporting another death today due to COVID and my condolences to this individual’s loved ones. And my thoughts and prayers are with the family.

Dr. Strang: (21:37)
We are at the 10 day mark with our province-wide restrictions and our case numbers remain high. I need to be honest with you. The volume of cases has exceeded the capacity of public health. We’ve asked you to get tested. Thousands of you came out, thank you. And we identified hundreds of people with COVID, more than we anticipated. The volume caused a back up in testing at the lab, which has been cleared. But now there are a large number of positive cases that public health has not yet been able to contact or begin an investigation on. As these cases do get investigated and entered into Panorama, our information system, they will be reported in our daily numbers. But because of this, I expect our cases to remain high for a number of days while we work through this process. We will get on top of the volume, just like we did with the lab, but it will take some time. And I ask for your patience and understanding.

Dr. Strang: (22:40)
However, we are making some immediate changes. Nova Scotia Health is standing up a team that will call all of the positive cases identified by the lab as quickly as possible. We need to make people aware that they are positive as soon as we can and determine what’s clinical or other supports they may need. Public health will then follow up and investigate those cases as they are able.

Dr. Strang: (23:08)
In the meantime, I have a very important message for anyone waiting on a test result or anyone who has symptoms or feels unwell. If you have been tested and you’re waiting for results, assume you are positive, and you and your entire household then need to isolate until you get those test results. If you were unwell, safely get a test and then you and your household need to isolate until you wait for those results. Given what we know about the spread of the variants, we have to assume that if you’re waiting for a test that it’s positive with COVID, and if you’re unwell, you have to assume that what you have is COVID. And because of the the variants spread so easily, that if one individual in the household has the virus, it’s quite likely that the rest of the household has as well. So that is why we are now saying that it’s not just the individual, but it’s anybody else in that household who then also needs to isolate.

Dr. Strang: (24:12)
There is more COVID activity in the province than we thought we would find. The numbers we are seeing are primarily due to things that happened a week or two ago before province-wide restrictions were in place. But given we are a few days behind with case investigations, there is likely even more virus activity than we know about. Our situation is critical, especially in the Halifax area.

Dr. Strang: (24:39)
We need to all act like COVID is in our communities, no matter where we live in the province. And if we’re unwell, we should assume we have COVID. It’s clear that there is no way we will have a current outbreak controlled in a couple of weeks. Province-wide restrictions for the month of May will help us with the outbreak in the Halifax area. And they will also help limit or slow spread in other communities. Tightening up our borders even further to ensure travelers aren’t bringing additional virus here is also important. So the new border measures will come into effect 8:00 AM on Monday, May the 10th, and will be in effect at least until the end of the month. Nova Scotia’s border will be closed to people intending to move here and to people coming, even from Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, and Labrador.

Dr. Strang: (25:34)
So as of 8:00 AM, Monday only the following groups of people will be able to enter the province throughout the month of May. Permanent residents returning to the province, people who work outside the province, post-secondary students returning home. And we need to emphasize that parents are not allowed to travel outside the province to bring those students home. The students will have to make arrangements to travel on their own to get home. People traveling for custody reasons following the child custody protocol. People who are exempt from self isolation, following the exempt traveler protocol. And for example, these are important, long haul truck drivers, airline crew, and first responders. And people who follow the protocol for travel between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick for work school and childcare only.

Dr. Strang: (26:34)
We’re working to put an application process in place throughout the Nova Scotia safe check-in and once this is in place, most people will need pre-approval through this to enter the province. So this application will be in place next Friday, but as I said, the restrictions that we’re putting in place take effect on Monday.

Dr. Strang: (26:59)
So for those of you who plan to come to Nova Scotia based on previous border measures, unless you fit into one of the travel restrictions I just described, you will now not be able to come to the province during the month of May.

Dr. Strang: (27:16)
There was also a change in the province wide restrictions that will take effect tomorrow at 8:00 AM. Retail stores that remain open to in-person service, so those are stores that primarily offer products and services essential to the life, health, or personal safety of people and animals, must limit service to one person per household. We need to further restrict the number of people that are in stores, but we recognize that single parent families may need to bring children, or for instance, grocery shopping, or that some Nova Scotians may require assistance, and exceptions will be made for those circumstances. But outside of that, it needs to be one person per household. It should be, if at all possible, the same person. And we also want people to shop strategically, limit the number of trips you make to go shopping.

Dr. Strang: (28:12)
We’re also asking businesses to promote contact us payment and pick up where possible. We’re asking Nova Scotians to order online for this pickup and delivery wherever possible. And for those who must do in-person shopping, shop for essential items only. It is not the time to go to Costco for sandals that you heard were in stock. It’s critical that you limit your trips to stores and the time you spend in the store.

Dr. Strang: (28:42)
So let me describe our rules simply. Don’t gather and travel. And even though it’s Mother’s Day, once again, during COVID, we need to stay home and celebrate with our mothers virtually. And I know that will be hard. Work from home, unless you cannot do your job remotely. And we need employers to make sure that they, wherever possible, are supporting your employees to work from home. Shop only for essentials and make sure you’re masked and distanced. Get outside in your neighborhood, but you need to remember that if you’re doing it with people outside your household, it must be of very few and you must be outdoors, and you must be distanced. Get tested and get vaccinated when it’s your turn.

Dr. Strang: (29:33)
We are still fielding thousands of questions about the restrictions and travel within Nova Scotia. And we ask people to stop looking for loopholes and asking to be excused from the following rules. We all have to take accountability for our actions and apply common sense and good judgment. And we’re all frustrated, but let’s not take it out on one another. This is a time for all of us to band together. I’m hearing lots of unfortunate stories about people…

Dr. Strang: (30:02)
… hearing lots of unfortunate stories about people with less than appropriate behavior to a range of people in the healthcare system and to essential service providers. So lash out at COVID, not those who are calling with test results, answering your questions, or enforcing rules intended to keep you safe. We do have the necessary things in place. Border measures, restrictions, public health protocols, testing, and a vaccine. But, ultimately, it’s really up to each of us. We’re asking a lot over a year into the pandemic and people are tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and afraid. Some of you have checked out. But remember, the last part of any marathon is the hardest.

Dr. Strang: (30:49)
I too am exhausted and extremely worried. My teams are exhausted. The health care system is exhausted. But none of us are giving up and you cannot give up either. I need your help. We need your help. We’re all in this together. It feels out of control right now and we will have a very tough May. That is the honest, plain truth. But what is also true is that if we stay committed and together doing the hard things for each other, we will start to emerge in June and can look forward to a much brighter summer. We can turn this around if we’re selfless, not selfish. It is always darkest before the dawn, so in this darkness, reach out, come together, lock arms, and stay strong. Show the rest of the country and the world what it means to be Nova Scotian.

Speaker 2: (31:49)
We will now take one question and one follow-up from media in the amount of time we have for today. We will begin with CBC’s Mike Gorman. Mike, go ahead.

Mike Gorman: (32:01)
Thank you. Dr. Strang, I think it was you who had said in reference to the changes at the border that people shouldn’t be looking for loopholes and if perhaps there are fines for forged documents. To what degree has the government been observing people lying to get through the border, and do you have a sense of whether or not that has led to increased case counts?

Dr. Strang: (32:27)
I’m not aware of that would be very recently. We’re certainly aware that there are some people unfortunately that have been trying to even, for instance, forge documents. People are coming forward with emails from my office and things like that, which aren’t true. Whether that’s contributing to the cases, we have no evidence of that at this point, but it’s unfortunate. And so that is one of the main targets of through the next week and going through this application process. So by next Friday, we will have a process that nobody will be able to get into the province unless they have a documented letter through our process that allows that we have given them approval to come into the province.

Speaker 2: (33:08)
Mike, go ahead with your follow-up.

Mike Gorman: (33:11)
Dr. Strange, today vaccination appointments for Moderna and Pfizer were opened up to the 45 or 49 age group. What’s the uptick rate looking like at the moment in the 50 to 60 age group, which was the last one that was opened up?

Dr. Strang: (33:28)
No, my understanding is that they all the appointments we opened up for those have been well filled, but we also know that we’re anticipating starting next week significantly greater amounts of both Pfizer and Moderna coming. So we want to make sure that we open up the appointments starting for next week. And so we’re opening up today that as we get more vaccine we want to make sure we have appointments for all that vaccine. And we’re comfortable that opening up to the next age group, we’ll be able to accommodate all those people in a timely manner, as well as anybody else in the existing age groups who’s still waiting to get vaccinated.

Speaker 2: (34:08)
Next, we’ll go to CTV’s Natasha Pace. Natasha, go ahead.

Natasha Pace: (34:16)
Thank you. I just want to be clear. Did you say that there were 200 additional positive cases that have not been entered yet? And if so, does that mean that our case count today is actually 427? Can you send some light on that?

Dr. Strang: (34:32)
So it’s around 200, but we know that, that number is very fluid. Right now, probably every hour, there’s some of those cases that are entering into the investigation team being assigned, starting to be followed up, and there’s more positives coming from the lab. So we have this very fluid, right now it’s around 200, of a group of cases that because of our capacity limits in public health being exceeded, it’s taking some time to get the investigation started. We will work through that in the next few days, but how we work through that is starting to decrease the number of new cases coming through the lab, people being tested today in the last few days. What that means is it’s really up to each Nova Scotian that we need to start bringing down the number of cases through all of our actions so Public Health can get back on top of this. We can get the outbreak back in control.

Speaker 2: (35:31)
Natasha, do you have a follow-up?

Natasha Pace: (35:33)
I do. Hearing that there are two positive cases at the Burnside Jail, and given that there were six cases connected to the Claremont Residential Care Facility in Dartmouth are either of those facilities now considered to have outbreaks.

Dr. Strang: (35:47)
So the Claremont met our definition for an outbreak, but because of a number of issues, staffing and other issues, all the residents from that facility have been moved to various places. I think one of them’s in hospital and some do other longterm care facilities while we deal with some other issues in that facility. So for all intents and purposes, that outbreak has been managed by a range of measures. In the Burnside facility, we’ve not declared that an outbreak yet. There’s no evidence that has been brought to my attention that there’s additional exposures in the facility and there’s any other people at this point in time that are testing positive.

Speaker 2: (36:32)
Next, we’ll go to Global’s Alicia Drowse. Alicia, go ahead.

Alicia Drowse: (36:36)
Thank you. This question is for Premier Rankin. I’m just looking to see if you can comment on the resignation of Margaret Miller today as well as what we’re hearing about allegations involving inappropriate behavior with one of your senior staffers as part of the reason for her resignation?

Premier Rankin: (36:52)
Well, I certainly want to wish my friend, Margaret, the best in her retirement. I’ve had discussions with her. As soon as I became leader, she let me know that she was ready to retire and look forward to when I called an election. And then I spoke with her in April again, and she was intending to retire in June. Obviously, the email that I saw about a staff member that she had some issues with is disappointing and so I’ve had discussions with my Chief of Staff who received that email, as well as the Executive Director of the Caucus Office to ensure that any allegation at all be dealt with and there is a policy in place and a due process needs to be followed to see if there is any formal complaints made previous to that email. I’ve been assured that there were no complaints raised before that email was sent into the office.

Speaker 2: (37:46)
Alicia, do you have a follow-up?

Alicia Drowse: (37:47)
I do. And can you just elaborate on the policy in place on how this will be followed up?

Premier Rankin: (37:53)
So there’s a policy that actually I was a part of, an All Party Committee did a policy in 2016, I believe it was, passed by the legislature that is available for caucus and caucus staff. They can go through a process to make a complaint about any incidences of misbehavior. I want to assure anyone that works within the office should feel safe, especially women, and that’s what I expect in our workplace. Obviously, I inherited a full staff and I made a commitment that the staff would keep their job or be moved around. That’s what happened. So I’m disappointed in the email that I saw Tuesday. I don’t think it reflects of the culture that’s in our office and I will to continue to take any comments coming in very seriously and I’ll just continue to discuss that with our staff.

Speaker 2: (38:47)
Next, we’ll go to Canadian Press, Keith Doucette. Keith, go ahead. Keith, are you there?

Keith Doucette: (38:57)
Yes. Sorry. For Dr. Strang, I’m wondering given the fact that you are still behind on contact tracing and with tighter restrictions, did you ever consider perhaps some kind of curfew, maybe restricting people to being outside during working hours as we try to wrangle this to the ground?

Dr. Strang: (39:15)
So that’s an extreme measure. We know that we’re still today is 10 days with the tight restrictions. You generally want to look at, at least for a two week period to see the effect of any measures you’re taking. So we’ll look into that next week. I anticipate seeing the numbers starting to trend downward as we get through next week. If we need to, we always are open to looking at where we want to do next. And I’ve had discussions with my team today about to start to do some work and to bring forward their thinking through next week about if we need to where we might go next with restrictions.

Speaker 2: (39:53)
Keith, go ahead with your follow-up.

Keith Doucette: (39:57)
Yes. And given that we’ve had another death at home, is there any more new information about how quickly this virus appears to be infecting people, making them very sick and actually killing them? This is the third case you’ve announced in a couple of days. Supposedly, it seems like the circumstances are similar.

Dr. Strang: (40:16)
Well, it’s unfortunate, very tragic, but at the same time, it’s a reminder again that this virus can be deadly. And for some people it can progress very quickly. So it’s just yet again, if anybody hasn’t woken up to the fact how serious the virus is, how serious our situation is, we need to wake up now.

Speaker 2: (40:42)
Next, we’ll go to Chronicle Herald, Nebal Snan. Nebal, go ahead.

Nebal Snan: (40:47)
Good afternoon. Dr. Strang, the 200 cases that still need to be investigated, are they the cases that are in the data entry backlog that we have or is that a separate backlog?

Dr. Strang: (41:02)
That’s the same thing as part of it. So what happens is that tests go into the lab, any positives get reported electronically to Public Health. Each case then gets assigned to a nurse or our case investigator, who starts to do the follow-up. Contacts the case, and as they’re doing that investigation, they enter that information into Panorama, and it’s our epidemiologists who then extract that information from Panorama to give our daily case number and all the breakdown that we provide. So what has happened is that the number of positives that has come through as the backlog got cleared in the lab, we got this big surge, additional surge of positives coming through to Public Health, which has overwhelmed our our capacity. We are working to get on top of that, but that will take a few days.

Dr. Strang: (41:53)
So we’ve been talking about this, if you remember, a few days ago, we talked about a backlog in the lab as well as a backlog in Public Health. So we’ve resolved the first. We now have to work really hard to resolve the second, but the way out of that is starting to have a decrease in the positives that are coming from all our testing. And the way we do that is to have all the Nova Scotians doing what they need to do to keep separate from each other to minimize the virus from being transmitted from one person to another. There’s lots of virus out there, but if we don’t give it a chance to spread, we will break those chains of transmission and we’ll see decreasing numbers of cases. But it’s all up to the choices that each of us makes individually every day.

Speaker 2: (42:38)
Nebal, do you have a follow-up?

Nebal Snan: (42:41)
Yes, I do. Thank you. Dr. Strang, how concerned are you about the case numbers in the Eastern Zone?

Dr. Strang: (42:44)
I’m concerned about the case numbers around the province. I’m concerned about every part of our province, not just one particular part of the province. We are in a very serious situation. I can’t say it more bluntly than that. So we all need to take this seriously and do what we can do. Follow the restrictions, follow the protocols. They will work, but it requires everybody to follow them and follow them closely, and we’re going to have to do it for the month of May.

Speaker 2: (43:18)
Next, we’ll go to All Nova Scotia, Lindsay Armstrong. Lindsay, go ahead.

Lindsay Armstrong: (43:23)
Thank you. Premier, following your response you gave yesterday when you said that this outbreak was caused by a failure to quarantine situation and had nothing to do with the April 6th easing of restrictions. In light of that, I’m wondering if you’re satisfied with the quarantine checks that were happening at that time. Last I knew, the protocol was several check-in calls throughout a two week period. I’m wondering if that happened?

Premier Rankin: (43:46)
Well, I think what I said was that it was the rules including quarantine that obviously were not followed. I think that was one of the best policies we had to prevent spread in the province, but it’s only as good as if people follow it. It’s not only the people that came here that didn’t self isolate, but Nova Scotians themselves that chose to socialize with those people that created a mass spread. I continue to believe that we have the right restrictions in place as we do now for the case counts that we have. We didn’t hesitate to lock down even the whole province before we saw substantial cases outside of Halifax. We’re going to continue to be proactive, but we’re not able to have a mass surveillance across the whole province and track every individual. That’s why it was important for Dr. Strang And I just shut down the borders, even before this lockdown with the first sign of spread within our communities.

Speaker 2: (44:39)
Lindsay, do you have a follow-up?

Premier Rankin: (44:41)
Yes, I do and this is for Dr. Strang. I appreciate that you’ve tried to help us understand what this 227 cases plus about 200 more that have not been entered. Is it fair to say that you expect that in reality, regardless of reporting, there are about 400 or more COVID cases currently today?

Premier Rankin: (45:03)
… 400 or more COVID cases currently today.

Dr. Strang: (45:04)
Yeah. You put the two numbers together that’s an estimate of what we have. It’s just that the cases that aren’t… We know definitively the reportable cases. What’s very fluid is the ones that haven’t yet been investigated because that number changes, as I said, on an hourly basis almost as cases go out into investigation and more cases come in. But I think the fundamental message is for Nova Scotians to not focus so much on what the exact number is, that we have a lot of virus out there, and we have a lot of cases and we’re in a very critically serious situation.

Speaker 3: (45:46)
Next we’ll go to Radio Canada, Adrien Blanc. Adrien, go ahead.

Adrien Blanc: (45:51)
Thank you. Premier Rankin, you said that people shouldn’t travel between Dartmouth and Halifax, to downtown Halifax, for example. Is it something that you’re recommending, asking people to do, or do you plan any enforcement on that?

Premier Rankin: (46:07)
So just to go back, during the first couple of weeks we always said stay in your community. What we did extra this time is we put it in the order that it’s illegal to leave your municipality or you’ll be fined. But we’re also asking you to stay within your community and use your common sense. So if you have a grocery store nearby, if you’re in Tantallon, go to the Tantallon Sobeys, don’t go to Bedford.

Premier Rankin: (46:31)
In all the communities across Halifax, it’s a big municipality. It’s where, obviously, we have the most cases that we’re reporting every single day. So use your common sense. If you need to get exercise stay within community park. If you need your essentials go out to within your community. It’s just not illegal if you stay within Halifax. We had to draw the line somewhere and be a little bit more forceful this time because of the seriousness of spread of variants. So the legal parameters are there for municipalities, but don’t find loopholes and travel from one end of Halifax to the other.

Speaker 3: (47:08)
Adrien, go ahead with your follow-up.

Adrien Blanc: (47:11)
Do you plan to request any additional help, especially regarding investigating the positive cases that have to be entered into the system?

Dr. Strang: (47:21)
So we have to understand that this is… I talked to the Public Health team yesterday, and it’s a specialized skillset, the work they’re doing, doing the case investigation, and then entering that information into our information system. And that we are looking for some additional help from Newfoundland and from Stats Canada.

Dr. Strang: (47:41)
But it takes a lot of effort to train people. You just can’t pull people from somewhere else and expect them to be able to function as a public health case investigator. It’s no different than if an emergency room gets backlogged we don’t just pull people off the street and expect them to be able to treat people in an emergency room.

Dr. Strang: (47:58)
Public health is a specialized skillset. So reached the capacity within what we have, reached the limit of our capacity. We’re looking at ways that we can supplement that capacity, but it’s not just anybody that we can bring in to put in that situation and do effective work.

Speaker 3: (48:16)
Next we have The Halifax Examiner, Tim Bousquet. Tim, go ahead.

Tim Bousquet: (48:22)
All right, Dr. Strang, a couple of questions. I’m told by a physician that family physicians are no longer notified when someone tests positive. And this person tells me that the family physicians can play a vital role following up with positive tests or negative tests. And they’re wondering why that notification has stopped going out.

Dr. Strang: (48:53)
So, if the family physicians are a part of the ordering they will get the result. But family physicians, if people are getting tested through our centers the family physicians have never been in the loop on that because the results go back to Public Health to do the follow-up. What we’re doing now, the health authority is actually bringing in teams, including family physicians to do that initial reach out on the positive tests as quickly as possible so people will get that initial information.

Dr. Strang: (49:26)
We’re also working to make sure family physicians and other primary care providers have information. So if one of their patients contacts them and says, “Look, I’m waiting for a test. What should I do?” That they have the right information, which is essentially to make sure their patients are aware that they need to isolate along with the rest of their household.

Dr. Strang: (49:45)
So we are working very closely with our primary care providers as part of this response, but they have never been the direct recipients of lab results from throughout this whole pandemic.

Speaker 3: (49:59)
Tim, do you have a follow-up?

Tim Bousquet: (50:00)
I do. On The Clarmar Residential Home situation, that particular home is probably bottom of the list, well, definitely bottom of the list in terms of failing inspection reports in the past several years. Can you draw a line between their regulatory failures in the past couple of years and the current outbreak at the home?

Dr. Strang: (50:25)
I’m not involved in detail on that home. That’s a question for the continuing care folks and the people who are responsible for running that home.

Speaker 3: (50:36)
Next we go to The Coast. Victoria Walton. Victoria, go ahead.

Victoria Walton: (50:41)
Hi, thank you. Dr. Strang, I wanted you to talk a little bit about exposure notices, which in recent weeks or days are only listing very high risk exposures. But people are seeing these and thinking that cases in HRM or even around the province are only spreading on buses and flights because that’s what they’re seeing.

Victoria Walton: (51:02)
I’m wondering if you could just give people an idea of how many sites would be on that list if we did list everything, like workplaces, day cares, grocery stores? Is it too many to count? And do you think that it would be better to include more things to give Nova Scotians an idea of how serious this really is?

Dr. Strang: (51:21)
There’d be hundreds and hundreds. So we have to understand that those notifications serve a specific purpose. That if people have been in a situation where their likelihood of being exposed is increased and we can’t contact them directly, then we use the notifications. But because of the volume of cases we have and the time lag for follow-up and our knowledge that the virus is widespread in HRM, we’re focusing on the high risk situations, and a lot of which are workplaces. And that we need everybody in HRM to just, as we’ve said at briefings before, if you’re out and about in HRM assume that you might’ve been exposed, like an exposure notification and get regular testing.

Dr. Strang: (52:11)
So really we’re replacing the notifications because the challenge with, especially the lower risk notifications, we were certainly seeing that people thought, “Well, I’m not at a notification site so I’m not at risk.” And then people aren’t following. Everybody in HRM is at risk if you’re out and about. So act accordingly and get tested regularly. And then the notifications play a much more specific purpose when there’s a much higher risk of a specific exposure.

Speaker 3: (52:41)
Victoria, go ahead with your follow-up.

Victoria Walton: (52:44)
Thanks. And I’m wondering about businesses being asked to stop selling non-essential products. You said just a few days ago that what happened in places like Ontario was very problematic with some aisles being taped off and people trying to access things that were considered non-essential. Is that what we’re doing here? How are we going to avoid those problems that other places face?

Dr. Strang: (53:05)
In Ontario they ordered them. It was required. So we’re aware of the challenges if you make this required. And one of those challenges is in a broad range of products what is essential to one family, or what we would consider non-essential, may actually be essential to an individual family based on their circumstances.

Dr. Strang: (53:24)
I have calls this afternoon with other colleagues, with the Retail Council of Canada, and some other groups. We’re going to work through the retail sector and hear from them about how best to go about limiting as much as we can the sale of non-essential items in retail outlets for the month of May.

Speaker 3: (53:45)
Next we have The Truro News. Chelsey Gould. Chelsey, go ahead.

Chelsey Gould: (53:49)
Hello. Premier, under these restrictions you’ve just announced are temporary foreign workers who are set to self-isolate, such as those at farms, still permitted to enter the province?

Premier Rankin: (54:00)
They are. They actually have very strict protocol. I’ll ask Dr. Strang to comment on this, but they’re tested right away and put into self- isolation. So the cases that we’ve seen through temporary foreign workers, even previous to the third wave, we were able to find very quickly during their isolation period. So I don’t believe there’s been spread but I’ll ask Dr. Strang.

Dr. Strang: (54:23)
No, absolutely. They come in, the temporary foreign workers… We have a robust quarantine protocol. But they come in, they’re tested with a rapid test right away at the airport. They then go into a strict quarantine that the farms working with an agency, Perennia, have a strict protocol for. It worked very well last year and was seen as a model for the rest of the country. And they follow that strict quarantine. And they have two more tests throughout the rest of that quarantine.

Dr. Strang: (54:50)
And so we’ve had some cases coming in and identified initially when they first came here and that’s the reason a test upon entry. But we’ve had no other issues further spread from those initial cases. So they’re essential workers as part of our important agriculture sector. We need them here, but they’re coming here and they’re aware we’re protecting Nova Scotians with these strict protocols.

Speaker 3: (55:17)
Chelsey, go ahead with your follow-up

Chelsey Gould: (55:19)
Okay. Thank you for clarifying. This is both for Dr. Strang and the Premier. You’ve spoken about how this variant can worsen people’s condition quickly, and some have died at home. There are rural parts of this province with ambulance wait times up to an hour sometimes. Could you speak to the consequences if COVID were to spread more into these areas?

Dr. Strang: (55:40)
So clearly, that creates additional challenges if people have, in rural areas more challenges and longer times to access health care. And we know many of our rural communities have a much older age population. So those are just two, among a number of factors of why we need to work really hard to minimize the spread of this virus from Halifax to other parts of the province.

Dr. Strang: (56:11)
Again, so the way we do that is everybody… I may sound like a broken record. But it’s everybody following the restrictions, following your family and your personal COVID protocols for the month of May. That’s how we get out of this and keep everybody as safe as possible.

Speaker 3: (56:26)
Next, we’ll go to The Laker News. Pat Healey. Pat, go ahead.

Pat Healey: (56:31)
Thank you. This question is for Premier Rankin and Dr. Strang. Knowing the variant is more dangerous and there are flights coming in from higher case number areas, shouldn’t we have testing at the airport or at least be limiting these flights?

Premier Rankin: (56:47)
So we made an adjustment today for rotational workers to minimize any chance of any spread to family members or friends. But we have had good compliance. But it’s important that people know that everyone coming in is tested on either day one or day two. So we’ve had that in place for some time. We’ll continue the discussion about testing that’s closer to point of entry, but we’ve had testing available, mandatory for rotational workers.

Speaker 3: (57:20)
Pat, do you have a follow-up?

Pat Healey: (57:22)
Yes, I do. Premier Rankin, how does the province plan on supporting students with disabilities who require in- person support and online learning doesn’t work?

Premier Rankin: (57:35)
So, of course, there needs to be an adaptation plan for those that need and require special supports. I don’t have the specifics in front of me, sorry, Pat, but I’ll definitely get that back to the Minister of Education to ensure… I don’t know the exact protocol on how that’s being followed but we’ll get you information. That’s a great question.

Speaker 3: (57:56)
And that’s all the time we have for today for questions. Go ahead, Premier.

Premier Rankin: (58:01)
Thank you. We’re certainly in the thick of it with the highest case numbers that we’ve ever seen in this province, and they’re still climbing. The restrictions that we’ve added to today are measures that will help, but they only can truly help stop the spread if we stop our movements.

Premier Rankin: (58:16)
Dr. Strang and his team and our teams at the lab and our health authority are working around the clock to work through the backlog. But we can’t do this alone. We need you to stop. Stop looking for loopholes. Stop sneaking to another community to shop or visit your friends. Stop trying to find an excuse to go to your cottage. And stop shopping just for fun. Stop acting as if the third wave is the same as the first or the second, because it isn’t. It’s more aggressive, more deadly, and we’re all at increased risk, regardless of your age.

Premier Rankin: (58:51)
To all the mothers out there. I know this is not the Mother’s Day that you were hoping for, and I’m sorry for that. It will be difficult not to see your children and loved ones, but I hope that you can understand we’re trying to protect you. Celebrate your mom from your heart, but from a distance. This is a crucial weekend and we need you now more than ever to follow these restrictions. Dr. Strang and I want you to have a good weekend, but please stay close to home. Thank you.

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