Pictured during a media briefing on April 30 in Halifax are Nova Scotia Premier Iain Rankin and Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang.

HALIFAX: Even as provincial officials warn of a dire situation, the numbers of active COVID-19 cases in the Strait area has dropped.

According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) web site, there are no active cases of COVID-19 in the Antigonish and Guysborough Community Health Network, while in the Inverness, Victoria and Richmond Community Health Network, the case numbers have dropped to four from five the previous day.

“We need to pretend like COVID is in your community. It’s across the province, we know that, so go out and get tested if you can,” Premier Iain Rankin told The Reporter. “Stay home. You should be worried that COVID is in your community and you should stick within your own family and stay home.”

During a media briefing today in Halifax, Rankin and Strang told Nova Scotians there is a backlog of approximately 45,000 test results.

“The data entry backlog means today’s case numbers are actually, in all likelihood, much higher than the reportable number of 67,” Strang said. “He know that there will be positive cases in this backlog and we need to be prepared for substantially higher case numbers in the next few days.”

In the interim, the province is encouraging Nova Scotians to use pop-up testing sites instead of booking a COVID-19 lab test over the next few days.

“It’s critically important that the capacity we have at our primary assessment centres is reserved for the people who need to have the more PCR testing,” Strang noted.

Those who will be tested include anyone with symptoms, this means: anyone who has been notified that they are a close contact of a known case; anyone who has been at an exposure location; and anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the province.

Anyone else who already has an appointment booked should cancel it following instructions in their confirmation email, the province said, noting efforts are being made to increase rapid testing capacity around the province.

“We have PHCs in a number of communities throughout Cape Breton and the Guysborough-Strait area,” Strang told The Reporter. “We do not have capacity to add additional communities. We’re asking people to have a little bit of patience. But I will say to people in areas that they’re going to have to wait for a little bit, especially as we build capacity for the asymptomatic pop-ups; those are the areas where we’re not seeing COVID and the areas that people are at low risk at this point in time.”
Due to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in in the province and to address the COVID response, the NSHA said it is making temporary changes to some services in all zones.

The NSHA said surgeries that require admission will be reduced temporarily at hospitals including St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish.

Surgeons’ offices will be notifying patients whose surgeries must be temporarily postponed and will attempt to provide as much advanced notice as possible, the NSHA said.

A limited number of priority surgeries requiring admission will occur each day, for those requiring urgent or cancer-related procedures, the NSHA said, noting that day surgeries will continue at this time at these sites, unless further reductions are required.  

The need for temporary surgical reductions will be assessed on an ongoing basis, said the health authority noted. They said pre-admission appointments and other surgery related clinics, such as surgical consults, are continuing at this time.

Surgery patients who have been scheduled to undergo pre-operative COVID-19 testing 72 hours prior to surgery, are required to complete this testing, the NSHA explained. They said surgical patients are reminded to limit their exposure to others in the days leading up to their surgery, to the greatest extent possible, to minimize the risk of being exposed to COVID-19.

Scheduled outpatient care will also be reduced to support staff redeployment in some areas of the province, the province said, and patients will be notified of any changes impacting them.

There is a new potential exposure advisory for Staples, at 36 Market Street in Antigonish on April 26 from 1-4 p.m. Anyone exposed to the virus at this location on that date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 10, the NSHA said.

In the meantime, there is a potential COVID-19 exposure advisory for the Giant Tiger store in Port Hawkesbury on April 23 from 3:15-4:15 p.m. The NSHA anticipates that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on that date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 7.

For these locations, the NSHA said those who do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 do not need to self-isolate while they await their test result. Those with symptoms of COVID-19 are required to self-isolate while they wait for their test result, the health authority explained.

There’s an advisory for the Tim Hortons in Port Hawkesbury on April 23 from 2:30-4 p.m. Anyone exposed to the virus at that location, may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 7, the NSHA explained.

The Dairy Queen in Port Hawkesbury has an advisory for April 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the health authority said anyone exposed at this place and time may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 7.

Regardless of whether or not there are COVID-19 symptoms, those at the following locations on those dates and times are required to self-isolate while waiting for their test result, the NSHA said, adding those who get a negative result, do not need to keep self-isolating. Those who get a positive result, will be contacted by Public Health about what to do next, they added.