Schools accessible this week only

Nova Scotia now has 51 total cases of COVID-19

HALIFAX: Schools are open this week to teachers, staff and by appointment only.

After consulting with the province’s Chief Medical Officer, as well as the Regional Education Centres, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, the Public School Administrators Association of Nova Scotia, and union partners including the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union – the Education and Early Childhood Development decided to partially open schools across Nova Scotia on Monday.

“There won’t be access next week,” spokesperson Chrissy Matheson told The Reporter.

Schools are accessible by appointment only to teachers, other school-based staff and Grade 12 students, but no other students, or families, can gain access.

“This is limited access and is only to allow staff and Grade 12 students to pick up essential items – such as technology – they need to work and learn from home,” Matheson said. “One of our priorities will be Grade 12 students and their graduation requirements.”

With the postponement of the school year scheduled to end April 6, Matheson said no announcement has been made about a longer closure.

She said the department is developing a plan that helps students learn at home.

“This is an uncertain time, and we know families have lots of questions,” Matheson said. “We want to provide reassurance that we’re developing a plan that supports students and teachers for the best results in difficult circumstances.”

Because the many of the needs of students and families don’t go away, Matheson said SchoolsPlus and Parent Navigator supports are in place and available. Contact information has been sent to families and will be offered remotely.

As of March 24, Nova Scotia has 51 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Ten new cases were identified Monday. The cases are travel-related or connected to earlier reported cases. Several of the new cases are connected to groups or families who have returned to Nova Scotia following travel outside of Canada. None of these cases are from spread within the community.

The 51 individuals affected range in age from under 10 to mid-70’s. Cases have been identified in all parts of the province. One individual remains in hospital. One individual has recovered and their case of COVID-19 is considered resolved.

Public health has been in contact with these individuals and is working to identify others who may have come in close contact with them. Those individuals are also being directed to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

The province announced more measures to deal with the global pandemic, including increased testing for COVID-19, confirming that public health officials have begun testing all close contacts of positive cases. Capacity at the QEII Health Sciences Centre microbiology lab is doubling to accommodate increased testing.

The province has expanded virtual care for physicians, nurse practitioners and others so they can offer appointments to patients through telephone or video, minimizing the need to leave the house. More than 80 providers have signed up for video so far.

Staff was increased and technology is now answering half of calls to 811. On April 3, 811 will again double its capacity.

Enhanced infection control measures were taken at hospitals to protect health-care workers and the public, which includes reassigning and adding new staff to increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection, focusing on high-risk areas and high-traffic areas and high-touch surfaces, and using stronger cleaning products.

Regulated health professions can only stay open for emergency or urgent cases or to provide virtual care, as long as they can meet social distancing requirements in their waiting room or other non-clinical areas and follow the cleaning protocol. Non-regulated health professions (such as naturopaths) must close. One exception is podiatrists who must follow the directive related to regulated health professions.

Access Centres and Registry of Motor Vehicle Offices will start to resume operations in a scaled back, limited contact, business model. Staff working out of offices in Amherst, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Kentville, Stellarton, Sydney and Yarmouth will be available to help people with urgent matters by calling 1-800-670-4357. In addition, government has extended deadlines for more vehicle permits, registrations and renewals until August 31. Drop-off boxes for applicable services will also be available at Access Centres in Amherst, Bridgewater, Dartmouth, Kentville, Stellarton, Sydney and Yarmouth. Many of the services are also available on-line.

Essential service sectors in Nova Scotia, which are exempt from the five-person-or-fewer gathering rules, have been clarified and are: health; food, agri-food and fisheries; transportation, including trucking, rail and transit; construction and manufacturing; IT, telecommunications and critical infrastructure; and public services, such as police, fire and ambulances.
Individual business in these sectors must still maintain social distancing and other public health protocols.

To date, Nova Scotia has 2,474 negative test results and testing numbers are updated daily at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus.