Nova Scotia Public Health’s Mobile Testing Unit was at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre late last week.

HALIFAX: At a time when the provincial government is recording record numbers of daily COVID-19 cases, the Strait area is also seeing an increase.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) web site is showing 14 active cases of COVID-19 in the Inverness, Victoria and Richmond Community Health Network, while in the Antigonish and Guysborough Community Health Network, there are three active cases.

“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.”

On April 27, the province announced a positive COVID-19 case connected to SAERC. While the school moved to at-home learning, along with all public and private schools across the province, the facility underwent a deep cleaning, they said.

The province said public health was in touch with any close contacts of positive cases and advised of next steps, including testing. Everyone who is a close contact was notified, tested and asked to self-isolate for 14 days, they said.

“Our routine is always that if we have a case, we first of all, work to identify who the close contacts of that case were, and if we can identify those close contacts directly, then we don’t need to do a public notification,” Strang said. “In Port Hawkesbury, and any other areas outside of Halifax, if there is the need to do a public notification even with a low risk exposure, we’ll put that information out.”

Public health recommended that all students and staff be tested, but no self-isolation is required, unless people have been identified as a close contact by public health or have symptoms.

“If people have been identified as a contact, they need to isolate at home, which means that they have to be separated from the rest of the household, in individual bedrooms, there can be a shared bathroom but with cleaning protocols… meals at the door, those kind of things,” Dr. Strang told The Reporter. “If that’s not possible, then public health will be aware of these people who are close contact. We have support; housing and income support, if necessary, for families, to allow people to quarantine as appropriate.”

This comes after Public Health’s Mobile Testing Unit visited the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre from April 29 to May 1. The province will also set up a test site this week at the Civic Centre.

“This week we opened up a testing centre at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre for both asymptomatic and symptomatic testing,” NSHA spokesperson Brendan Elliot said. “This site will be open Monday to Friday, 9-5 and we will add appointments as we understand our capacity needs and our ability to meet those needs. Asymptomatic tests are completely booked this week and we will open more this week when we can.”

During a media briefing on April 30 in Halifax, Rankin and Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert 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 who has been notified that they are a close contact of a known case, those who have been at an exposure location; and anyone who 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.

Regardless of whether or there are COVID-19 symptoms, those present at the Body ‘n’ Soul Fitness Centre in Port Hawkesbury on April 27 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for at least 15 minutes are required to self-isolate, get tested and continue self-isolating for 14 days, even with a negative test result. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 11.

There is an 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.

The NSHA said there is a notification for Staples at 36 Market Street in Antigonish on April 26 between 1-4 p.m. and anyone exposed at this place and time may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 10.

For this location, 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. 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 those 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.

The NSHA issued more potential COVID-19 exposure advisories after announcing the case connected to SAERC.

This applies to anyone who was at Miller’s Restaurant in the Maritime Inn in Port Hawkesbury on April 21 between 4-7 p.m. and April 22 between 4-6:30 p.m. The NSHA said it is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on that date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 6.

The NSHA advisory also includes anyone who was at The Carriage House in Port Hawkesbury on April 22 between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 6, the NSHA noted.

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

The Town of Port Hawkesbury issued a press release on April 27 announcing that the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre was closed for two weeks. The town said the closure includes town offices, Body ‘N Soul Fitness Centre, the Eastern District Planning Commission office, Strait Area Transit, the walking track, and the arena.

“It is completely understandable that people are worried. However, panic is never a solution. Now more than ever, we need to follow the protocols that Dr. Strang and the entire team at public health has put into effect to both identify and combat the spread of COVID-19,” Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said in a press release. “If you can be anything, be kind! Our friends, family, and neighbours who have tested positive for COVID-19 need our compassion, our kindness, our understanding, and, in many circumstances, our help. What our ill community members don’t need, nor deserve, is finger-pointing, harassment, blame, or stigma of any kind. Coronavirus doesn’t pick or choose its victims based on any kind of age, trait, or merit. Coronavirus doesn’t discriminate – so neither should we.”