Schools in Nova Scotia will switch to online learning on January 10, and classroom learning is expected to return on January 17 to prepare classrooms to better deal with COVID-.19
At a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Tim Houston said it was an “extremely difficult decision”. Classroom learning was previously scheduled to begin on January 10.
Houston said the province was working to address concerns about communication, masks, COVID-19 testing and ventilation in schools.
Seventy-one schools that need better ventilation will receive units and these will be in place by the end of next week, Houston said. He also said the province is working to make three-ply masks available to all students.
The province is expecting more rapid test kits soon, and Houston said it hopes to have a better estimate of an arrival date sometime next week.
He said the province is also working on how to communicate around cases of COVID-19 in schools and on safety precautions.
New self-isolation requirements
The province also announced new rules regarding self-isolation for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who are in close contact. New rules start at 6 a.m. on Friday
Fully immunized people or children 11 years of age and under should:
- Isolate for at least seven days after symptom onset, or a positive test if asymptomatic.
- They can leave isolation after day 7 if there are no symptoms or if symptoms improve and there has been no fever for at least 24 hours.
An unvaccinated or partially vaccinated person or an immunocompromised person should self-isolate for a minimum of 10 days. They can leave isolation after day 10 if they are no longer showing symptoms or if their symptoms improve and there has been no fever for at least 24 hours.
The province noted that isolation requirements apply regardless of the type of test performed – rapid test or laboratory PCR test.
If a fully immunized person or child 11 years of age or younger is identified as close contact of a positive case, the province has said:
- Get tested 72 hours after exposure and watch for symptoms.
- If they pass a PCR test, no further testing is necessary unless symptoms develop.
- If they pass a quick test, they should do a second 48 hours after the first.
Until they get a negative test result, close contacts should:
- Stay home except when going to school, work, or daycare, and work from home as much as possible.
- Practice physical distancing at work or school, including eating or drinking.
- Continue to wear a tight-fitting three-layer mask and only do essential activities like shopping for groceries or collecting prescriptions if no one else can.
For all other people in close contact, including immunocompromised people who have not received a booster:
- The self-isolation requirement is seven days.
- They can be released from isolation after two negative rapid tests performed on the sixth and eighth day or after a negative PCR test performed on the sixth or seventh day.
- If symptoms develop, they should stay in isolation and get tested.
In households, the province has said that if a person with COVID-19 can isolate themselves completely separately from the rest of their household, then other household members follow direction for close contact.
However, if the person cannot self-isolate completely separately, other members of the household should self-isolate with them for the duration of their isolation – regardless of their immunization status – and should be tested on the third or fourth day and again on the last day of isolation. They can be released from isolation if the last test is negative.
The province noted that the changes do not apply to people working in high-risk health care settings, such as hospitals, home care and long-term care facilities. Whether they are positive or they are a close contact, the province says they should educate their employer and follow their workplace health guidelines.
45 people hospitalized with COVID-19
Houston said 45 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including eight people in intensive care. He said the average length of hospital stay is 5.4 days.
Hospitalizations are currently well below those reported during the spring wave of COVID-19. More than 100 people were hospitalized with the virus at one point in May.
Nova Scotia reported 842 new cases on Wednesday, including 498 cases in the central zone, 141 cases in the east zone, 121 cases in the west zone and 82 cases in the north zone.
Among those hospitalized:
- Five (11.1%) received a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
- 24 (53.3 percent) had two doses.
- Two (4.4 percent) are partially vaccinated.
- 14 (31.1%) are not vaccinated.
Only 10 percent of Nova Scotians are unvaccinated, the province said in a statement.
“The very high level of our vaccine coverage is what keeps us as safe as we are now. I don’t even want to think about what Omicron might look like if we hadn’t been vaccinated,” the chief said. Nova Scotia Medical Center. Health Officer Dr Robert Strang.
Strang said the Omicron variant affects access to certain healthcare. He said people in an emergency will receive treatment, but “if your medical condition is not urgent, please do not go to the emergency room.”
The current COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place until at least January 31, Strang said.
As of Wednesday, 42% of the eligible population had received a booster or reserved one, Houston said.
Houston noted that 12,600 boosters “went into action” on Tuesday, setting a new record for the province. He said more dates are opening and one date will be available for everyone.
Houston said more tests will be available in Cape Breton soon.
He said a testing center opened in New Waterford on Wednesday and others will open in Glace Bay and Sydney. He also said mobile tests would be available by Friday.
According to provincial COVID-19 dashboard, about 84% of people hospitalized with the virus from March 15 to December 17 were not vaccinated.
Visitor restriction recommendations
The Nova Scotia Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care recommends that long-term care facilities be closed to visitors beginning Friday at 6 a.m.
Two designated caregivers per resident should still be allowed to visit so they can provide physical and mental support, the department recommended. He also said the industry is currently experiencing a staff shortage because people are isolated from COVID-19.
It is strongly advised that it be temporarily closed to most visitors to minimize the risk of spread to facilities and the impact of exhibits on residents and staff, the department noted.
The ministry will reassess the situation on January 17.
Several hospitals have reported outbreaks, including the Halifax Infirmary, Dartmouth General, Victoria General site of QEII Health Sciences Center, St. Martha’s Regional and New Waterford Consolidated.
As of Wednesday morning, Nova Scotia Health limited all hospitals in the province to one dedicated visitor per inpatient, with a few exceptions, including children under 19 or critically ill patients.
On Wednesday evening, the health authority said in a statement that patients hospitalized at the following sites in the eastern zone cannot receive visitors at all due to COVID-19 activity and staffing needs:
- Sainte-Marthe regional hospital.
- Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital.
- New Consolidated Hospital in Waterford.
- Northside General Hospital.
Atlantic Canada Case Numbers
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported 479 new cases on Wednesday for a total of 3,665 active cases. There are three people in the hospital.
- Prince Edward Island reported 222 new cases on Wednesday. There are 1,378 active cases. Three people are hospitalized and treated for COVID-19, one in intensive care. There are four people hospitalized for other reasons who have tested positive for the virus.
- New Brunswick reported three deaths and 779 new cases on Wednesday. There are 59 people hospitalized, including 16 in intensive care.