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Municipal and provincial parks to reopen as Nova Scotia eases COVID-19 restrictions –



The Nova Scotia government announced Friday it is immediately easing some public health restrictions around COVID-19. The province also reported an additional death and 12 new cases of the virus.

Some of the initial steps include:

  • Reopening provincial and municipal parks (excluding playgrounds and beaches), trails and community gardens. Skate parks are open.
  • Reopening garden centres, nurseries and similar businesses.
  • Sport fishing is permitted from shore or boat, but fishing derbies are not allowed.
  • People are now allowed to go to boating, yacht or sailing clubs to prepare boats for use.
  • Golf driving ranges can open, including those at golf clubs. Courses must remain closed, but golf clubs can perform the necessary preparation work for reopening.
  • People can use their cottages, but use is restricted to one household unit at a time. Travel must be directly to the cottage and back. Travelling back and forth frequently from cottage to primary residence is discouraged. This does not apply to cottage rentals.
  • Provincial and private campgrounds are still closed, but staff are now permitted to do maintenance work for reopening. An exception to this rule is recreational vehicles parked year-round at private campgrounds, which can be used but must follow the same rules.
  • Drive-thru religious services will be allowed as long as people stay in their cars and are parked two metres apart and there is no interaction between people in cars or between people in cars and others.

Rules around physical distancing and social gatherings remain in place. People must keep two metres apart and not gather in groups of more than five.

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Premier Stephen McNeil warned restrictions will return if public health measures aren’t followed.

“I’m worried about all of you and I’m worried about how we are coping,” McNeil said during a press briefing on Friday, referencing COVID-19 deaths, the mass shooting, and the military helicopter crash.

“We need to get over our heads and out of our houses and get outside. We need to feel that fresh air, a little freedom. The keyword is a little.”

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil warned that if public health restrictions aren’t followed, tougher ones will be put back in place. (CBC)

While the easing of those restrictions came into effect immediately, it could take a little while for some municipal parks to reopen.

Shortly after the announcement was made, Halifax Coun. Waye Mason said unlocking the gates to popular destinations like the Halifax Public Gardens may not be complete until the end of the weekend.

“Don’t look for loopholes and don’t bend the rules,” McNeil warned.

Beaches and playgrounds still closed

Beaches and playgrounds will remain closed.

“Most of us don’t have a beach in our community and would have to drive a fair distance to get to one. And we really don’t want people driving long distances if they don’t need to,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.

“Playgrounds have many challenges to maintaining social distance for kids, plus have many high-touch surfaces that cannot be sanitized. So for those reasons for now, we’re keeping beaches and playgrounds closed.”

If a provincial park has a beach, the beach part of the park is closed, Strang said.

He said the province will be monitoring to see if there is an uptick in COVID-19 cases after the restrictions are eased. He said it could take two weeks to see the impact of this weekend.

‘We have not lost sight of the economy’

Mental health played a big role in the province’s decision to ease restrictions, McNeil said.

When it comes to people violating physical distancing rules, the premier said adults — not children — are the worst offenders.

He said talks about reopening the economy will begin soon.

Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said if people are going to head to trails and parks, they should go to ones that are nearby. (CBC)

“We have not lost sight of the economy. We have not lost sight of how we’re going to work with our private sector,” McNeil said.

“Right now, this is about Nova Scotians and trying to help all of us deal with what we’ve been asked to deal with.”

State of emergency extended

The province also announced Friday that Nova Scotia’s state of emergency has been extended to May 17.

There have now been 29 deaths in the province due to COVID-19, with 23 of them happening at Northwood, including the death announced Friday.

As of Thursday, there were 237 residents and 105 staff at 10 long-term care homes and seniors facilities that had COVID-19.

A map of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia released by the Nova Scotia Health Authority on Friday, May 1, 2020. (Nova Scotia Health Authority)

Ten people are currently in hospital because of the virus, with three of them in intensive care.

Nova Scotia has had 959 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 592 individuals now recovered.

The following is a list of symptoms for COVID-19:

  • Fever.
  • New or worsening cough.
  • Sore throat.
  • Runny nose.
  • Headache.

Anyone with two or more of those symptoms should visit 811’s website for a self-assessment questionnaire to determine if 811 should be called for further assessment.

Police enforcement

Police across Nova Scotia are continuing to charge people under the Nova Scotia Health Protection Act.

Nova Scotia RCMP have charged 190 people with offences related to the provincial state of emergency. Five of those charges have been since April 28.

Cape Breton Regional Police have so far issued 98 tickets, with 21 of those tickets handed out this week.

Halifax Regional Police have issued 152 tickets since the state of emergency was declared, with only one ticket issued since Monday.


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Canada plots course to fully vaccinated return to gatherings in fall



Canada on Friday said there would be a gradual return to a world with indoor sports and family gatherings as more people get vaccinated, but it did not go as far as the United States in telling people they could eventually ditch their masks.

Canada has administered one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to just over half its adult population, and the country may be over the worst of its current third wave of infections, Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

On Friday, Canada‘s public health agency offered guidelines to the 10 provinces, which are responsible for public health restrictions.

The agency says once 75% of Canadians have had a single dose and 20% are fully vaccinated, some restrictions can be relaxed to allow small, outdoor gatherings with family and friends, camping, and picnics.

Once 75% of those eligible are fully vaccinated in the fall, indoor sports and family gatherings can be allowed again.

“I think masks might be the last layer of that multi-layer protection that we’ll advise people to remove,” Tam told reporters, noting that in Canada colder temperatures meant people would start spending more time indoors in the fall.

“We are taking a bit of a different approach to the United States,” she added. While in most of Canada masks are not required outdoors, they are mandatory indoors.

Less than 4% of Canada‘s adult population has been fully vaccinated compared to more than 36% of Americans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has promised that everyone who wants to can be fully vaccinated by September, this week spoke of a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall” without explaining what that might look like.


(Reporting by Steve Scherer and David Ljunggren; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Delayed 2nd Pfizer/BioNTech shot boosts antibodies in elderly; COVID-19 obesity risk higher for men



The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Delaying second Pfizer/BioNTech dose boosts antibodies in elderly

Delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine beyond the originally recommended three-week gap used by the companies in clinical trials appears to induce a stronger antibody response in the elderly, UK researchers found. Shortly after the vaccine became available, UK health officials advised that the second dose should be given 12 weeks after the first to allow more people to get protected by a first dose early on. In a new paper seen by Reuters and expected to appear on medRxiv on Friday ahead of peer review, researchers found that among 175 people ages 80 to 99, those who got their second dose at 12 weeks had antibody responses that were 3.5 times higher than those who got it after three weeks. Antibodies are only one part of the immune system, and vaccines also generate T cells that fight infections. The peak T cell responses were higher in the group with a three-week interval between doses, and the authors cautioned against drawing conclusions on how protected individuals were based on which dosing schedule they received. (

Impact of obesity on COVID-19 risks may be greater in men

The known increased risk of severe COVID-19 and death linked to obesity may be even more pronounced for men than women, new data suggest. Researchers studied 3,530 hospitalized COVID-19 patients with an average age of 65, including 1,469 who were obese. In men, moderate obesity was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing severe disease, needing mechanical breathing assistance and dying from COVID-19. (The threshold for moderate obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 35. In an 5-foot, five-inch tall (1.65 m) adult, that would correspond to a weight of 210 pounds (95 kg). In women, however, only a BMI of 40 or higher, indicating severe obesity, was linked with the increased risks. In a report published in European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, the researchers note that while obesity is known to be linked with body-wide inflammation, patients’ levels of inflammatory proteins did not appear to explain the association between obesity and severe illness. For now, they conclude, “particular attention should be paid” to protecting patients with obesity from the coronavirus, “with priority to vaccination access, remote work, telemedicine, and other measures given the higher risk of adverse outcomes once they are diagnosed with COVID-19.” (

COVID-19 testing rates low among symptomatic Americans

Sick Americans appear to be passing up opportunities to get tested for coronavirus and thus are likely unknowingly spreading the infection throughout their communities, new research shows. Among 37,000 adults across the United States who participated in a smartphone app survey between March and October 2020, nearly 2,700 reported at least one episode of fever and chills. But according to a report published in JAMA Network Open, only a small fraction reported receiving a COVID-19 test result within seven days of the onset of illness. At first, as tests became more accessible, the numbers improved. In early April 2020, less than 10% of survey participants reporting illness with fever received test results within a week. By late July, that proportion had increased to 24.1%. Throughout the summer and fall, as tests became easier to find, the number of sick participants who reported getting tested remained flat. By late October, only 26% reported receiving a test result within a week of febrile illness. “It’s shocking to me that when people have a fever they’re still not getting tested,” said coauthor Dr. Mark Pletcher of the University of California, San Francisco. “Tests are easy to come by. People might have coronavirus, might be spreading it to their friends and neighbors, and they’re not getting tested.” (

Open  in an external browser for a Reuters graphic on vaccines in development.


(Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Alistair Smout and Ronnie Cohen; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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U.S. CDC says Fully vaccinated people can remove their masks in most places



The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday advised that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places, updated guidance the agency said will allow life to begin to return to normal.

The CDC, which hopes the guidance will prod more Americans to get vaccinated, also said fully immunized people will not need to physically distance in most places.

The turnaround came just 16 days since CDC issued revised guidance that left many restrictions in place for vaccinated people. The agency came under fire in March for initially discouraging immunized grandparents to fly to visit loved ones.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the new guidance was based on a sharp reduction in cases, expansion of vaccines to younger people and vaccine efficacy against coronavirus variants.

“We followed the science here,” Walensky.

President Joe Biden emerged at the White House for remarks without a mask. “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day,” he said.

“If you’re fully vaccinated and can take your mask off, you’ve earned the right to do something that Americans are known for all around the world: greeting others with a smile,” he said, flashing a brief smile himself.

Biden earlier shed his mask during a meeting with lawmakers, Republican Senator Shelly Moore Capito told reporters. Some journalists at the White House also removed their masks.

The CDC had faced criticism, even from public health officials, that it has been too cautious in its guidance. Critics have said people need to see more benefit of getting vaccinated in terms of returning to normal activities.

“In the past couple of weeks, we have seen additional data to show these vaccines work in the real world, they stand up to the variants, and vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus,” the agency said in a news release.

It added, “We needed to take the time to review the full body of evidence to get this right, and that’s how we came to this decision.”


Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease doctor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he supports the new guidance that many had been calling for.

“People in state health departments and infectious disease doctors have been saying this for some time because they’re so impressed with the effectiveness of the vaccine, and also, they have the feeling that people who are vaccinated need a reward,” he said.

Republican Senator Susan Collins called the guidance “overdue.”

“If people find they cannot do anything differently after a vaccine, they will not see the benefit in getting vaccinated,” she said.

The revised guidance is a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, but the agency still recommends vaccinated people wear masks on planes and trains, and at airports, transit hubs, mass transit and places like hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Officials in several states said they would immediately review existing mask requirements.

The Retail Industry Leaders Association said the announcement creates ambiguity because it fails to fully align with state and local orders.

“It is critical for customers to remember the CDC announcement is guidance and that many state and local jurisdictions still have mask mandates in place that retailers must follow.”

Supermarket chain Kroger Co said it would keep its mask requirements in place “at this time.”

Target Corp said it will continue requiring coronavirus safety measures in all stores, including masks and social distancing, while it reviews the guidance.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million retail and grocery workers, called the new guidelines “confusing,” adding it “fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks.”

The U.S. government last month extended mask requirements across transportation networks through Sept. 13. The Transportation Security Administration said it would “work closely with the CDC to evaluate the need for these directives.” Walensky said CDC will soon issued updated transit guidance.

The new guidance says vaccinated Americans can resume all travel, do not need to quarantine after international trips and do not need to be tested for COVID-19 if exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive but asymptomatic.

However, Americans still face some international travel restrictions, including non-essential trips to Canada.

Masks became a political issue in the United States with then-President Donald Trump resisting mandating face coverings while President Joe Biden embraced masks and mandated them for transit hubs. Some U.S. states issued aggressive mask mandates while others declined or dropped them months ago.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people should still wear masks where required by federal, state, local, tribal or territorial laws, and abide by rules and regulations set by local businesses and workplaces.

In late April, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can safely engage in outdoor activities like walking and hiking without masks, but recommended their continued use in public spaces where they are required.

Immune-compromised individuals should consult doctors before shedding masks, and those who are not vaccinated should continue wearing them, Walensky said.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Nandita Bose in Washington, Richa Naidu, Lisa P. Baertlein and Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot)

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