With no new case of COVID-19 being reported for the first time since March 15 in Nova Scotia, the province is increasing the number of people allowed to gather from five to 10.
“Today we come before you with good news. No new cases to report. Zero. That’s exciting,” Premier Stephen McNeil said at a press briefing on Friday.
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health said zero cases is a “significant and encouraging milestone.”
The new gathering limit is effective immediately, but physical distancing — except among members of a household or family bubbles — is still required.
The limit is the same indoors and outdoors, with an exception for outdoor weddings and funeral services, which can have 15 people.
“I hate to be a damper on these joyous events, but at this time we need to make sure that the numbers are limited so the officiant is the only extra person and if you want a photographer or a DJ or something like that, they would be included in your number of 10 indoors and 15 outdoors,” Strang said.
The 10-person limit applies to:
- Social gatherings.
- Arts and culture activities like theatre performances and dance recitals.
- Faith gatherings.
- Sports and physical activities.
Strang said for faith gatherings, safety precautions are required. He said passing around a collection plate is not allowed. Strang said singing is highly discouraged because “people singing can significantly increase the spreading of respiratory droplets, [which] increases the risk of transmitting the virus that causes COVID-19.”
It also applies to businesses that are too small to ensure physical distancing.
Reopening timelines announced for campgrounds
The province also announced timelines for the reopening of more businesses:
- Starting June 5, private campgrounds can open for all types of campers. But they can only operate at 50 per cent capacity and must ensure public health protocols are followed.
- Provincial campgrounds will open to all Nova Scotians June 15, with the reservation line opening June 8. Those campgrounds will operate at a reduced capacity.
- Pools can begin maintenance work to prepare for reopening, likely in time for summer.
- Sleepover camps are not permitted this year.
Two things not changing are the requirement of self-isolating for 14 days when people visit Nova Scotia, and the household bubble is not expanding.
“I know some of this is confusing. People say, ‘I can go to a restaurant and there will be 10, 20, 30 people in that restaurant as long as the tables are kept apart.’ That seems to be OK, but they can’t go hug their grandparents or they can’t go practise with their soccer team,” Strang said.
“It’s important that people understand we recognize those, but this is about taking measured steps so we can reopen the economy, loosen restrictions in a carefully, measured way.”
In a news release Friday, the province said the microbiology lab at the QEII Health Sciences Centre completed 1,034 tests on Thursday.
Why daycares are reopening later
McNeil addressed why daycares aren’t reopening at the same time as many other businesses on June 5.
He said he wanted daycares to reopen at the same time as everything else, but public health made a recommendation against it, so the date was moved from June 8 to 15.
“When public health comes to me and says the plan is not ready and they need another week, why would I go against that? That is about the safety of our children,” McNeil said.
He said “too many provinces” reopened daycares too soon and “look what’s happened in those provinces.”
“Some of you are saying, ‘Why didn’t you change the date of the economy?’ Because people have to get back to work to pay the bills and take care of their families,” he said.
McNeil acknowledged the 10-day difference “will be long for people going back to work right away and [who] need child care.”
Respect employees having child-care issues
McNeil asked businesses to “please respect” employees who have “issues with child care” over that 10-day period.
“We need to take care of each other, we need to be kind to each other, we need to support each other as our province tries to come back from COVID-19,” he said.
McNeil closed the briefing by addressing people who are asking about expanding their household bubble and “get the long-awaited hug.”
“A hug is a beautiful and dangerous thing,” McNeil said. “Close contact means so much to us, but it is the very thing that could set our province back.”
McNeil said people can “hang out” now and grandparents can “watch your grandchildren play.” But to protect everybody, he said hugs, kisses and handshakes are off limits.
“Stay six feet apart a little longer,” he said. “If we continue to flatten the curve, we’ll be able to lift up your spirits by taking down more restrictions.”
There remain 18 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, 14 of which are residents and staff at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax. There are eight people in hospital, including three people who are in the intensive care unit.
Northwood remains the only long-term care facility in the province with active cases.
In an interview Friday, Northwood CEO Janet Simm said it was the first day “in a number of weeks” the facility had no new cases to report.
“So we’re celebrating that within the facility,” she said.
Fifty-nine people in Nova Scotia have died from the virus, 52 of those at Northwood.
Simm said 179 residents in Northwood had recovered as of Friday.
The state of emergency declared under the Emergency Management Act on March 22 has been extended to June 14.
Updated symptoms list
The list of COVID-19 symptoms recently expanded. People with one or more of the following updated list of symptoms are asked to visit 811’s website:
- Fever (chills, sweats).
- Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Muscle aches.
- Nasal congestion/runny nose.
- Hoarse voice.
- Unusual fatigue.
- Loss of sense of smell or taste.
- Red, purple or bluish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers that do not have a clear cause.
US COVID-19 vaccine program to start manufacturing by late summer, says US official – The Jakarta Post – Jakarta Post
Drugmakers partnered with the US government are on track to begin actively manufacturing a vaccine for COVID-19 by the end of the summer, a senior administration official said on Monday.
“If you say exactly when will literally the vaccine materials be in production and manufacturing, it is probably four to six weeks away, but we will be actively manufacturing by the end of summer,” the official, who declined to be identified by name, said.
He added that the administration is already working with companies to equip and outfit manufacturing facilities and acquire raw materials.
The Trump administration has helped finance the development of four COVID-19 vaccines so far though its Operation Warp Speed Program, which aims to produce 300 million vaccine doses by the end of 2021.
The US government has given grants ranging from several hundred million dollars to over $1 billion to Johnson & Johnson , Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Novovax Inc.
It also signed a $450 million contract earlier this month with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc to help it supply therapies for patients who are sick with the virus.
Clinical trials for therapeutics can produce results in a matter of weeks, making it possible to produce hundreds of thousands of doses by fall, the senior administration official said.
“While we think is fair to say that vaccine progress is occurring at warp speed pace, faster than any vaccines have been developed in history, therapeutics are even faster,” the official said.
The “slate is not closed” for additional funding agreements and the administration plans to announce more in the future, the official said.
The novel coronavirus has infected more than 3 million people in the United States and killed more than 130,000.
Russia may start Phase III trial of COVID-19 vaccine in mid-August: RIA – The Jakarta Post – Jakarta Post
A Russian institute developing one of the country’s potential coronavirus vaccines hopes to start its final stage testing in a small section of the general public in mid-August, the RIA news agency cited the institute’s director as saying on Monday.
Globally, of 19 experimental COVID-19 vaccines in human trials, only two are in final Phase III trials – one by China’s Sinopharm and another by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. China’s Sinovac Biotech is set to become the third later this month.
Early results from the first small-scale human trial of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow has shown it to be safe for use, according to a separate RIA report on Sunday.
“Around 14-15 August, I hope, the small amount of vaccine that we should be able to produce will enter public circulation,” Alexander Ginsburg, the institute’s director, was quoted as saying.
This will be equivalent to a Phase III trial, since people getting the vaccine will remain under supervision, RIA reported, citing Ginsburg.
Phase I and Phase II trials typically test the safety of a drug before it enters Phase III trials that test its efficacy on a bigger group of volunteers.
Human trials of the Gamaleya Institute’s vaccine began on June 18, with nine volunteers receiving one dose, and another nine testing the prospective booster dose.
The group did not experience any significant side effects and is due to be released from hospital on Wednesday, RIA reported on Sunday, citing a director at the Sechenov University in Moscow where the trial took place.
“Data currently available… shows the volunteers to have developed an immune response to the coronavirus vaccine,” the defense ministry, involved in the trials, was cited by RIA as saying on Monday. Another 20 volunteers were administered the vaccine at a military hospital on June 23.
St. Catharines adopts mandatory mask bylaw for COVID-19 – StCatharinesStandard.ca
St. Catharines has become the first Niagara municipality to enact a mandatory mask bylaw for indoor public spaces from elevators to bingo halls in an effort to curb COVID-19.
Councillors questioned Niagara’s acting medical officer of health Mustafa Hirji at length about the effectiveness of masks before voting unanimously Monday night to adopt a draft bylaw that affects most people over the age of 10.
Mayor Walter Sendzik said the city doesn’t want to be a community that has to go backwards into lockdown because COVID-19 complacency set in.
“If this keeps us moving forward and not having to step back into Stage 2 or 1 when we get out of Stage 2, I think that will be for the benefit of everybody,” said Sendzik, adding he understands the frustrations of those opposed to the bylaw.
“These are difficult decisions. We’ve all got the influx of emails and text messages and phone calls and everything else associated with it, but at the end of the day we all want to do what’s best for our community long term.”
The start date of the bylaw will be determined by the city’s CAO and mayor in consultation with the acting medical officer of health.
CAO Shelley Chemnitz said she’ll be meeting with Hirji to determine what the metrics will be to choose a date. The city’s communications staff and senior staff will work on a public education campaign and signage to support businesses and operators.
“It’s not that we have to come down hard on people for not doing things, but rather that we’re working together with them to all be successful,” she said.
Sendzik said realistically, the bylaw could be put into effect Tuesday if they want, but the education piece might take two or three weeks to fully implement in the community.
The bylaw adopted isn’t relying on mask police.
City solicitor Heather Salter said the enforcement is effectively through education and voluntary compliance. Business operators are required to have a policy in place but they are not required to enforce the policy or to prohibit entry. They are empowered by the bylaw to do so.
“This is the least restrictive type of bylaw. It doesn’t require the business operator to have somebody at the door who’s going to challenge people coming in without a mask,” she said.
“It really is a voluntary compliance situation with respect to the individuals.”
Other areas that have the same type of bylaw or rules directed at operators include Toronto, York, Ottawa and Simcoe-Muskoka.
Places like Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington have a similar rule but require operators to prohibit people from entering without masks.
The St. Catharines bylaw exempts people with medical conditions that inhibit their ability to wear a mask, people unable to apply or remove a mask without assistance, people who have protections under the human rights code that would prevent them from wearing a mask and people accommodating someone with a hearing disability.
Children 10 and under will be exempt, after a request by Merritton Coun. Lori Littleton that the age be raised from the draft bylaw’s age of two.
Individuals who claim an exemption are not required to provide proof of the exemption to protect their privacy.
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The rules affect any indoor place where the public gathers, including grocery stores, shopping malls, places of worship, libraries, bingo halls, hotel common areas and city-owned facilities, among others.
It does not include day cares, schools, public transportation, hospitals and health facilities and provincial and federal government buildings.
The bylaw states that anyone who contravenes any provision of the bylaw is guilty of an offence and upon conviction is libel to a fine, and other penalties in the provincial offences act.
St. Catharines held a special meeting of council on July 6 and directed staff to draft the temporary bylaw and request that Hirji attend Monday’s meeting.
Hirji has not issued a region-wide order to wear masks like some other Ontario public health heads have done, instead saying it is up to the politicians to make those type of rules.
He told councillors Monday that the research up until March said masks didn’t work, but that was based on influenza-like illnesses, not on COVID-19. Over the last three months or so, he said there has been research saying that unlike other respiratory viruses, face coverings may have an impact with COVID-19.
Hirji said most public health expert bodies are now recommending people wear face coverings when physical distancing is not possible.
When asked why council should introduce a bylaw now — Niagara is only seeing about two new cases of COVID-19 a day — Hirji said the province is starting to lift the restrictions in society that forced people to have distance from each other.
“The impetus for keeping ourselves safe from COVID-19 is more and more falling in our own personal responsibility,” he said, adding people need to be more vigilant than ever about keeping physical distance, washing hands, wearing face coverings when distance can’t be kept and getting tested if they have symptoms.
How long St. Catharines will keep a mask bylaw in place isn’t known.
Hirji said the only logical time to back off wearing face coverings is if there’s new research showing it’s not as effective as previously thought or there comes a point where there’s an effective vaccine.
“What we’re really trying to do is set a new social norm here that we’re going to live with for a year or two years, perhaps longer, hopefully not.”
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