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COVID-19 death toll in Nova Scotia keeps rising: health officials

HALIFAX — As the death toll associated with COVID-19 continues to rise inside Nova Scotia's largest long-term care home, Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Thursday there will be a discussion about how the province will "re-imagine" such facilities.

HALIFAX — As the death toll associated with COVID-19 continues to rise inside Nova Scotia's largest long-term care home, Premier Stephen McNeil confirmed Thursday there will be a discussion about how the province will "re-imagine" such facilities.

McNeil made the comment after health officials confirmed that another resident of the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax had died, bringing the province's overall toll to 58.

Northwood — the largest long-term care home east of Montreal — has been the site of Nova Scotia's worst outbreak, with 52 COVID-19 deaths reported from that one facility.

"It's pretty clear what has happened here," McNeil told a teleconferenced briefing. "The virus was brought in by asymptomatic people who didn't know they had the virus and it started to spread."

With more than 400 residents, some of them sharing rooms, the virus quickly spread through the older building in Halifax.

"When you look at the size of Northwood ... there will be a conversation about what is the appropriate size of a facility like that." McNeil said.

"If you look at many of our new facilities, many of them have wings so people are isolated in that wing, and there's smaller numbers. That will be part of a conversation as we see our way through this (pandemic) and re-imagine long-term care when it comes to large facilities like Northwood."

Long-term care homes across Canada have been hit hard by the viral infection. 

Earlier this month, the country's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said about 20 per cent of all confirmed cases in Canada were linked to long-term care homes, but more than 80 per cent of the people who have died from the virus were seniors living in those facilities.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey suggested the province would conduct a review that will investigate the physical infrastructure of long-term care facilities.

There was no indication of whether the results of such a review would be made public.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia reported one newly confirmed case of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the province's total to 1,046 cases.

Nine individuals were being treated in hospital — four of them in intensive care — but 959 people have recovered from the illness.

McNeil issued a statement expressing his condolences to the families and friends of those grieving the loss of loved ones.

"Thank you to everyone who is working tirelessly at Northwood to contain this virus," the premier said. "To the staff and families with loved ones at Northwood, you continue to have our full support as long as necessary."

Northwood has 15 residents and four staff with active cases of COVID-19.

"Until a vaccine is available, we have to stay vigilant in fighting this virus," said Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health.

"We have to find — and adapt to — our new normal. That means we have to keep practising good personal hygiene, use physical distancing, limit non-essential travel, stay home when unwell, limit large groups and wear non-medical masks."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2020.

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press


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