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Nova Scotia reports three more COVID-19 deaths, bringing total to 27

HALIFAX — As Prince Edward Island became the latest Atlantic province to announce a plan to gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions, Nova Scotia's top doctor offered hope that a plan is in the works, while cautioning it will likely be weeks before anyth

HALIFAX — As Prince Edward Island became the latest Atlantic province to announce a plan to gradually ease COVID-19 restrictions, Nova Scotia's top doctor offered hope that a plan is in the works, while cautioning it will likely be weeks before anything happens.

Dr. Robert Strang's update came as Nova Scotia reported three more deaths related to COVID-19 Tuesday, bringing the provincial total to 27 — by far the most in the Atlantic region.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the only other province in the region to have any recorded deaths due to the virus, with three.

Health officials in Nova Scotia also reported 15 new cases of the virus, bringing the total of confirmed cases in the province to 915.

"We are working on a plan here in Nova Scotia," said Strang. "But this is not something we can rush.

"We still have a significant amount of virus activity. It would be absolutely premature for us to open things up significantly at this time or even in the next couple of weeks."

Strang said the pandemic is not playing out in a common or consistent way across the country.

"We have to have a plan that works and is appropriate for Nova Scotia," he said.

The newly reported deaths occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax, where 21 of the province's deaths have occurred.

The outbreak in long-term care is driving the province's numbers, with 10 licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors' facilities reporting cases of COVID-19, affecting 218 residents and 95 staff.

However, Strang said Northwood was the only home with a large ongoing outbreak, adding it will take "some time to get under control."

He said once an outbreak is declared it takes 28 days of no cases before it can officially be declared over.

"We are by no means out of the woods yet for Northwood," Strang said.

Meanwhile, the Prince Edward Island government announced the first phase of efforts to ease public health restrictions, just as it reported its first new case of COVID-19 since April 15. The province's total is now 27, with 24 considered recovered.

Priority non-urgent health-care services will resume on the Island on May 1, including certain elective surgeries and select health services provided by physiotherapists, optometrists, chiropractors and others.

Also beginning May 1, outdoor gatherings and non-contact outdoor recreational activities of no more than five people will be permitted. That includes activities such as recreational fishing and golf.

And for the foreseeable future, border screening will continue at points of entry to P.E.I., and everyone entering the province will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

In New Brunswick, which announced its own phased approach to easing restrictions last week, a restriction on temporary foreign workers entering the province was announced Tuesday as officials reported no new cases of COVID-19 for the 10th day in a row.

Premier Blaine Higgs said with so many serious outbreaks of COVID-19 in surrounding jurisdictions, the province’s borders must remain closed for now.

"Under normal circumstances, we welcome foreign temporary workers as they play an important role in New Brunswick’s continued economic growth," said Higgs. "But right now, the risk of allowing more people to enter the province is simply too great."

This restriction does not affect the status of about 1,500 temporary foreign workers already in the province.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, health officials also reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, leaving the provincial total at 258.

Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, announced a change in provincial guidelines affecting staff in personal care homes and long-term care facilities.

Those staff have been prohibited from working in more than one facility, and now are also prohibited from working in any other job while also employed at a personal care home or long-term care facility.

Like Nova Scotia, the province is yet to announce a plan for easing restrictions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2020.

Keith Doucette and Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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