Even as the province announced two more presumptive cases of COVID-19, the list of cancellations and reduced services continued to grow.
On March 17, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health said another two new presumptive cases of COVID-19 had been identified, bringing the total number of positives in the province to seven.
As of March 17, Nova Scotia has 934 negative test results, six presumptive positive cases and one confirmed case
The two new presumptive cases are travel-related and connected to earlier cases. One of the initial three presumptive positive cases has now been confirmed by the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.
The affected individuals are in self-isolation and recovering at home.
Later that same day, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) announced a sweeping set of reductions or suspensions of service as "part of the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 as well as to conserve and redeploy our resources in anticipation of increasing demand related to the pandemic."
In a statement, Dr. Brendan Carr, president and CEO, NSHA, said: "While a reduction of services is a difficult decision and will unfortunately mean a delay of care to some Nova Scotians who need it, we have reached the phase of our planned pandemic response where this is necessary.
"These changes allow our system to be ready to care for others who experience the most serious effects of COVID-19, and to protect our staff and patients from exposure as much as possible."
The NSHA said that beginning March 18 the following steps would be taken:
All elective outpatient visits are cancelled. Individual services will contact patients whose appointments are proceeding. Dialysis, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and mental health and addictions appointments will continue.
All non-urgent diagnostic imaging appointments will be rescheduled and walk-in x-ray services will be closed. Cancer Care imaging, PET scans and other time-sensitive exams will continue.
Outpatient blood collection services will not close completely but services will be reduced (i.e. reduction in hours and number of locations). Details regarding these changes will be communicated as soon as they are available.
All same-day admission and elective surgical procedures are postponed. Cancer and urgent/emergency procedures will continue.
As currently-occupied inpatient beds become available, they will be held open to create capacity to establish COVID units in designated hospitals.
"This reduction of services is a planned component of our pandemic response and business continuity planning.
As much as possible, NSHA is contacting scheduled patients and clients directly to notify them of cancellations," the NHSA announced.
Information on changes to these and other service interruptions is being compiled and posted on the NSHA website as it is confirmed - http://www.nshealth.ca/temporaryclosures
Patients with additional questions about service changes and reductions should contact their health care team or clinic. Our teams are experiencing high call volumes and will do their very best to answer your call in a timely manner. We thank you for your patience at this challenging time.
For more information and updates about NSHA's response to COVID-19 please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus.
For its part, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) announced that it will adjust the hours of its stores to "help prevent the spread of COVID-19."
Effective March 18 all stores will be open to all customers from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday to Saturday.
The corporation plans to open stores an hour earlier, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., for seniors and customers who are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
The liquor stores will be closed Sundays. Agency stores will follow the same hours.
The NSLC said the shorter business hours will allow time for employees to thoroughly clean its stores and to re-stock product on stores shelves. The agency also warned people about stockpiling, saying the corporation has sufficient inventory, "so there is no need to buy extra product."
The corporation is asking any customers who have symptoms to not shop in our stores, just as they require
any employees with symptoms to stay home. The NSLC said it will also limit the number customers in our stores to no more than 50 at any given time.
"It's important that we look out for one another and do what we can to help prevent the spread of this virus. We appreciate your understanding and hope that everyone takes the appropriate precautions to protect themselves, their families and their
neighbours," Hughes said.
Finally, White Point Beach resort announced it is closing temporarily until further notice effective March 18.