UPDATED: 5 or so cases and a bizarre false positive March 13

Plus more chaos at Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 anniversary Saturday.

click to enlarge Updated map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of March 13, 2021, using information from March 14. Legend here. - THE COAST
The Coast
Updated map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of March 13, 2021, using information from March 14. Legend here.

Update March 14: Apparently when you're aiming to create chaos, there's no such thing as too much. Below is our story about two chaotic things the province did on Saturday, but we should have guessed there was a third brewing. In the Sunday, March 14 C19 update, the province explains that the "case reported in Central Zone yesterday, March 13, that was under investigation has been removed due to a data entry error. There were four new cases yesterday, not five." We've updated the map associated with this piece, as well as the headline, which used to be "5 cases and a bizarre false positive reported March 13." For the latest case numbers, check our Sunday update at The Coast's C19 news feed.

click to enlarge Outdated version of the C19 map for March 13, 2021. - THE COAST
The Coast
Outdated version of the C19 map for March 13, 2021.

One year ago today, March 13 2020, Nova Scotia's COVID-19 experience began in earnest. Although there were no known cases in the province at that point, then-premier Stephen McNeil announced the first wave of C19 restrictions at a press conference with chief medical officer of health Robert Strang and Randy Delorey, the current attorney general who was minister of health in 202. Among other reactions, the announcement provoked fear, confusion and lots of questions without answers. In short, chaos.

And now, after the learning opportunity provided by a year and nearly 1,700 cases, the province is marking the occasion with a return to chaos.

We'll start with the five new infections being announced today. Three are in the Western health zone (all of them close contacts of previous patients) and two in Central (one travel-related, the other requiring deeper investigation to uncover a transmission vector). At least the official Saturday press release said the two cases are in Central. If you turned to the official Nova Scotia C19 dashboard to figure out where the cases are, you would have found out there were three in Western, two in Eastern and none in Central. So useful—if you're trying to sow uncertainty.

Getting the map and/or the report wrong isn't the end of the world (and we'll come back to the right numbers soon). It's happened before, it gets fixed, the correct information gets out eventually. We wouldn't make such a big deal about it, except for an unprecedented situation springing from today's report.

Here's the line from the Saturday press release, about Friday's release: "The case reported in Eastern Zone yesterday is being removed from the cumulative case count, as the investigation revealed the case was previously diagnosed in another province."

Nova Scotia has diagnosed positive cases in patients whose permanent residence is in other provinces, and because of the way Canada's public health tracking system works, they aren't supposed to be added to Nova Scotia's count, even though they are here and could potentially infect other people. Nova Scotians who get diagnosed while living away in another province have gotten added to Nova Scotia's case count, even through they don't pose any risk to Nova Scotia. But to the best of our recollection, nobody who's been diagnosed with C19 in another province has come to Nova Scotia, gotten diagnosed again, been counted as a positive case, then had to be removed from our case count.

This situation is pure chaos. It raises all sorts of concern about the patient, such as did they lie during the standard screening before they were tested—Have you been out of the province in the last two weeks? Have you ever been diagnosed with COVID-19?—or were they somehow incapacitated and couldn't answer?

Once their positive test came back, the only one of the day, doubtless raising all sorts of alerts and flags, triggering public health's contact tracers to spring into action personally investigating the case, did the patient double down on the initial lie for a day or did they just forgot to mention the recent inter-provincial travel and positive diagnosis?

And let's get really real here. Were they circulating in the community for some amount of time with C19, disregarding or forgetting the disease they'd been diagnosed with, before beginning the testing process again in Nova Scotia?

We asked the province all these questions and more, and the answer that came back is as unsurprising as it is frustrating in this unique situation of urgent public concern: "The investigation revealed the case was previously diagnosed in another province. For privacy reasons, we are unable to provide any further details." We see your fear, your confusion, your questions, and we don't give a fuck.

To its slim credit, the province was much more helpful on the much less vital issue of where today's cases are. "There are five new cases today: three in Western and two in Central Zone," a provincial communications professional tells us in an email that is, like the email about the fraudulent C19 patient, unsigned. "The map will be updated." And sure enough it was updated on Saturday, before we finished writing this report. But not before planting the seed of doubt about how the province is handling C19 one year later.

Where Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 cases are on Saturday, March 13

Western zone totals 3 new 0 closed 7 active
Yarmouth - - -
Lunenburg - - -
Wolfville 3 - 7
Central zone totals 2 new 0 closed 13 active
West Hants - - -
Halifax 2 - 4
Dartmouth - - 1
Bedford - - 7
Eastern Shore - - -
Northern zone totals 0 new 0 closed 1 active
Truro - - -
Amherst - - 1
Pictou - - -
Eastern zone totals -1 new 0 closed 0 active
Antigonish -1 - -
Inverness - - -
Sydney - - -

TABLE NOTES The totals for the health zones (Northern, Eastern, Western, Central) may be different than the totals you'd get by adding up the numbers in the Community Health Networks that make up each zone, because the province doesn't track all cases at the community network level. The zone totals reflect every case in the area; the community network numbers only show cases that can be localized to a region inside the bigger area. The names of the community networks here have been adapted/shortened for simplicity (click to download the province's PDF map with the exhaustively complete network names). All data comes from the Nova Scotia COVID-19 data page. We use a dash (-) instead of a zero (0) where applicable in the health network numbers to make the table easier to read.

About The Author

Kyle Shaw

Kyle is the editor of The Coast. He was a founding member of the newspaper in 1993 and was the paper’s first publisher. Kyle occasionally teaches creative nonfiction writing (think magazine-style #longreads) and copy editing at the University of King’s College School of Journalism.

Support The Coast

At a time when the city needs local coverage more than ever, we’re asking for your help to support independent journalism. We are committed as always to providing free access to readers, particularly as we confront the impact of COVID-19 in Halifax and beyond.

Read more about the work we do here, or consider making a donation. Thank you for your support!

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment

Get more Halifax

The Coast Daily email newsletter is your extra dose of the city Monday through Friday. Sign up and go deep on Halifax.

Recent Comments