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click to enlarge Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of April 18, 2021. Legend here. THE COAST

Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of April 18, 2021. Legend here. THE COAST

7 cases, the Brazilian variant arrives and a second nursing home case April 18 

Plus some late-breaking school cases on a sucky COVID-19 Sunday.

A deranged gunman started a murderous rampage in Portapique, Nova Scotia, on the night of April 18, 2020. That rampage ended with the gunman killed before noon on April 19, by the same RCMP he disguised himself as, after he murdered 22 people. Today marks the first anniversary of the massacre, a time that should be for quiet reflection and peace. Unfortunately, the coronavirus has a different agenda.

Nova Scotia is announcing seven new COVID-19 cases today. "Three cases are in Eastern Zone and are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada," says the daily provincial report. "Four cases are in Central Zone. Two are close contacts of previously reported cases, one is related to international travel, and one is under investigation."

The case under investigation as potential community spread, with no obvious tie to travel or previous patients, would normally be the concerning one. But as will become painfully clear as this report unfolds, today is not a normal day for the virus. After yesterday's announcement that a nursing home staffer tested positive—on the anniversary of Northwood's first deaths of the outbreak that ended up killing 53 residents—another staffer is positive today.

"One of the close contact cases in Central Zone is a second staff member at Glasgow Hall, a long-term care home in Dartmouth," the province's Sunday report says. "As a precaution, residents are being isolated and cared for in their rooms and the facility is closed to visitors and designated caregivers. All residents have been tested. Testing was completed yesterday for all staff who are close contacts of the two staff members who tested positive. Testing is underway for all other staff and will be completed today. Most residents of this facility have been fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Work is underway to support any remaining residents and staff who wish to get vaccinated."

The Coast's new "What happened at Northwood?" investigation, by internationally acclaimed journalist Stephanie Nolen, reveals the miserable conditions residents and staff faced during the Northwood outbreak last year, and calls into question the government's handling of COVID in nursing homes. After he faced new demands in the legislature for a public inquiry into the Northwood tragedy, premier Iain Rankin may be acutely aware how important it is for his government to keep a potential crisis in Dartmouth under control.

“All the right steps are being taken to contain this outbreak for the safety of residents and staff at Glasgow Hall," he says in today's provincial report. "As we continue to fight this virus and variant strains, it’s more important than ever that Nova Scotians remain vigilant, follow all public health measures, and get vaccinated as soon as it’s their turn.”

Contrasting the seven new cases, only two people recovered since yesterday, so Nova Scotia's active caseload rose by five to 49 active cases Sunday. That's the highest it's been in 2021; the last time there were more was 122 days ago, December 17, when there were 50 active cases. But at least no more people went into the hospital because of COVID—there remain two hospitalized patients, same as yesterday.

So let's assess…There's a case under investigation, a looming outbreak in long-term care, a new record number of cases, plus an awful anniversary weighing on our collective psyche. And still today gets worse.

The province is announcing the results of genetic sequencing done by the National Microbiology Laboratory on Nova Scotian positive C19 tests: 22 recent positives were variant strains. Most of them—19 of the 22—are B117, the UK variant, which has now been found in 63 local cases. Two of them are the South African variant, 501V2, which has had a total of 12 known cases. But one is the P1 strain, the first identified case in Nova Scotia of the highly transmissible mutation that is devastating Brazil.

The Brazilian variant's arrival is probably as inevitable as it is worrying. Top doc Robert Strang has reassuring words (and a warning) about variants in today's update provincial report. "While more of our cases have been confirmed as variants, it is a good sign that these cases are mainly due to travel. We are detecting them through testing and containing them before they can spread widely within Nova Scotia," he says. "This is another reminder why it’s important for people to not travel unless it’s absolutely necessary."

From long-term care worries to a new variant, today's report has a lot to digest. But the virus has even more in store.

A little before 9pm, the province issues an alert about a C19 case connected to South Woodside Elementary, causing the Dartmouth school to shut for cleaning until Thursday. Then a couple hours later comes ANOTHER school alert, for a case connected to St. Joseph’s-Alexander McKay; the north end Halifax elementary is also closed until Thursday. And with that, a brutally long Sunday finally comes to a close.

Where Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 cases are on Sunday, April 18

HEALTH ZONE & NETWORK NEW CASES CLOSED CASES ACTIVE CASES
Western zone totals 0 new 2 closed 7 active
Yarmouth - - -
Lunenburg - - 2
Wolfville - 2 5
Central zone totals 4 new 0 closed 26 active
West Hants - - -
Halifax 1 - 12
Dartmouth 1 - 7
Bedford 2 - 6
Eastern Shore - - -
Northern zone totals 0 new 0 closed 0 active
Truro - - -
Amherst - - -
Pictou - - -
Eastern zone totals 3 new 0 closed 16 active
Antigonish 1 - 1
Inverness - - 1
Sydney 2 - 14

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.

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