NOTE: This week is now over. For the very latest news, please go here. But for an informative look back at exactly how Nova Scotia responded to COVID-19 in realtime, keep on reading.
Sunday, February 28
"I want to thank the Nova Scotians who have responded in great numbers to get tested, setting a one-day record at the lab," says new Nova Scotia premier Iain Rankin in today's COVID-19 update to media. "Let's continue to make proactive testing a top priority. No matter whether you live in Halifax or elsewhere in the province, I encourage you, even if you don't have symptoms, to book an appointment at one of the primary assessment centres or drop into a pop-up testing site."
Rankin's stoked because provincial labs did 4,839 tests yesterday, a one-day high for the pandemic. (The previous record was 4,125 tests on November 30.) Within the last two weeks, the number's been as low as 922 tests in one day, which happened Tuesday, February 16 (reported by the province Feb 17).
On top of the good testing news, today's case report isn't particularly scary. There are just three new C19 infections in Nova Scotia—one each in the Central, Eastern and Northern health zones—all related to travel or a previous patient, no talk of community spread.
Although cases in Central and Eastern have become common, with one and/or the other having at least a single infection for the last 15 days running, the Northern zone had gone so long without a case that it was due to turn back to green on our map today, after a full 14-day C19 incubation cycle clear of the disease. Alas, the virus had other ideas. Northern is now red on the map, and at five days without a case Western has the province's longest case-free streak.
Four people recovered since yesterday, more than offsetting today's three new cases, dropping the number of active cases in the province to 38. And only two of those patients are in the hospital, both in the ICU. However, the trend for the month isn't so positive. The province reported 61 new cases throughout February, but only 33 recoveries. So after a narrow win for the humans in January, 106 recoveries to 94 infections, the virus won this month easily.
Saturday, February 27
Yesterday Nova Scotia gets more new cases in a day than it's had since January 6, setting a 2021 record for the number of active cases, and the province immediately launches so-called circuit breaker restrictions in hopes of preventing the viral surge in Halifax Regional Municipality from becoming an outbreak
So what happens today? Three things of note.
1. There are just four new COVID-19 infections—one in the Eastern zone related to travel, and three in Central (the health zone where Halifax is) connected to previous cases. Because this is way down from Friday's double-digit nonsense, new premier Iain Rankin puts out a statement in the C19 update to media, telling people not to get complacent. "While today's case count is lower than the last two days, I am still greatly concerned about the trend we have been seeing in recent case numbers in Halifax," Rankin says. "We must follow the public health restrictions to reverse the recent trend. No matter whether you live in Halifax or elsewhere in the province, I encourage you, even if you don't have symptoms, to book an appointment at one of the primary assessment centres or drop into a pop-up testing site."
2. The province announces that labs across Nova Scotia performed 3,230 C19 tests yesterday. That is a lot of tests! More than any day since December 2. People are clearly worried, and listening to advice from Rankin and top doc Robert Strang to get tested.
3. Hospitals in Nova Scotia now have 100 percent more C19 patients. That's a big percentage, but in practise it's not a lot of people. Yesterday's provincial update said one person was hospitalized; today there are two. Unfortunately both of them are in the ICU, meaning each is sick enough to require intensive care. We are sending good vibes their way.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority issued another "Potential exposure to COVID-19" warning last night, identifying 11 locations where people might have unwittingly been around someone with C19. Eleven is a lot to keep track of, especially on top of all the other alerts that have been coming out lately—five locations this day, four that day. So we've devised a few simple questions as a way for you to find out if you need to take action.
Have you been in a restaurant lately? Have you gone shopping, either for food (groceries) or anything else (anything else)? Medical appointments? Bus rides? Would you just like some peace of mind in a terrible, confusing time?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, go to the NSHA's exposures site and poke around to find out exactly where and when the known risks are. This handy database is absolutely the best source of information about where C19 has been in the wild, with information that's more up-to-date and complete than any media organization can provide.
That's the Nova Scotia Health Authority's "Potential COVID Exposures" website, open all day every day for all your contact tracing needs.
Friday, February 26
After several days of rising case numbers in the Central zone, increasing numbers of infections that might be community spread and warnings of possible COVID-19 exposure happening all over the place, you probably felt things were getting bad. Today, things are officially bad. The province is announcing 10 new infections—nine of them in Central—and new restrictions for Halifax that will be in place for at least a month.
The limits on movement, eating out and various other activities come into effect tomorrow morning at 8am, and last until the end of the day Friday, March 26, "with an extension possible" adds a provincial press release. We have whole story about the restrictions, which you can (and should) read here.
As for today's 10 cases, one of them is in the Eastern zone, a straightforward infection connected to travel beyond Atlantic Canada. The other nine are all in Central, and three of them don't have an obvious tie to travel or previously infected people. Here's the breakdown, copied and pasted from the province's C19 update to media:
Nine cases are in Central Zone. Five are close contacts of previously reported cases. Three are under investigation. The other case is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada. The person is self-isolating, as required.
Nova Scotia now has 35 active cases. Only one of the patients is hospitalized—they are in the ICU. Assuming this is the same person who's been in intensive care since January 30, today marks their 28th ICU day, four full weeks. That's an awfully long time. We hope they recover soon.
Speaking of long times, 35 active cases is a record high for 2021. Nova Scotia hasn't had that many since reporting 36 active cases December 24, more than two months ago.
As noted earlier, things are officially bad.
Thursday, February 25
Before today, the most new cases in a day during February was four. "A recent record for infections" is what we called it. Ha! That was a simpler time. Today Nova Scotia is reporting eight new cases—double the former February "record," and the most daily cases since January 13.
If that's not discouraging enough for you, it does get worse. The infection source for three of the eight cases is not obviously connected to travel or other known cases. That means three more cases that raise fears of uncontrolled community transmission, which could lead to an outbreak.
Here's how the province's COVID-19 update to media describes the eight cases:
Seven cases are in Central Zone. Four are close contacts of previously reported cases. The other three cases are under investigation.
One case is in Eastern Zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.
With today's three "under investigation" patients, that makes 10 such cases Nova Scotia's had in February. We've asked the province for updates on all of them and will let you know what we find out. For your information, here's when they were reported.
- Feb 17: 2 cases in Central
- Feb 18: 1 case in Western
- Feb 20: 1 case in Central
- Feb 23: 1 case in Western
- Feb 24: 2 cases in Central
- Feb 25 (yeah, today): 3 cases in Central
On top of the general threat posed by 10 cases that could be community spread, the Nova Scotia Health Authority's lately been issuing lots of warnings about specific threats of C19 exposure in stores, restaurants and buses around the community. Just today five locations were named—two discount retailers, a downtown Halifax restaurant and a Bedford restaurant last Friday, Feb 19, and a hotel restaurant Saturday, Feb 13.
Yesterday there were more: a restaurant in Coldbrook in the Western zone on Valentine's Day, a restaurant and a liquor store in downtown Halifax Feb 19, two grocery stores around the city on Sunday, Feb 21, plus seven bus routes spread over last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, And still more the day before that.
In other words, if you left the house in the last couple of weeks, you should check the NSHA's exposures site. It's the most up-to-date, least-gossipy source of information on where you might have crossed paths with someone who has C19. Whether or not public health supremo Robert Strang says there is officially community spread happening, it sure feels like the disease is spreading in the community.
Speaking of Strang, he and new premier Iain Rankin will be giving a C19 briefing tomorrow, where he'll doubtless talk about the fears and current reality of community transmission. The briefing is scheduled to start at 1pm. You can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast and/or @nsgov on Facebook, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.
Rankin ranked highly in our "Rankin' Rankin" ranking for starting his debut briefing essential on time yesterday. We're aiming to be ready at 1pm sharp tomorrow, in case lightning strikes again.
Wednesday, February 24
The province is reporting three cases today, all in Central zone, only one of them connected to a previous case. "The other two cases are under investigation," says the COVID-19 update to media. Two more under investigation, two more patients whose infection source isn't obvious—like they just got off an airplane, or they live with someone who just got off an airplane. Two more people who might be vectors of community spread.
In better news, two people recovered from the disease since yesterday. But with today's three new cases, that leaves Nova Scotia at 21 active cases (including, still, one hospitalized patient sick enough to be in the ICU, who we assume is the same person first reported as going into intensive care 26 days ago, on January 30). Slowly, steadily, that active-case number just keeps climbing, up from 14 a week ago and nine the week before that.
For reference, the last time Nova Scotia had zero active cases was September 21, or 156 days ago.
Tuesday, February 23
Nova Scotia is reporting three new infections, bringing its number of active cases to 20, a recent high. The last time the province had 20 active cases was January 23, exactly a month ago. And things have changed a lot in that month.
January 23 was a bit of a breakthrough day in the province's efforts to flatten C19's second wave. There were zero new infections—it was the first zero day of 2021—and sliding down to 20 active cases was positive progress from the high in early January of 33 active cases, en route to the 2021 low of seven active cases February 6. Also, Stephen McNeil was premier.
One month later, this morning Iain Rankin got sworn in as the new premier. Climbing up to 20 active cases is the coronavirus making progress against the humans, and one of those humans is still hospitalized in the ICU. Instead of a zero day we have three new cases, and while two of those cases are in the Central zone and reassuringly connected to travel and and a previous case, the third case is in the Western zone and "is currently under investigation" as the province says when there's no obvious infection source so it might be a case of community spread. Last but not least, today the province is announcing that the National Microbiology Lab identified three prior Nova Scotian cases as infections of the B117 variant AKA the easy-spreading UK mutation, making for a total of six known B117 infections in the province.
"This reminds us again why we must remain vigilant. COVID-19 will continue to be the most important health issue facing Nova Scotia in 2021 and I'm looking forward to working closely with Dr. Strang and his team," says the new premier in the province's C19 update. "I will continue to support the province's solid public health response to this pandemic and ensure a transparent vaccine roll-out."
In terms of getting vaccines out into communities around Nova Scotia, yesterday when the IWK's pilot community clinic opened the province also said a vaccination clinic would be happening later this week at Millbrook First Nation. Now the province says the Millbrook clinic is on for tomorrow.
"The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to be administered in a First Nations community clinic in Nova Scotia will be at Millbrook First Nation on Wednesday, Feb. 24," is how the press release puts it. Way to follow through, province.
Nova Scotia premier Iain Rankin missed the chance to flaunt his brand-new title at a COVID-19 briefing in the usual Tuesday slot today, but he was busy getting installed as the premier of Nova Scotia. And to Rankin's credit, he's not wasting much time getting into the swing of things C19: the province just sent emailed one of those Note to Editors we were talking about earlier, with details about a C19 briefing tomorrow.
Rankin will join briefing veteran and provincial chief medical officer of health Robert Strang for a webcast session Wednesday, February 24, at a scheduled start time of 3pm. (Former-premier Stephen McNeil's briefings never* began on time. It'll be interesting to see how Rankin ranks on that score.) In a major departure from McNeil's recent practise, eight journalists will be allowed into the briefing room, in person. (The Coast is going to sit out that particular lottery and join the reporters who ask questions the old-fashioned way, by C19 conference call.)
As usual, you can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast and/or @nsgov on Facebook, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.
*We are pretty sure they literally never began at the scheduled time. But if any briefing watchers out there remember one that started when it was supposed to, please tell us about it in the comments.
Given our earlier curiosity, we asked the province about the status of today's briefing, and just got confirmation: There will be no COVID-19 webcast update today.
Is it postponed until Wednesday? Is it cancelled outright? Whenever it happens, will the just-installed new premier Rankin be there? Will old premier McNeil?
The province's frugal answer to all these questions: "Details regarding the next briefing will be provided in a Note to Editors"—that's an emailed alert the communications department sends to media"—once it has been set."
The premier and the top doc have been giving their webcast COVID-19 briefings on Tuesdays and Fridays lately, with few exceptions. And usually the province sends out an email the day before, confirming the briefing is on. But there was no confirmation email Monday.
However, we did receive an email saying incoming premier/new Liberal Party leader Iain Rankin gets officially sworn in today at 10am by lieutenant governor Arthur J. LeBlanc. So we understand the province has other things on its plate besides the latest C19 chat.
Still, whether the briefing is happening today after the swearing-in ceremony, or is postponed until Wednesday or is cancelled outright is a mystery at this point. When we find out anything for sure, we'll let you know.
Monday, February 22
Certain Nova Scotians—mostly healthcare workers and long-term care facility staff and residents—started getting vaccinated December 16. On Friday, February 19, the province announced that 10 "community-based clinics" will be opening soon around Nova Scotia, as the vaccination program expands to inoculate the general public, beginning with anybody age 80 or older.
Four community clinics are slated to open Monday, March 8, and the provincial vaccine web page says the sites are already selected: IWK Health Centre, Halifax; Canada Games Complex, Sydney; NSCC Truro Campus, Truro; and New Minas Baptist Church, New Minas. The next three are supposed to open a week later, on March 15, in Antigonish, Yarmouth and Halifax, then three more are planned for opening March 22, in Amherst, Bridgewater and Halifax. (No specific locations available at this time.)
"I am pleased to see more progress in our vaccine roll-out," said outgoing premier Stephen McNeil in a press release on Friday. "It is important for our most vulnerable and those most at risk to be vaccinated as quickly as possible."
Important enough that one of the clinics planned for March 8 actually opened today; the IWK clinic is testing the community vaccination concept. "The success of our health-care and long-term care clinics, and what we learn from the prototype clinic at the IWK, will prepare us to roll-out COVID-19 vaccine to more Nova Scotians," provincial chief medical officer of health Robert Strang said Friday. "I ask Nova Scotians for their patience as those who are at greatest risk receive their vaccine first. We will all have our chance to be immunized."
This week there's also supposed to be a vaccination clinic at Millbrook First Nation, which will be the first of the clinics the province is planning for 13 Mi'kmaw communities.
"The Mi'kmaq are uniquely exposed to the risks of COVID-19 and given the risks to older individuals in particular, it is especially important that we protect Elders who maintain our history, oral traditions and language," said Millbrook chief Bob Gloade in the Friday release. "We are encouraging individuals to become immunized to protect the health and wellness of our Elders and our communities." Details of the Millbrook clinic haven't been announced yet.
One new case, one patient recovered, everything holding steady at 19 active cases—including Nova Scotia's only COVID-19 hospitalization, a patient in intensive care. If it's gotta be Monday in a pandemic, this isn't a horrible way to go.
The fresh infection is even nice and straightforward. "The case is in Central Zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case," says the province's C19 update to media. No talk of needing to do more investigation in hopes of finding a source for the disease besides community transmission. No reason to fear today, beyond the obvious of it being Monday in a pandemic.
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