COVID cases, hospitalizations and news for Nova Scotia the week Feb 14-20

The charts and information we can provide while NS struggles to keep up with the pandemic’s omicron wave.


Like the province, The Coast is admitting to omicron overwhelm. We are switching to bare-bones daily reports, while aiming to maintain the vital infographics that give the best picture of the current situation: NS COVID deaths    Omicron hospitalizations    New and active cases    Nova Scotia’s third and fourth waves    Canada’s fourth wave

Sunday, February 20

With its last COVID report until after tomorrow's Heritage Day holiday, the province announces 214 newly diagnosed COVID cases, which is up from the 200 diagnosed yesterday. And in hospitalizations, while the number of most-severe COVID cases dropped from 60 yesterday to 54 today, the overall total of all Nova Scotian COVID hospitalizations rises from 353 on Saturday to 366 today. We hope your Heritage Day is less of a mixed bag and more an unabbreviated delight.


Saturday, February 19

Weekends bring "abbreviated" reporting from the province. Saturday's example has 200 new infections and a drop in COVID-unit patients from 66 yesterday to 60 today, including 12 people who are sick enough to be in the ICU (up from 11 yesterday). There’s not really much in a weekend report, although it does mention there won't be any report at all on Monday, the Heritage Day provincial holiday.


Friday, February 18

The last day before the Heritage Day long weekend arrives without any reported COVID deaths. Happy holiday!!!

In its Friday report, the province says it is not putting out an update on the Monday day off, but will give its standard short reports Saturday and Sunday. None of this is a surprise, nor is the fact the province is renewing the state of emergency for two more weeks, yet again. If we are under the SOE on March 22, that will mark two full years since Nova Scotia's official emergency began back near the start of the pandemic. Today’s renewal extends to March 6; premier Houston only needs to extend it twice more to hit the anniversary.

Also today, the province is announcing 320 new cases of COVID (the most in a day since last Friday), an estimated COVID caseload of 2,439 active cases and a total of 362 COVID patients in hospital (down from 367 yesterday). The note about death-reporting delays that seemed an unusual addition to the Wednesday and Thursday reports was *not* in today’s report. 


Thursday, February 17

The unrelenting disease brings two more deaths to Nova Scotia. Today's daily COVID report says both were men who lived in the Eastern zone, one in his 50s and the other in his 70s. “This is an extremely sad time for their families and friends,” says premier Tim Houston. “I want to extend my deepest condolences to all those who are grieving the loss of their loved one.”

In a repeat of yesterday, the provincial update includes a note that information about deaths gets entered in the Panorama public health tracking system “only after the death is identified to be COVID-related, which can take days or weeks to investigate and report.” In other words, these two men didn't necessarily die yesterday. We don't know if the province has mentioned this these last two days due to the circumstances around the five deaths that have been announced between yesterday and today, or if this is now-standard boilerplate in reports.

We do know it feels suspiciously like the province wants to distance itself from having to announce COVID deaths the same week it launched phase one of the latest reopening plan. “Data on deaths is reflective of virus activity in the past, at the point of infection,” the note says, “and not the situation today, at the point of reporting.” Which may be true, although the trouble with blaming your troubles on the past is that they can become a future problem. That is, if there are any deaths next week, then this week has blood on its hands and the reopening decision might come under fire. Or maybe we are reopening because this deadly stretch is over. It would be a joy to have no deaths for a while, even better than eating in a restaurant at a table for 20.

“This virus has taken the life of two more Nova Scotians and my thoughts and prayers are with their family and friends,” says Doctor Strang in the Thursday report. “We know COVID-19 can be a serious disease, and we all play a role in how it impacts our communities.”

In less important COVID news of the day, the province has diagnosed 242 new infections for an estimated caseload of 2,535 active cases, and there are 367 total patients in hospital with COVID, up from 361 patients yesterday.


Wednesday, February 16

There have already 13 been COVID-related deaths reported this week. Now the province is reporting three more:
• a woman in her 50s in Eastern Zone
• a woman in her 60s in Western Zone
• a man in his 70s in Eastern Zone

However, in a note the likes of which we haven't seen in this recent wave of deadly COVID, the province takes pains to explain that these people died last week, not yesterday as you might be thinking. “Data on deaths comes from Panorama, public health’s disease information system,” the note says. “It is entered into the system only after the death is identified to be COVID-related, which can take days or weeks to investigate and report. This is why these three deaths were not reported previously. Data on deaths is reflective of virus activity in the past, at the point of infection, and not the situation today, at the point of reporting.”

There’s no indication if previously reported deaths also had “days or weeks” of investigation before being announced. From that note it sounds as if delays would be common, but if the province isn't mentioning delays all the time, maybe not. Anyway, the important thing here isn't the delayed announcement, it's the fact of these people dying.

“Today, three more families are grieving an unimaginable loss,” says Doctor Strang. “From the start of this pandemic, COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable people in our communities—and that has not changed. That’s why it’s still so important to take care of one another. And the best way to do that is to get vaccinated, stay home if you’re sick and follow the public health guidance in place to keep everyone safe.”

Nova Scotia diagnosed 223 new cases, and estimates there are 2,572 active cases. There are 66 people in designated COVID hospital units, nine of them sick enough to be in intensive care. The total number of COVID-related hospitalizations is the same as yesterday at 361 patients.


Tuesday, February 15

After seven deaths yesterday, Tuesday brings still more misery, as the province reports another six deaths tied to COVID, across three of the Nova Scotia's four health zones:
• a woman in her 60s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 70s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 70s in Western Zone
• a woman in her 80s in Western Zone
• a man in his 80s in Northern Zone
• a man in his 90s in Northern Zone

“I offer my sympathies to the six families and friends grieving the loss of their loved one today,” says Doctor Strang, chief medical officer of health. “It is tragic to see the virus take more life. To everyone, use this as a sad reminder to get vaccinated and wear a mask to help keep omicron from spreading.”

There are 361 people with COVID in hospital, in various states of concern and vaccination as our hospitalizations chart shows below, and 226 new infections leading to (a provincial estimated caseload of) 2,615 cases. But who cares about these numbers?

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of the six Nova Scotians who died,” says premier Tim Houston. “To all Nova Scotians, we know what we have to do to protect ourselves and others. Please do your part and get vaccinated to help prevent another loss.”


Monday, February 14

Valentine's Day brings a nightmare of a COVID report. Nova Scotia is reporting seven disease-related deaths, all of them people who lived in the Western zone:
• a man in his 60s
• two men and a woman in their 70s
• a woman and man in their 80s
• a man in his 90s

The province has now endured 175 COVID deaths in the pandemic, 64 coming in 2022 during our current omicron surge.

“This is another very sad weekend. Seven more Nova Scotians lost their lives because of this virus, and I offer my deepest condolences to their families and friends as they navigate through this extremely difficult time,” says premier Tim Houston via the daily report. “Every person we lose is a reminder that COVID-19 persists as a threat in our communities. It hurts me to know that seven more families are grieving the loss of a loved one before their time.”

As we've said before, it's hard to reconcile so much COVID death with the province relaxing gathering restrictions effective today. But the restrictions are indeed relaxed; here is The Coast's guide to all the changes, including close casual gatherings being allowed to have 25 people instead of just 10. And the Monday provincial report has several factors moving in the right direction, such as the number of patients in COVID-specific hospital wards dropping to 68 (down from 91 a week ago) and just 158 new infections diagnosed (the fewest in two months, back to when there were 127 new cases on December 14). Still, seven people dying isn't something to easily move on from. “I offer my thoughts and prayers to the families and friends grieving the loss of a loved one today,” chief medical officer of health Robert Strang says in the report, speaking for us all.


Hospitalizations during omicron

Early in 2022, Nova Scotia subtly shifted attention from new COVID cases to people actually in hospital with the disease, and as part of that shift started reporting the vaccination status of patients "receiving specialized care in a COVID-19 designated unit." On Jan 12—the day the bars on the following chart jump way up—the province added two more categories of hospitalized COVID patient to its daily reports. One is "people who were identified as positive upon arrival to hospital but were admitted for another medical reason or people who were admitted for COVID-19 but no longer require specialized care." (These patients are categorized as "Non-severe COVID case" on the chart.) The other category is category is "people who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital," as the province puts it, termed "Caught COVID in hospital" on the chart. You can filter categories in and out by clicking the labels near the top of the chart, but whatever numbers you are considering, the province points out it's "important to note that less than 10 percent of Nova Scotians are unvaccinated."

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COVID deaths in Nova Scotia

The most awful chart. Early in 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic, Nova Scotia suffered dozens of COVID deaths quickly, particularly at Northwood nursing home. For nearly than a year after that, however, deaths became sporadic—we could go months without a simple person dying of the disease, even through the late-2020 second wave. But sadly that low death rate changed during the third wave, around May 2021, and then again with omicron's arrival in late 2021 during the fourth wave.

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Comparing active cases in the third and fourth waves

The following chart shows Nova Scotia's active cases, dating from the third wave in April 2021 through the omicron fourth wave, using case data from provincial pandemic reports. The chart will be updated when provincial reporting allows. Note: From Dec 10 through Dec 22, 2021, Nova Scotia was too overwhelmed by new COVID cases to report recoveries or an official active case count; the active case numbers on this graph for those dates have been calculated by adding each day's new cases to the last official active count, and are therefore a maximum active caseload. Starting Dec 23, the province is issuing an "estimated" number of active cases.

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New and active cases visualized

Nova Scotia's third wave of COVID grew in April, 2021, peaked in May (227 new cases in one day was the maximum) and subsided in June. On July 17, the province reached five active cases—its lowest level in more than eight months—and an election was called. So when it came time to reset The Coast's chart comparing daily new cases with that day’s active caseload, in order to better reflect disease levels after the third wave, we started from July 17. Two months later, on September 14, the province formally announced the arrival of the fourth wave of COVID, and then by December omicron was here. The dark purple line tracks the rise and fall of daily new infections reported by the province; the green area is the province's caseload. In mid-November, The Coast added a golden line to show the 7-day moving average of daily new cases, effectively a smoothed-out version of the purple line that puts the ups and downs into bigger context. Click or hover over any point on the graph and the detail for that moment will pop up. To focus on just some information, click the legend at the top left of the graph to hide or reveal that data set. Note: As of July 23, 2021, the province stopped updating case numbers on weekends. And you can click here for the version of this graph that includes the third wave and its May 10 crest of 1,655 active cases. Also, from Dec 10 through Dec 22, Nova Scotia was too overwhelmed by new COVID cases to report recoveries or an official active case count; the active case numbers on this graph for those dates have been calculated by adding each day's new cases to the last official active count, and are therefore a maximum active caseload. Starting Dec 23, the province is issuing an "estimated" number of active cases.

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Canadian cases 2021-22

There was a point in July 2021, when the delta variant was causing an increase in COVID infections around the world, that Canada seemed safe from the fourth wave. By August, however, that point had passed, and case numbers around the country started to rise again. Then in late 2021 the omicron variant arrived. This graph charts the number of new infections every day in each province and territory, using the 7-day moving average to mitigate single-day anomalies (including a lack of weekend reporting in several jurisdictions including British Columbia). To focus on individual places, click the place names at the top of the chart to turn that data on or off.

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Click here for last week’s COVID-19 news roundup, for February 7-13, 2022.