COVID-19 news for the January 25 week

Quick looks at cases and more, in Halifax and Nova Scotia.

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.

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Editor's note: In its 28 years The Coast has never been a just-the-facts news service, but for these strange times here are quick-hit updates.

Sunday, January 31

 Stupid virus, you suck!

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of January 31, 2021. Legend here.

So far 2021 has been a good year for Nova Scotia in the fight against COVID-19. As January comes to a close, we're thrilled to report the number of C19 patients who recovered from the disease this month (106 strong and vital Nova Scotians) solidly outweighs the new infections that the virus managed to spread (a pathetic 94).

The province ends the month with a last insult to the coronavirus, notching another zero-case day on Sunday. That makes six days in January without new cases, after the tenacious microbial invader hadn't allowed a zero day since November 12. Today the humans also scored a recovery to gild the lead.

The bipedal side has a potential problem hanging over it, as today's provincial report echoes yesterday's with its reminder that two patients are in the hospital thanks to the virus. Like yesterday, one of the humans is even sick enough to be in the intensive care unit! But coach Stephen McNeil isn't letting that news overshadow the team's well-earned victory.

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
We're number one! We're number one!
"I want to thank Nova Scotians for continuing to follow the public health protocols and for participating in rapid testing clinics," the report quotes coach McNeil saying, in what we guess was some sort of post-game interview situation. "Your hard work is helping to contain the virus as we wait for vaccine supply to become more consistent."

For such an injury plagued team, having a strong medical staff is vital, so naturally the head trainer is allowed to speak at any big interview. "It is encouraging to see another day with no new positive cases being reported," Robert Strang says. "Our public health measures are making a difference in slowing the spread of this virus and we must continue to follow them with vigilance."

Such stirring words are helpful as Nova Scotia doesn't have the luxury of time off to celebrate this January victory. February arrives tomorrow, and the battle carries on.

Saturday, January 30

 Coronavirus countdown

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of January 30, 2021. Legend here.

3That's three new infections reported in Nova Scotia. "One case is in Western Zone and two are in Central Zone," says the provincial COVID-19 update. "All cases are related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada and are self-isolating, as required."

2 Yesterday and the day before, the province said there was a single C19 patient in the hospital. Today there are two. The province doesn't say if patients are the same or different day after day, so it's possible Thursday's patient, Friday's patient and now Saturday's two patients are four different people. But given hospitalizations have (happily) been exceedingly rare lately, we're going to assume things are more consistent than dynamic, and that one person went into the hospital Thursday with symptoms bad enough that they're still there, and another person went in today as their symptoms got increasingly serious.

1Of those two people currently in hospital, one is now in the ICU. Again, the province doesn't give any details. (So you get the same information we do, here's absolutely everything the official C19 update to media says about hospitalizations, in context with the paragraph the information is buried in the middle of, bolding added by us: "Since Oct. 1, Nova Scotia has completed 160,339 tests. There have been 491 positive COVID-19 cases and no deaths. Two people are currently in hospital, including one in ICU. Cases range in age from under 10 to over 70. Four hundred and eighty cases are now resolved. Cumulative cases may change as data is updated in Panorama.") Still assuming these things are on a straightforward progression, that would be Thursday's patient's disease getting so bad that they need intensive care, while today's new patient doesn't have such serious symptoms—but that's a complete guess.

1 Only one person recovered today from the disease. With the three new cases, the virus outnumbered the humans today. But since the start of the month, humans have take a commanding lead, 105 recoveries to just 94 new cases. The virus would need to record 12 cases tomorrow to have a chance of winning January, and it's only had that many cases once in 2021, on Monday, January 6. We don't want to get ahead of things—and we're going to need something write about tomorrow on the last day of the month—but it's looking good for the humans.

0Daily vaccination numbers were reported every weekday this week. Now it's Saturday, and in the C19 update there's zero information about how many Nova Scotians received jabs most recently. We're feeling the lack of info sharply.

Friday, January 29

 One and done

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of January 29, 2021. Legend here.

COVID-19 ends the work week with a whimper—just one new case. "The case is in Eastern Zone and is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada," says the province's daily C19 update. "The person is self-isolating, as required."

Meanwhile, the province is reporting three patients recovering for a current total of nine active cases in Nova Scotia. The last time the number of active cases was in single digits was Friday, October 30. That's exactly 13 weeks ago according to the calendar, although it feels like a year. Or maybe two.

We'd like to end there, but unfortunately can't. In the excitement of yesterday's positive developments, we missed the part of the province's report that said someone with C19 had gone into the hospital. Today's report repeats it: "One person is currently in hospital." 

Assuming it's the same patient both days, and knowing the Wednesday C19 report said nobody was hospitalized, that suggests somebody's case has lately gotten more serious. Please join us in sending good vibes their way in hopes of a full and speedy recovery.

Thursday, January 28

 1,500 recoveries!

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of January 28, 2021. Legend here.

Zero cases today, plus a recovery to bring Nova Scotia down to 11 active patients. It's a good day, and premier McNeil knows it. "We wouldn't be where we are today without the co-operation and willingness of Nova Scotians to follow the public health protocols," he says in the Thursday case report from the province.

In more good news, yesterday 1,218 doses of vaccine were administered around the province. The previous high was 748 cases in a day, last Tuesday.

Need even more? That patient who recovered in today's report marks 1,500 Nova Scotians who've beaten the disease during the pandemic. Some coronavirus milestones are dreadful; just today Manitoba passed 29,000 total cases, while New Brunswick exceeded 1,200. But 1,500 recoveries is just fantastic. To echo the premier, congratulations everybody! 🍾🍾🍾

Wednesday, January 27

 Meeting a mini-surge with caution

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of January 27, 2021. Legend here.

Since Saturday, the last few days have been like coronavirus binary code—all ones and zeroes in terms of new infections. Unfortunately today breaks the pattern with four fresh cases.

"Two cases are in Central Zone and the other two cases are in Eastern Zone," says the province's C19 update to media. "All cases are close contacts of previously reported cases."

Premier McNeil and top doc Strang are using this mini-surge to remind us citizens that we are doing good work keeping the disease contained, but that work isn't over.

"The virus is still here and we know it is always looking for an opportunity to spread," says the premier in the update. "That's why we are being cautious, keeping restrictions in place and encouraging everyone to continue following all of the public health protocols."

Strang grounded his statement in soap and water, as he's now been doing for a full year. "Continue to do your part by wearing a mask, limiting social contacts, practising social distancing, adhering to the gathering limit, staying home if you feel unwell and washing your hands."

Tuesday, January 26

 A single case

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of January 26, 2021. Legend here.

Today's COVID-19 report from the province is kinda boring. Which is totally awesome.

There's just one new case. It's "in Central Zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada," says the province. "The person is self-isolating, as required." No talk of people breaking rules, or infections the might happen after the 14-day quarantine period. And the number of active cases has dropped to a level—11 patients—we haven't seen since last Halloween.

Straightforward. Boring. Awesome.

Monday, January 25

 C19 testing drives to Dal

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
Nova Scotia Health Authority
The NSHA's mobile health units can take COVID-19 testing where it's needed.

Although university students who returned to Nova Scotia for the winter term are controversially only "strongly encouraged" to get tested for C19, rather than required, that encouragement is getting more emphatic. The Nova Scotia Health Authority is sending mobile health units to Dalhousie's campus on Tuesday and Wednesday in hopes of getting more students tested—not just those who travelled over the holiday break, but all students. And anyone else, for that matter.

"Public Health is encouraging all students attending post-secondary institutions on the Halifax peninsula to get tested," says the NSHA in a press release. "Testing is recommended for students even if they have not travelled, have not been at a location listed in an exposure notice, and have no symptoms."

With a caution to dress for the weather because you might be waiting outside for your test, and a promise that you won't have to self-isolate until the test result arrives, the NSHA casts a wide net. "Drop-in testing will be available at Public Health’s Mobile Health Units on Tuesday, Jan. 26 and Wednesday, Jan. 27 at Dalhousie University (Goldberg Computer Science Building, University Avenue, Edward Street entrance) from 10am to 5:30pm," the press release says. "Testing at the Mobile Health Units is open to everyone, not just students."

 When two weeks isn’t enough quarantine

COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
If you flew to Halifax on January 10, you could still develop C19 even though your 14-day isolation is done.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority issued one of its typical "potential exposure to COVID-19" warnings today. We haven't been reporting these as automatically as we used to, partly because the NSHA at last created a comprehensive and up-to-date database of exposures that is easily the best source of this information, partly because blindly repeating the warnings started to seem like a sort of scarlet letter where the damage from lingering hysteria could outweigh the immediate public health benefit.

Today's warning, however, has a special twist that bears publicizing.

First, the details. Did you fly in an airplane from Toronto to Halifax on Sunday, January 10? If yes, check the official exposures page right away. Depending on which flight you were on and where you were sitting, the NSHA might want you to get a C19 test.

If you're part of the overwhelming majority of Canadians who weren't flying to Halifax a couple weeks ago, the name of the airline and the flight number don't really matter to you. But the twist might. Hot on the heels of a local university student developing C19 after completing the two-week quarantine that is supposed to be enough time for the disease to appear, the NSHA's warning arrives a day beyond the two-week exposure window.

"As a precaution, although the 14-day self-isolation period has ended (Jan. 24), anyone who was on the following flight in the specified rows and seats should visit to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether you have COVID-19 symptoms," says the warning. "You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access, or if you have other symptoms that concern you."

Currently, the province's self-isolation requirement for travellers is still the pandemic-standard 14 days. Doctor Strang and premier McNeil are giving a C19 briefing tomorrow; we'll be tuning in to find out if they make the quarantine period longer. You can watch live at 3pm at and/or @nsgov on Facebook, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

 Are we past the second wave?

click to enlarge COVID-19 news for the January 25 week
The Coast
Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of January 25, 2021. Legend here.

For the fourth time in 2021, the province is reporting no new COVID-19 cases. Before January, the last case-free day was Thursday, November 12—right before the second wave hit Nova Scotia in earnest.

Along with zero cases, four patients have recovered, leaving the province with a total of 15 active cases. The caseload hasn't been this low since Monday, November 2, when unpredictable community spread of the disease was just starting to be a thing, after a long stretch of  Nova Scotia keeping C19 contained through travel restrictions and the mandatory two-week quarantine.

The diminishing levels of new and active cases add up to two, slightly contradictory, things for us.

The first is that Nova Scotia might just have beaten back the second wave. This was the plan when premier Stephen McNeil and Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health Robert Strang announced a batch of strict lockdowns in late November. But who'd imagine the plan would work when most of the rest of the world couldn't get the second wave under control? "We're doing this much sooner than other provinces," Strang said at the time. "We're putting tight restrictions on now. Doing it now gives us the best opportunity to be able to lift the restrictions as early as possible."

The second thing the low numbers tell us, is that low numbers don't guarantee anything for the future. Today it feels like we're on the other side of the second wave, on a fast downward trajectory to zero cases. In early November, however, case numbers were at this same point, then rose into a real second wave. As Strang would say, we must not get complacent.

Oh wait, he does say it in today's C19 report: "I worry that people will see no new cases and think they no longer need to follow the public health measures. Let's work to keep our numbers low by remaining vigilant—wear a mask, limit social contacts, practise social distancing, adhere to the gathering limit, stay home if you feel unwell and wash your hands."

The current restrictions haven't been lifted yet; for the most part they've been extended through February 7, at least. By then we'll know if the second wave is actually behind us.


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