COVID cases and news for Nova Scotia on Monday, Sep 13

Information including charts, new infections and our daily map of community COVID-19.

NOTE: This day is now over. Click for the latest on COVID-19 from The Coast. Or for an informative look back at Nova Scotia's evolving pandemic response, keep on reading.

Reaching 75% fully vaccinated in time

Between the Monday case surge, and the plan to drop most pandemic restrictions Wednesday, comes Tuesday's Houstrang COVID briefing. What are premier Houston and top doc Strang going to announce tomorrow at 3pm? Last week Strang was "fully confident" Phase 5 reopening would start Wednesday. But then this afternoon, he floated the idea of delaying at least some reopening measures until the POV program starts October 4 (read more below).

Even without a surging virus, there is a high hurdle to clear for Phase 5 reopening: getting Nova Scotia to 75 percent fully vaccinated, a target Houston recently recommitted to. "If that’s not met, we don’t start Phase 5,” he said.

That pledge is almost guaranteed to be tested, as the statistics show. Last week at this time, after getting 1,810 shots into arms over the Labour Day long weekend, the province was at 71.60 percent of the population with both vaccine doses. That's the top row of numbers in the following table.

Subsequent days—the 1,258 second-dose injections Tuesday, another 2,542 on Wednesday, Thursday's 2,384 and then the 2,929 announced today for weekend vaccinations—brought the total to 72.54 percent. Reaching 75 percent by Wednesday, September 15 at 12:01am, just after midnight when Phase 5 is supposed to start, will take massive vaccination numbers both today and Tuesday (nearly 7,500 people getting their second dose each day), plus the inclusion of fully vaccinated Nova Scotian armed forces members who aren't counted in the province's public reports. Strang says they number between 8,000 and 9,000 people.

Our table assumes the full 9,000 to make it easier to hit the target, but still it's clearly not going to be easy given the recent pace of vaccinations. Tuesday's briefing could be a chance for Houstrang to acquiese to the cold hard reality of the numbers. Facing a resurgent virus and a difficult vax target with a tight Wednesday deadline, postponing reopening for a few days or weeks might be the only option.

”The fourth wave is really starting to unfold”

At the appointed time this afternoon, a video call starts with 120-ish attendees. They are gathered for a COVID-19 information session about what Phase 5 reopening looks like in the arts, culture and events sector. But the star of this show—Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Robert Strang—is late. And when he arrives, on this day the province suddenly climbed up to 125 active cases, it turns out he’s got more to say about COVID than reopening.

“The fourth wave is really starting to unfold here in Atlantic Canada,” Strang tells the group, moments after appearing in the bottom right of the screen. He says this means that, at least for the arts sector, changes that were meant to introduce Phase 5 (like removing gathering limits) now might have to wait until October 4, the date when proof of vaccination requirements will come into effect.

The information session—moderated by Christopher Shore, executive director of culture and heritage development at the provincial department of communities, culture, tourism and heritage—was planned back on Thursday, September 9, when case numbers were slowing and stalling, and a fall full of Mooseheads games and big concerts seemed to await on the other side of Phase 5’s target date, this Wednesday, September 15. Now it sounds like the fourth wave has arrived, and Strang and premier Tim Houston are giving a COVID briefing at 3pm tomorrow, time enough to put the brakes on reopening plans if necessary.

During the arts call, Strang stressed he’s still discussing any delays with the government. We asked the province what this means for changes beyond the arts sector. “There are no confirmed changes at this point,” says communications director Chad Lucas in an email. “If anything does change I’m sure it will be announced at the briefing tomorrow.”

Locations and hospitalizations

Monday, September 13, 2021

Reopening status
Phase 4

New cases

New recoveries

New deaths

Active cases

Total cases in Nova Scotia during pandemic

Total COVID deaths

Today's higher-than-usual COVID numbers (read about these below) mean there's more to cover than usual here in today's Coast pandemic update. But we still need to report the basics from the province's daily disease report, as we do every time a report comes out, so we'll do that now.

Contrasting the 73 new infections that were diagnosed over the weekend, 24 Nova Scotians recovered from COVID. Subtracting one from the other should leave us with a net of 49 new infections, pushing the active caseload up from 78 active cases on Friday to 127 today, but instead the province is reporting 125 active cases. There is, as usual, no indication from the province what happened to the extra two cases.

There are now four COVID patients in hospital in Nova Scotia, the most since June 20 when there were six hospitalizations. But today none of those patients are in intensive care, while in June three of the six were in ICU.

Moving on to where this weekend's 73 infections are located… "Thirty-six of the cases are in Northern Zone. Thirty-two are close contacts of previously reported cases. Three are related to travel. One is under investigation," says the province. "There is a large cluster of linked cases in a defined group in Northern Zone. Most of the group is unvaccinated, so more cases are expected."

The "large cluster of linked cases in a defined group" of mostly unvaccinated people is tantalizingly unspecific. This could be describing a range of situations from elementary school to cult. With any luck, Doctor Strang will soothe our overheated imaginations with some details during the Houstrang briefing tomorrow.

That is all just the Northern zone.

"Thirty-one cases are in Central Zone. Eleven are close contacts of previously reported cases. Nine are related to travel. Eleven are under investigation," the province says. "There are signs of community spread among those in Central Zone aged 20 to 40 who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities." Those feckless 20- and 30-somethings are in for a tongue-lashing from Houstrang.

"Four cases are in Eastern Zone. Three are related to travel. One is under investigation," says the province. "Two cases are in Western Zone. One is a close contact of a previously reported case. One is related to travel."

The Coast's map and table of cases in the 14 community health networks are below. They show 17 new infections in both the Truro/Colchester and Amherst/Cumberland networks, suggestive of a large Northern zone cluster. Halifax has the next-most cases at 13 new infections. Only four of the 14 community networks had zero cases over the weekend.

Testing and vaccinations

We'll carry on from the "Locations and hospitalizations" write-up (above) to finish The Coast's standard daily reporting on this non-standard day of COVID. Testing was about average on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with local labs completing roughly 2,500 tests per day. That's the straightforward part.

In vaccinations, clinics across the province injected 4,988 arms over the three days of the weekend, an unusually large number for recent weeks. Last Tuesday, for example, the province reported the vax total for the four-day Labour Day weekend at 3,013 jabs, and the province hasn't reported more than 5,000 vaccinations since August 15.

A strong vax report is always welcome, but it's especially important now, because the premier Houston has been keen to start Phase 5 of reopening this Wednesday. (We'll come back to the question of whether reopening is likely to happen so quickly with today's surge of cases.)

Getting to Phase 5 requires the province to be at least 75 percent fully vaccinated, a level that would be impossible to reach by Wednesday at last week's vaccination rate. Today's vaccination report has a relatively high number, but then again it's a three-day total. So while the fully vaccinated population rose from 72.24 percent of Nova Scotians on Friday to 72.54 percent today, a jump of .3 percent, that works out to an average of .1 percent per day—at that rate it would take 25 days to get to 75 percent.

The reality is that vaccinations are always much lower on weekends compared to weekdays, and this weekend wasn't much different. So now Nova Scotia only has Monday and Tuesday vaccinations to reach 75 percent by Wednesday at 8am. Getting from 72.54 to 75 in two days would require a huge increase in vaccinations, even including the 9,000 vaccinated military personnel in Nova Scotia who aren't counted in the provincial number.

But with today's rise in active cases, the idea of going to Phase 5 on Wednesday may have gone out the window altogether anyway. Houstrang's briefing tomorrow at 3pm will be must-see TV.

Is the fourth wave here?

Nova Scotia's third wave of COVID ended in July, when it was possible to have zero new infections in a day and the caseload got all the way down to five active cases. The Coast's chart of disease activity since then, lower down on this page, shows the caseload's basic trajectory as a slow, steady rise up to 78 active cases last Friday, September 10, followed by a leap up to the 125 active cases announced in today's COVID report from the province.

This is similar to the pattern that lead into the third wave, back in March and April. From a low of 15 active cases March 17, the caseload meandered up to 79 active cases on April 21, then jumped to 111 active cases April 22—which is when top doc Robert Strang and then-premier Iain Rankin announced a lockdown for Halifax. The third wave of infections that had already hit much of the country was officially in Nova Scotia.

Fast forward to now: Most of Canada's population has spent a month dealing with COVID's fourth wave (yes, we have a chart for that), so it's natural to wonder if Nova Scotia's finally getting it too. There's the jump in active cases, just like happened with the third wave. And in its report today the province says there are "signs of community spread among those in Central Zone aged 20 to 40 who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities." Then there's Strang himself.

“We knew we’d get cases in the fourth wave and, like elsewhere, it’s among people who are not vaccinated,” he says in the report, bringing the fourth wave into the discussion. But what exactly does Strang mean? Is he sounding the alarm that the fourth wave is actually in Nova Scotia? Or is he talking about a rise of "cases in the fourth wave" beyond our borders that we knew would spill over to NS?

We think it should be pretty clear when an alarm goes off, so we've asked the province to clarify the situation. But we're preparing to wait until tomorrow for the answer. Minutes after the province released its report today, with news of the steep jump in active cases, it announced a COVID briefing from Houstrang—now-premier Tim Houston and Strang—Tuesday, September 14 at 3pm.

Maybe Houstrang wants to reassure the province that we're going ahead with Phase 5 reopening on Wednesday, ending the mask mandate and allowing widespread socializing. Or we might find out that the reopening party has to be postponed because the fourth wave showed up uninvited.

73 new cases

Nova Scotia is reporting 73 new COVID cases today. This is the most in a report since there were 74 cases on May 23, back when the province was in lockdown to deal with the third wave of infections.

But unlike May 23, when the province was reporting COVID statistics every day, today the province is coming off its weekend break from reporting. Those 73 cases were diagnosed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for an average of just over 24 new infections per day.

Not that 24 infections in a day is nothing. Last weekend was the Labour Day long weekend, so the report that came out Tuesday covered four days, Friday through Monday, and it only had 29 total cases. The last time Nova Scotia had more than 24 cases in a single day was June 3, the day after Phase 1 of reopening started, when there were 25 cases.

The map and charts below have been updated with Nova Scotia's Monday case information. We will add more updates above to further analyze today's report.

Map of cases in community health networks

This infographic was created by The Coast using daily case data from Nova Scotia's official COVID-19 dashboard. Our goal is for this to be the best NS COVID map around, clearer and more informative than the province or any other media organization provides. To get there we do an analysis of the data to find each day's new and resolved case numbers in the 14 community health networks, information the province does not provide. For a different but still highly accessible approach to the latest COVID statistics, check out our case table. Note: On July 23, 2021, Nova Scotia announced that it will no longer update case numbers on weekends.

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Case table of the health networks

The Coast uses data logged from Nova Scotia's official COVID-19 dashboard in order to provide this tabulated breakdown. The province reports the number of active cases in each of Nova Scotia's 14 community health networks, but we do the math to be able to report the new and resolved case numbers. We also map the data to provide a different view of the case information. Note: Effective July 23, 2021, the province no longer updates case numbers on weekends.

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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. The dark line tracks the rise and fall of new infections reported by the province; the green area is the province's caseload. Click or hover over any point on the graph and the detail for that moment will pop up. To focus on just new or active cases, 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.

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Vaccination in the population

How many Nova Scotians already have one dose of vaccine? How many are fully vaccinated with two doses? And how close are we to the herd immunity goal of 75 percent of the province fully vaxxed? These questions are answered in our chart of the vaccination rate in Nova Scotia since the province started reporting these numbers in January 2021, breaking out people who've had a single dose separate from those who've had the full complement of two doses. (Here's more information about the 75 percent target and what it will take to get there.) Note: The province doesn't update vaccination numbers on weekends.

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Canadian cases in 2021

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. 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 and Nova Scotia). 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 the previous COVID-19 news roundup, for September 10, 2021.

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