COVID cases and news for Nova Scotia on Tuesday, Sep 28

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.

Hospitals, tests and vax facts

The number of COVID patients in hospital is up since yesterday, from 11 hospitalizations in Monday's report to 13 today, but like yesterday only one of those patients is sick enough to be in the ICU.

Testing is surging again after dropping over the weekend. The province says NS labs completed just shy of 5,000 tests on Monday (4,947 tests if you're a stickler), the most in over three months, dating back to June 18.

And vaccinations continue to edge upwards. There were 2,594 doses delivered by clinics across the province on Monday—up significantly from the 2,012 jabs given out last Monday, down from the 2,917 the Monday before that—with 1,261 of them going to people who were getting their second dose. Nova Scotia is now 74.45 percent fully vaccinated according to its public tally, although we'll happily bet anyone any amount of money that at tomorrow's 3pm COVID briefing, Doctor Strang will invoke the thousands of Nova Scotian members of the Canadian Armed Forces whose vaccinations aren't counted by the province to say we have passed already passed 75 percent double-dose vaxxed.

Back to (cases at) school

The province promised yesterday to resume releasing information about COVID cases in schools—the practise fell by the wayside during the third wave—and today it followed through, adding a paragraph to the standard C19 report. "On September 27, seven schools were notified of an exposure(s) at their school," says the report. "It is important to note that an exposure associated with a school does not mean there is spread within the school or that the initial case was first exposed to the virus in the school. As always, all staff, parents and guardians are notified of exposures if a positive case (student, teacher or staff) was at the school while infectious."

For further details about the schools in question, the report directs readers to a database of school exposures. Based on the database, the seven schools that had exposure(s) yesterday are Champlain Elementary School in the Annapolis Valley school district and, in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, Ross Road School, Westmount Elementary, Clayton Park Jr High, Tantallon Jr Elementary, Joseph Howe Elementary and Duc d'Anville Elementary.

In another follow-through from yesterday that's related to schools, we can now tell you how many people 11 and younger are included among today's cases. There a three females and two males newly diagnosed in the 0-11 age group, a group of particular interest because Health Canada has not yet authorized the vaccine for these kids.

And in one last follow-through, from a capsule lower down in this report—under the heading "32 new cases and confusion from the province"—the age-group data on the province's COVID dashboard is showing 29 new cases today, not 32. We remain, as below, at a loss to explain this difference. Maybe Doctor Strang and Tracey Barbrick will tackle this in tomorrow's technical briefing (see "Is 205 cases a lot?" further below).

32 new cases and confusion from the province

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Reopening status
Phase 4

New cases

New recoveries

New deaths

Active cases

Total cases in Nova Scotia during pandemic

Total COVID deaths

After the pain of the latest COVID death announced today—see below for full details—the rest of Tuesday's disease report is easier to deal with, even if it does include 32 new infections. And some confusing numbers. We will start with the basics, but very quickly get to confusion.

"There are 27 cases in Central Zone, three cases in Northern Zone and two cases in Eastern Zone," says today's provincial C19 report, for a total of (27 + 3 + 2 =) 32 new cases. Per yesterday's warning about investigators in public health becoming too busy with cases to be able to always explain what infections are related to travel or previous patients, there is no indication in the report about the transmission vectors involved in these 32 cases.

The report also says 28 people recovered from the disease, and the caseload is 205 active cases, the exact same as yesterday. Which is where the confusion starts.

On a day when there are 32 new cases and only 28 recoveries, the caseload would increase by four, not stay the same. Today, however, a person died, meaning there is one less active case. So the caseload should be increasing by (32 - 28 -1 =) three cases to 208.

COVID numbers that the province previously reported can be revised in the public health tracking system, as we are reminded in every report: "Cumulative cases may change as data is updated in Panorama." That could be the cause of this discrepancy. If the province realized today that it had mistakenly reported three new cases at some point in the past, and subtracted those three cases from Panorama, the math works out. There can still be 32 new cases today, 28 recoveries, one death and three corrected cases, to total a change of (32 - 28 - 1 - 3 =) zero in the number of active cases from yesterday to today.

But then we look at the numbers the province is reporting for the community health networks, and things get confusing again.

The Coast does daily analysis of Nova Scotia's COVID data dashboard, where the province provides information about the 14 health networks that it doesn't include in the written report. That's how we build our popular map and table of what's happening in the networks, lower down this page, which take info about the networks from where it is buried several clicks deep in the provincial dashboard, and make it highly accessible to the public.

Anyway, adding up its numbers for the health networks, the province is showing only 29 new cases today, not the 32 new cases in the report. (We will spare you writing out the math, just check the table.) And the distribution of the new cases is different between the data dashboard and the report.

According to the report there are 27 new cases in Central zone, but adding together the networks that make up Central zone, there are only 22 new cases. The report says Northern zone has three cases, the dashboard says four. The report and the dashboard agree that Eastern has two cases, then disagree over Western, zero cases to one case.

At this point, we need to confess something to you: We don't know what all this means, or what the right answer is. We emailed the province to ask for help understanding the numbers, and the response was the standard explanation, "Cumulative cases may change as data is updated in Panorama."

All we can say for sure is that the province is putting out a lot of confusing information today. And because that information ends up in the analysis we provide you, we feel you deserve an explanation for that confusion. Our map and table show 29 new cases today, our chart of new and active cases shows 32 new cases. We wish we had more to tell you.

Nova Scotia’s 97th pandemic death

For the second day in a row, Nova Scotia is reporting a death due to COVID. The man who died was in his 70s, the province says, and he lived in the Northern health zone. The disease has now claimed three people in less than a week, an awful thing to endure.

“Another family is suffering the loss of a loved one, and on behalf of all Nova Scotians, I offer our condolences to those grieving,” says premier Tim Houston in today's provincial COVID report. The report doesn't say anything about the man's vaccination status, but he was almost certainly fully vaccinated, because the province's data dashboard shows that 100 percent of Nova Scotians aged 75-79 are fully vaccinated, while 99 percent in the 70-74 age group are fully vaccinated, and the other one percent has received one dose.

The province hasn't faced a period of COVID fatalities like this for four months, since nine people died in the week from Friday, May 28 though Thursday, June 3. In the intervening months before last Thursday, the disease killed six people, the latest dying in August.

The recent deaths started with a woman in her 80s who lived in Central zone; her death was announced Thursday, and she was apparently the province's first breakthrough death—the term for when a fully vaccinated person is killed by COVID. Yesterday, the province announced that a Central zone man in his 80s had died.

With the death announced today, COVID has killed 97 Nova Scotians.

Is 205 active cases a lot?

After Monday's infection report, Nova Scotia now has a caseload of 205 active cases. That's the highest it's been during the current COVID fourth wave, as the chart of active cases further down this page shows. Reaching a new peak is always cause for some concern, but it takes more context to know if a high of 205 active cases is actually high.

Here's the graph of active cases from a few months ago, during the third wave. Back then, getting 205 new cases in a single day wouldn't even be particularly special—the third-wave maximum of 227 new cases on Friday, May 7 remains Nova Scotia's pandemic record. And active caseloads in the 200s were mere foothills of the COVID mountain that topped out at 1,655 active cases.

To regurgitate the lessons Doctor Strang has been giving out over the course of the plague, the active cases number is but one star in a constellation of factors that make up the disease's epidemiology. The impact of those 205 patients on the province's ability to handle more cases depends on things like how far they are likely to spread the disease, and whether they will end up in the hospital.

Strang is giving two different briefings tomorrow. The first is a "technical briefing" for media with Tracey Barbrick, the associate deputy minister responsible for the province's COVID-19 immunization strategy, at 2:15pm. Barbrick and Strang will be addressing the vaccination rollout and Phase 5, doubtless explaining some complicated aspect(s) to make sure journalists can accurately explain the background to the province's decisions.

The second briefing is a standard provincial COVID webcast open to the public at 3pm, featuring Strang, premier Tim Houston and health and wellness minister Michelle Thompson. (Houstrang plus Michelle Thompson equals maybe Michoustrang? Timpsang? Robertimichelle? Vote in the comments.) With next Monday, October 4 scheduled to be the start of both Phase 5 reopening and the proof of vaccination plan, they are sure to announce some decisions about further postponing—or not—reopening, what the POV will look like and any modifications to the stated Phase 5 approach of almost no rules around masking and gathering.

In other words, we'll find out Wednesday afternoon if 205 active cases is a lot. Background information will be deployed as needed.

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. Two months later, on September 14, the province formally announced the arrival of the fourth wave of COVID. 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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Breakthrough infections in Nova Scotia

On Fridays, the province's daily COVID report includes statistics about COVID breakthroughs—infections, hospitalizations and deaths among people who are fully or partially vaccinated. The province reports its numbers as a cumulative total: all the breakthrough cases dating from March 15, 2021 to the latest update. The Coast does an analysis to break the information about new cases down by each weekly reporting period, in order to offer our readers the following unique view of the same information, so you can better understand the fluctuations in breakthrough infections as they happen. Note: Our bar chart only dates back to June because the province didn't start this reporting until summer 2021.

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Click here for yesterday's COVID-19 news roundup, for September 27, 2021.

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