COVID cases and news for Nova Scotia on Wednesday, Jan 12

All the information as we can provide while NS struggles to keep up with the pandemic’s omicron wave.

Omicron's arrival means Nova Scotia is overwhelmed by COVID and its data-dissemination abilities are severely compromised. For the time being, these are the only infographics we can share with any confidence of accuracy: Omicron hospitalizations    New and active cases    Nova Scotia’s third and fourth waves    Canada’s fourth wave

Five deaths in three days

Nova Scotia hasn't endured so brutal a string of COVID death in over seven months. There were deaths reported three days in a row from May 28-30, 2021, and with another person dead from COVID today, that three-day string has just been matched. The dead woman was in her 60s, and lived in the Western health zone.

“Every death in this pandemic saddens me, and I offer my sincere sympathies to the family,” says chief medical officer of health Robert Strang in today's provincial report. “We all need to do our best to prevent the virus from reaching our most vulnerable. It’s also important to keep our healthcare workers healthy and out of isolation so that they can care for Nova Scotians with COVID-19 and other health needs.”

There have now been 117 Nova Scotians officially counted as dying from COVID.

837 cases and other news

Nova Scotia is reporting 837 new COVID infections today, an unwelcome increase from the 616 cases yesterday. And COVID-specific hospitalizations are up to 60 patients, from 58 yesterday. But today's biggest news is about the straining health care system, and the fact public schools are on track to reopen for in-person classes on Monday. Find out more in The Coast's report from the Houstrang briefing.

All hospitalizations aren't created equal

Today the province expanded on its newfound focus on COVID hospitalizations, in the process illuminating just how infectious the omicron variant is.

Some people catch COVID, get sick from COVID, go to the hospital for COVID treatment and get admitted to hospital as a COVID patients. Those people are who the province has been reporting as hospitalizations throughout the pandemic, and whose vaccination status has been reported by the hospital in recent days.

But today the province introduced two new types of hospitalizations.

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." Which seems to us basically to mean patients whose COVID can be considered less severe, even though they are still in hospital. On our graph of hospitalizations below, we are calling these a "Non-severe COVID case." The province is reporting 40 today.

The other new hospitalization category is "people who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital," as the province puts it. Someone having a heart attack or cancer surgery or other life-altering treatment, and gets infected with the disease. There are 94 of these COVID hospitalizations in Nova Scotia today, the biggest single category, designated as "Caught COVID in hospital" on our chart.

As for the original class of COVID hospitalizations, the province is now describing them as people "who were admitted due to COVID-19 and are receiving specialized care in a COVID-19 designated unit." That term "designated unit" seems a useful shorthand to denote these patients. And the province is still, at least so far, giving their vax status. So on our graph a person who went to the hospital exclusively for their COVID symptoms and was fully vaccinated but not boosted is captured under "In COVID unit, 2 doses of vax." Today there are 60 patients of various vax situations in a COVID unit. "That includes five people in ICU," the province says. "The age range of those in hospital is 0-100 years old, and the average age is 66. Of the 60 people in hospital, 58 were admitted during the Omicron wave."

You can filter what the graph shows by clicking the category name immediately above the chart. So, for example, if you click "Caught COVID in hospital" and "Non-severe COVID case" to turn those categories off, those 136 combined patients will be removed from view and you'll just be left with the 60 patients in a COVID unit.

Houstrang speaks

Premier Tim Houston and chief medical officer of health Robert Strang are giving one of their occasional COVID-19 briefings today. It is scheduled to start at 3pm. You can watch live at and/or @nsgov on Facebook, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

Hospitalizations during omicron

In early January, 2022, Nova Scotia subtly shifted its attention from new COVID cases to patients actually in hospital with the disease. Turns out that two years into the pandemic, the skyrocketing rate of omicron infection, among a population overwhelmingly made up of people with two or three vaccinations, is messing with COVID math and we need a more specific patients-under-care indicator of strain on the health system. As part of the shift, the province started reporting the vaccination status of hospitalized COVID patients, which is what this graph shows. As the province states in its daily reports, it's "important to note that less than 10 percent of Nova Scotians are unvaccinated."

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Comparing active cases in the third and fourth waves

In December, the town of Antigonish became ground zero for an inter-provincial COVID outbreak due to a weekend of superspreader events connected to the annual presentation of X-Rings at St. Francis Xavier University. But how bad is the outbreak, really? The following chart lets you compare Nova Scotia's active cases, dating from the third wave in April through the fourth wave and its infection Xplosion, using case data from provincial pandemic reports. The chart will be updated when provincial reporting allows. Note: 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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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 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. 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 yesterday's COVID-19 news roundup, for January 11, 2022.

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