COVID cases, hospitalizations and news for Nova Scotia on Monday, Jan 17

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

Four deaths

In its Monday COVID update, the province says that four more people have died due to the disease. This is Nova Scotia's deadliest pandemic day since four deaths were announced on May 29, more than seven months ago. There have now been 121 Nova Scotians officially counted as dying from COVID since the 2020 start of this whole mess, with 10 of those deaths—almost 10 percent of the total—coming in the last two weeks. So much for omicron illness being risk-free.

The people who died are a man in his 80s who lived in Eastern zone, and three Central zone residents: a woman in her 90s and two men, one in his 70s, the other in his 40s. The province has not released their vaccination status. As the hospitalization chart further down this page shows, unvaccinated people make up only a small fraction of the patients currently being treated in a specialized COVID unit.

"I’m saddened to learn that four more Nova Scotians lost their lives because of this virus, and I offer my deepest condolences to those grieving," premier Tim Houston says in the report. "We need to stay vigilant and minimize non-essential activities to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our province. We all have a part to play. We can do this by getting vaccinated as soon as possible, following public health measures and reducing activities."

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the four people who passed away,” says Doctor Strang. "COVID-19 is in every corner of our province. We need to work together and continue to follow the advice of public health to protect our healthcare system, long-term care homes and our most vulnerable Nova Scotians."

Cases sort of fall, hospitalizations definitely rise

The province is announcing 495 new COVID infections today, the lowest number in nearly a month, since the 485 cases reported December 20 (which at the time was a record high). But don't celebrate the falling case numbers quite yet, because they come from just 2,275 tests—the slowest testing day in Nova Scotia since there were 2,268 tests announced November 21.

Finding 495 COVID-positive people in 2,275 tests is a testing positivity rate of 21.8 percent, the highest that rate has been reported at any point in the pandemic. It means out of every five tests, one person has the disease, a scarily large amount. (In your maximum permitted social group of 10 people, two would have COVID. By comparison, back on Dec 20 when there was a similar number of cases, it took 20 tests to find one positive person—your 10-person group might not have any cases.)

From cases we move on to hospitalizations, which continue their steady climb. Out of an estimated 5,736 active COVID cases in Nova Scotia, there are now 249 people in hospitals across the province "related to COVID-19" as the government puts it. That's up from 240 people yesterday and 217 the day before. As our new graph illustrates, most of them are not severe COVID patients requiring care in a COVID unit. That's the good news. The bad news is there are 73 specialized COVID patients today, up from 68 yesterday, 58 on Saturday.

Classes are back in session

Public schools around Nova Scotia reopened to in-person classes today, after an extended break around the Christmas holiday and a week of remote learning last week. The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (the non-democratic government body entrusted with managing the city's schools after the provincial government decided to eliminate elected school boards) posted an update that says "schools will operate under enhanced public health measures for the time being."

Do you wonder what that means? "This means restrictions on the typical activities that take place during the school day," says the update. After providing a link to the full list of measures, the HRCE pulls out the following four. We're copying and pasting verbatim from the update, so for an educational exercise try to spot the typo:

  • Schools will limit mixing of different classes/groups in all areas of the school, including the cafeteria and hallways;
  • Large gatherings such assemblies and dances will be postponed;
  • There will be limits on sports and music activities; and
  • Non-essential visitors will not be allowed into our schools

Every student who went back to school should also have received a new three-ply cloth mask today. Meanwhile in the parts of Nova Scotia beyond school environments, until at least January 31 it remains the rule that a maximum of 10 people are allowed to gather in close contact, even if they have three-ply masks. Or three doses of vaccine.

Boosters open to everyone 18+

This morning the province announced a booster vaccination breakthrough: Now everyone 18 and older can book their third dose of anti-COVID-19 vaccine.

"Booster doses are administered at least 168 days after the primary series," the province says. "People who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or the one-dose Janssen vaccine are still eligible to schedule a booster dose of mRNA vaccine."

The booster can be either Moderna or Pfizer, the mRNA vaccines approved for use in Canada. The province added over 50,000 Pfizer appointments to the booking system, but these are "available only to people 12 to 29 years of age at this time," says the province, noting that Nova Scotians aged 12 to 17 aren't eligible for the booster shot.

"People 18 to 29 are strongly encouraged to schedule a Pfizer vaccine for their first, second or booster dose as recent evidence shows there is a rare, but increased risk of myocarditis/pericarditis in young adults from Moderna vaccine as compared to Pfizer vaccine," the announcement says.

People 30+ can book a Moderna appointment now, and will be able to book for Pfizer again "after the 12-29 age group has the chance to book," says the province. "People 30 and older who have scheduled a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine appointment are encouraged to keep their appointment so they can receive their booster sooner and to reduce vaccine wastage."

Click to book your appointment now.

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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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 the previous COVID-19 news roundup, for the January 15-16 weekend.

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