COVID cases, hospitalizations and news for Nova Scotia the week Feb 7-13 | COVID-19 | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

COVID cases, hospitalizations and news for Nova Scotia the week Feb 7-13

The charts and information we can provide while NS struggles to keep up with the pandemic’s omicron wave.

Like the province, The Coast is admitting to omicron overwhelm. We are switching to bare-bones daily reports, while aiming to maintain the vital infographics that give the best picture of the current situation: NS COVID deaths    Omicron hospitalizations    New and active cases    Nova Scotia’s third and fourth waves    Canada’s fourth wave

Sunday, February 13

Another weekend COVID update from the province with an abridged selection of information reveals there are 243 new COVID cases and 76 patients in hospital COVID units. Active cases aren't estimated today, and the vaccination details of the 76 patients aren't given (throwing our daily graph of hospitalizations for a wardrobe change), but the province is saying there are a total of 356 COVID-related patients in Nova Scotian hospitals. That's down slightly from 359 total patients yesterday.

Saturday, February 12

The province's abbreviated report says there are 79 patients in COVID-designated units, and 309 new COVID infections.

Friday, February 11

Today brings the worst report of the pandemic in Nova Scotia, as the province announces the death of a child due to COVID. “It is with deep sadness that we must report COVID has taken the life of a child in our province,” says premier Tim Houston. “The loss of a child is something that no family should ever have to endure. My condolences are with the family during this very difficult and tragic time.”

The child, who becomes the 168th Nova Scotia to die of pandemic-related causes, was between the ages of five and 11. “It is never easy reporting a death, especially when it is someone so young,” says Robert Strang. “Today’s death continues to highlight the seriousness of a disease that knows no bounds and the importance of getting vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you.”

This is the only thing that matters about COVID today. We mourn with Nova Scotia.

Thursday, February 10

Thursday’s provincial COVID update brings news of another death, a woman in her 80s who lived in the Central zone. She is the 167th Nova Scotia known to have died from COVID-related causes.

“This pandemic has taken so much, but the families who will never see or hug their loved one again have suffered the most,” says premier Tim Houston. “We’re starting to ease restrictions, but we still need to be cautious and take steps to protect ourselves and others. Please continue to follow the public health measures as we work towards living with COVID-19.”

There are 90 people whom the province describes as “in hospital who were admitted due to COVID-19 and are receiving specialized care in a COVID-19 designated unit. That includes 11 people in ICU.” And in a repeat of yesterday, provincial labs have diagnosed 365 new COVID cases today. Freaky! But unlike yesterday, when the estimated caseload was 3,232 active cases, today's estimate is 3,360 active cases.

In his quote from the provincial update, Doctor Strang says the right things about the woman who died: “It’s never easy to hear we lost another Nova Scotian to this virus. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and loved ones grieving.”

But then he goes on to say it's okay to reopen from whatever our current state of lockdown is, without saying exactly why. “Trying to protect people is what we’ve been doing for two years and why we’ve had restrictions and rules that are frustrating but necessary. I am optimistic that things are improving and because of the hard work of Nova Scotians, I am confident about starting to loosen restrictions.”

Emphasis added to that quote by us, in order to draw your attention to the phrase that is blowing our mind. There is a disconnect between the deaths the province has been reporting most days lately, and the promise of loosening public health restrictions on Monday, and Doctor Strang being “optimistic that things are improving” doesn’t actually do anything to help us understand what is happening.

Our reading of the epidemiology—which is admittedly informed by nothing more than a two-year crash course in this stuff—says we are going through one of the deadliest stretches of the pandemic in Nova Scotia and, while new infections are trending down, there are still hundreds of new cases every day and more than 350 people with COVID in hospital. We'd love it to be safe to open up right now, but we aren't getting the facts—or the optimistic reading of the facts, or the persuasive fact-based hypothesis—to believe it. Two years of this has been frustrating for sure, but the disease has never cared about human frustration, and there's no reason for it to start now.

Wednesday, February 9

The province is announcing a new approach to COVID vaccine booster shots for kids from 12 to 17 years old. Instead of following the letter of the Health Canada law, which the announcement says “has not yet approved the vaccine for this use in this age group,” the province is taking the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s advice to boost kids who are at high COVID risk.

“The majority of adolescents 12 to 17 in Nova Scotia do not need a booster dose as they are at low risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes if they are fully vaccinated,” says Doctor Strang. “However, for some, the benefit of receiving a booster dose ahead of further approvals outweighs the risk of getting COVID-19.”

In its statement, the province goes on to say NACI also “issued a strong recommendation on third doses for children ages 5 to 11 who are moderately to severely immunocompromised at the time of their first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine. They are now eligible for a third dose of vaccine to complete their primary series.”

In its Wednesday pandemic update, the province has no joy like yesterday, when nobody died from COVID. Unfortunately there are five disease-related deaths today:
• a woman in her 60s in Northern Zone
• a woman in her 70s in Western Zone
• a woman in her 80s in Eastern Zone
• two women in their 90s in Central Zone

There are also 365 new COVID cases—up from the recent low of 219 yesterday—and a total of 367 COVID patients of one kind and another in hospital, up from 363 yesterday.

At the end of a day when the news ranged from five deaths to the under-approved use of booster vaccines in children, the province announces that COVID restrictions are loosening on Valentine’s Day, February 14. Here’s The Coast story about the latest attempt to reopen during the pandemic.

Tuesday, February 8

The clouds over Nova Scotia have broken today, as the province isn't reporting any COVID deaths. Instead, today’s report deals with case numbers and tests and hospitalizations. All the stuff that used to seem important before people were dying all the time.

There are 219 new COVID cases today, the fewest in a daily report in 55 days, since there were 178 cases on December 15. There are only 91 people in hospital COVID units—down from the 2022 peak of 102 last Saturday—and the total number of all COVID patients in hospital, 363 people, is moving in the right direction after being a 374 yesterday.

But a day without death. That is the story of today.

Monday, February 7

Lately it seems all the weeks are starting the same way: COVID death. Today the province is announcing three more people have died from the disease. They are:
• a woman in her 60s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 70s in Western Zone
• a woman in her 70s in Northern Zone

Now 161 people are cited as dying from COVID-related causes in Nova Scotia's pandemic. The last 50 of them died since January 2022.

“It’s extremely sad to hear we lost three more Nova Scotians this weekend from COVID-19. There is nothing anyone can say to comfort the families and friends who are grieving,” says premier Tim Houston in today’s provincial update. “This virus continues to have devastating impacts for some. Please get vaccinated and follow the public health measures to protect yourself and those around you.”

Chief medical officer of health Robert Strang says, “my thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of the three Nova Scotians who have lost their lives to this disease. Getting vaccinated will help protect yourself and your loved ones. As we work towards easing restrictions, we must continue to work together, get vaccinated—whether it’s your first, second or booster dose—and follow the public health protocols.”

The number of patients in COVID-specific hospital units is down from Saturday's 2022 high of 102 people, to 91 patients today. That's a good development. The number of all COVID patients in hospital is 374, compared to 378 on Saturday.

Nova Scotia is reporting 313 new cases of COVID. There are now estimated to be 3,306 active cases in the province, the lowest (estimated) level in seven full weeks, dating back to December 20 when there were believed to be 3,028 active cases.

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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COVID deaths in Nova Scotia

The most awful chart. Early in 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic, Nova Scotia suffered dozens of COVID deaths quickly, particularly at Northwood nursing home. For nearly than a year after that, however, deaths became sporadic—we could go months without a simple person dying of the disease, even through the late-2020 second wave. But sadly that low death rate changed during the third wave, around May 2021, and then again with omicron's arrival in late 2021 during the fourth wave.

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Comparing active cases in the third and fourth waves

The following chart shows Nova Scotia's active cases, dating from the third wave in April 2021 through the omicron fourth wave, using case data from provincial pandemic reports. The chart will be updated when provincial reporting allows. Note: From Dec 10 through Dec 22, 2021, 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, and then by December omicron was here. 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. Then in late 2021 the omicron variant arrived. 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). 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 last week's COVID-19 news roundup, for Jan 31-Feb 6, 2022.

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