COVID cases, hospitalizations and news for Nova Scotia the week Jan 31-Feb 6

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 6

The good thing about the province's short weekend reports is there's no talk of deaths. The bad thing is getting to Sunday and wondering how bad it's going to be Monday. But we're getting ahead of things. Today the province is reporting just 95 patients in hospital COVID units, down from 102 yesterday, and 349 new infections, down from 382 new cases yesterday. These are good things about Sunday, too.

Saturday, February 5

From the province's typical "abbreviated" weekend report for Saturday, we have an especially short report for you. There are now 102 people in COVID-specific hospital units, up from the former record of 99 patients set just yesterday, and 378 total patients with COVID in hospital, also a new high. In new cases there are 382 fresh infections. The province doesn't talk about deaths or active cases on weekends.

Friday, February 4

This morning, the province announced that “restrictions are easing for sports practices and arts and culture rehearsals.” Specifically, practises and rehearsals can have 25 people together indoors, and up to 50 outside. But that's just one group, just practising. "They cannot have multiple groups, games or performances. Spectators are still not permitted,” says the announcement.

Doctor Strang says this move is in keeping with Nova Scotia's cautious approach to the pandemic, which “has served us well” to this point. “We’re taking this initial step because we recognize the physical and mental health benefits of having full sports practices and rehearsals for arts and culture performances,” he says. All other restrictions are in effect until February 14.

Later in the day, Nova Scotia brought out it daily COVID report, which gives less reason for optimism than the early opening of arts, sports and culture. The province says another Nova Scotian—a Central zone man in his 70s—has died due to COVID, bringing Nova Scotia's pandemic death total to 158 people since the disease arrived here in March 2020.

“We have suffered significant loss of life in the last week. My sincere condolences to the 15 families who have lost loved ones,” says premier Tim Houston. “Nova Scotia is a small and tight-knit province, and these losses touch us all.”

“It saddens me to learn that this virus has taken another Nova Scotian. I offer my deepest sympathies to this man’s family and loved ones,” says Robert Strang, provincial chief medical officer of health. Strang goes on to talk around the deadly contradiction Nova Scotia faces, wherein our vaccination rates and permission to gather are increasing, but the wretched disease just keeps killing people.

“We need to continue to be cautious about COVID, carefully balancing measures that limit the spread of omicron and its impact on our most vulnerable and our healthcare system, with starting to gradually lift restrictions,” Strang says. “Easing restrictions will be possible because of our province’s high vaccination rate and the hard work of Nova Scotians.”

Hey, we're as happy to receive empty praise for our work ethic as anyone, but given the information coming from the province, we don't understand how we can be getting ready to reopen while people are dying. Every. Single. Day. Were these people all unvaccinated? Did none of them catch the disease from someone who's vaccinated? Has the province signed a peace treaty with omicron so that it will finally leave vaxxed and/or boosted people alone?

And are we just going to pretend that Global News isn't reporting today that the BA.2 sub variant of omicron—which is apparently "more transmissible and more able to infect vaccinated people" than regular omicron—has been found in New Brunswick?

If the pretending thing is part of your strategy, you probably don't want to know that Nova Scotia's COVID hospitalizations have reached their highest point of 2022 at 364 patients in hospital, including 99 people in COVID-specific units (another record high for this new, not really awesome year). And the province diagnosed 594 new cases today, the most since there were 620 last Friday, sending the estimated number of active cases up from 3,647 cases yesterday to 3,769 today.

Thursday, February 3

We have already had 10 deaths so far this week related to COVID; now the province is announcing four more:
• a woman in her 60s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 80s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 90s in Central Zone
• a man in his 90s in Eastern Zone

“It is difficult to hear that four more families have suffered the loss of a loved one today,” says chief medical officer of health Robert Strang in the Thursday report. “The omicron variant continues to have devastating impacts on our most vulnerable Nova Scotians.”

For his part, premier Tim Houston says: “This has been a tragic year so far. The hearts of all Nova Scotians are with the families and friends who are grieving the loss of loved ones.”

In other news of omicron relentlessness, hospitalizations are back up to the 2022 peak of 351 patients, with 97 of them—another 2022 record—being in COVID-specific units. The province is reporting 401 new infections, the most since Sunday, for an estimated caseload of 3,647 active cases.

Wednesday, February 2

Nova Scotia is reporting six more people dead from COVID today. The province's official pandemic death toll is now 153 people. The six who died are described as:
• a woman in her 60s in Central Zone
• two women in their 70s in Central Zone
• two women in their 80s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 100s in Western Zone

A woman in her 100s!

“I am devastated to learn that this virus has taken six more Nova Scotians. It’s unthinkable and I feel for their families and loved ones,” says premier Tim Houston. “There are people who are more vulnerable to this virus even if they are vaccinated. Together we can help protect them by being vaccinated ourselves. I want to thank the many Nova Scotians who have gotten vaccinated and, to those who haven’t—please let this be a good enough reason to take that step and get it done.”

Houston's partner in fighting the pandemic also delivers a message through today's report. “This is another extremely sad day and I send my sympathies to the loved ones of the six Nova Scotians who died,” says Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “We must never forget that COVID-19 is all around us, and that is why it is so important to get vaccinated and follow the public health measures in place to prevent further illness and death from this virus.”

After a little droop yesterday, the number of COVID hospitalizations is rising again. There are 92 people in COVID units, and 347 patients with COVID total.

Nova Scotia has 395 new cases today, for a total (estimated) of 3,632 active cases. And in vaccination news, the province says 91.3 percent of Nova Scotians have at least one dose.

Tuesday, February 1

After three COVID deaths yesterday, the province is reporting another one today. This doesn't feel like progress. The Nova Scotian who died was a man in his 80s who lived in Central zone. The disease has now officially killed 147 people.

“My thoughts and prayers are with those who are grieving,” says chief medical officer of health Robert Strang. “We have been at this for a long time now, and I know people are getting tired, but we cannot become complacent. Please get vaccinated, slow down your activities and follow the public health measures in place.”

There has been an increase in the number of people hospitalized in a COVID unit, from 93 patients yesterday to 95 today, but the number of them in intensive care dropped by the same measure, from 15 yesterday to 13 now in ICU. And the total number of COVID hospitalizations is down from 351 on Monday to 345 today.

The province is announcing 274 new cases, for a caseload of 3,630 active cases. That's an estimated count, of course, as that's what Nova Scotia has been able to offer during the omicron fight.

Monday, January 31

Last week was a brutal one for Nova Scotia, with at least one COVID death reported every weekday. (The province doesn't seem to address deaths at all in its abbreviated weekend reports.) And this week is starting in the same awful place, with three people dead from COVID. The Monday provincial disease update describes the three as:
• a man in his 70s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 70s in Western Zone
• a man in his 80s in Western Zone

“It truly saddens me to have to report the loss of three more Nova Scotians. My thoughts are with their families and loved ones as they navigate through this tremendously difficult time,” saysremier Tim Houston. “I hope they find some comfort in the warmth extended to them by their neighbours and fellow Nova Scotians. And I hope that Nova Scotians continue to come together and do all we can to prevent this from happening to another family.”

There have been 10 new hospital admissions, for a current total number of patients in COVID-specific units of 93, which includes 15 in ICU. There are also 116 patients whose status we describe as "non-severe" (check the hospitalizations graph below for more deets) and 142 people who caught COVID in the hospital. That's a total of 351 COVID hospitalizations during the omicron wave, the most since the province started reporting details earlier this month.

The province is reporting 256 new infections today, for an estimated 3,913 active COVID cases in NS. That's down from the 4,316 active cases estimated Friday.

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 24-30, 2022.

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