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For the ideal anniversary of COVID-19’s official arrival in Nova Scotia, a day free of cases 

Strankin praises the province's pandemic performance at the one-year mark.

click to enlarge Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of March 15, 2021. Legend here. - THE COAST
  • Map of COVID-19 cases reported in Nova Scotia as of March 15, 2021. Legend here.
  • The Coast

“Disaster anniversaries are powerful in part because they’re communal," writes Jacob Stern in The Atlantic. "The bomb went off in an instant. The tornado tore through town in an afternoon. The earthquake rocked the whole region at once. The pandemic, though, did not come to everyone on the same day, or even in the same month, and nor will its anniversary."

Stern's piece is called, appropriately enough, "There Is No One Pandemic Anniversary" and it was written with the United States in mind, a country that's had nearly 30 million known cases of COVID-19 and more than half a million C19 deaths during the pandemic. Nova Scotia's facing a completely different scale of pandemic, with a total of 1,670 total cases and 65 deaths at last count, but the difficulty of dealing with a diffuse disaster still applies.

March 13, 2020 was when Nova Scotia announced the first C19 restrictions, and the province marked the year anniversary on Saturday by recreating the day's sense of confusion and chaos. That is one way to do a coronavirus commemoration.

A year ago today, March 15, 2020, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health announced the province's first known cases. Like many of his colleagues across the country and around the world, Robert Strang was a low-profile civil servant who spent the last year inadvertently becoming a household name as the public face of public health. That first day he described three cases, all of them related to international travel. There was a woman who'd been in Australia, a man just back from a conference in California and a guy who returned to Nova Scotia after travelling in Europe.

That makes today a one-year anniversary. But of what exactly?

Nova Scotia's labs weren't certified to declare a positive C19 test 12 months ago, so those first three cases were technically only "presumptive" infections, needing to be confirmed by the national lab. It would be some time—hours or days or weeks—before the disease's arrival could be documented with certainty. That date is already lost to history, buried beneath the two cases announced Monday, March 16, 2020, the 15 that had piled up by Friday, the total of 51 in Nova Scotia 10 days later, Tuesday March 24. We presume those diagnoses are a mix of presumptive and confirmed, and we're sure it doesn't matter now.

A full reading of Strang's announcement undermines the idea of SARS-CoV-2 arriving March 15, even as the official nature of that announcement cemented the date in the public record. Strang's legitimate hypothesis was that the three people who initially tested positive were infected at some point during their travels, and brought it home. By that measure, C19 arrived in Nova Scotia on March 13 with the conference-goer, March 10 with the guy on the European jaunt. But March 8 is when the local who went to Australia and the virus came back, predating the World Health Organization declaring a global pandemic by three days, and the March 15 date by a week.

Not that March 8, 2020 is the best date to mark. Given what we know a year later about asymptomatic spread, it's possible some unknown, unwitting person first brought C19 here from another province. After all, every other province in Canada had positive—or presumptive positive—cases before Nova Scotia. By March 8, there were 67 known cases in the country. And if we could trace those back and back and back, we'd arrive at November 17, 2019, when what may be the first known case in the world was discovered.

So the novel coronavirus contains a multitude of anniversaries, including March 15, the day we had to admit it found us. Strankin pays homage via the daily C19 press release.

"As we reflect on the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, we can be proud of our efforts to slow the spread of the virus," says premier Iain Rankin. "This year has been far from easy, but Nova Scotians have stepped up and done their part by following the public health measures."

"One year ago, we announced our first presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia," says Strang. "The past year has been difficult on us all—especially the 65 families who lost loved ones. From the beginning, Nova Scotians have come together to navigate COVID-19 and listened to public health advice to ensure we are living as safe as possible."

In a welcome departure from Saturday's shambles, the province is honouring this particular anniversary the only perfect way: by announcing zero new infections. It's just what the virus deserves.

Where Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 cases are on Monday, March 15

Western zone totals 0 new 1 closed 6 active
Yarmouth - - -
Lunenburg - - -
Wolfville - 1 6
Central zone totals 0 new 0 closed 10 active
West Hants - - -
Halifax - - 3
Dartmouth - - 1
Bedford - - 6
Eastern Shore - - -
Northern zone totals 0 new 0 closed 1 active
Truro - - -
Amherst - - 1
Pictou - - -
Eastern zone totals 0 new 0 closed 0 active
Antigonish - - -
Inverness - - -
Sydney - - -

TABLE NOTES The totals for the health zones (Northern, Eastern, Western, Central) may be different than the totals you'd get by adding up the numbers in the Community Health Networks that make up each zone, because the province doesn't track all cases at the community network level. The zone totals reflect every case in the area; the community network numbers only show cases that can be localized to a region inside the bigger area. The names of the community networks here have been adapted/shortened for simplicity (click to download the province's PDF map with the exhaustively complete network names). All data comes from the Nova Scotia COVID-19 data page. We use a dash (-) instead of a zero (0) where applicable in the health network numbers to make the table easier to read.

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