Just the news on COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, for the week starting April 20

The latest info, short and sweet, mostly from the province but also Halifax.

NOTE: This week is now over. For the very latest news, please go here. But for an informative look back at exactly how Nova Scotia responded to COVID-19 in realtime, keep on reading.

Click here for a smaller, mobile-friendly version of The Coast's Nova Scotia COVID-19 case graph.

Editor's note: The Coast has never aimed to be a just-the-facts news service. After all, there are lots of those and far-too-few media outlets that specialize in context, depth and engaging writing. But these are strange times, so we're experimenting with this news centre to be able to give quick-hit updates for our readers who want them. And for readers who don't, the rest of the site is bringing that beloved Coast approach to covering our beloved Halifax during the pandemic.

Friday, April 24

Another day, another briefing

To see the RCMP finally pull off an informative, technically proficient briefing today is to appreciate anew the COVID-19 briefings Stephen McNeil and Robert Strang give the province.

Nova Scotia's premier and top doc don’t seem to particularly enjoy their time in front of the cameras. They don’t thirst for the spotlight the way America’s dunderhead in chief does. (“Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, one of the experts appointed to advise the president on the best way to handle the outbreak, has complained that the amount of time he must spend onstage in the briefings each day has a ‘draining’ effect on him,” reported The New York Times yesterday. “They have the opposite effect on the president.”)

But keeping the public informed in a crisis is vital. And McNeil and our Fauci are doing it, day after day, week after week. As this contender for Worst Week Ever winds down, they are doing it again, today at 3pm. You can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch the briefing later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

Thursday, April 23

A new record in new cases

Today’s C19 briefing from premier Stephen McNeil and doctor Robert Strang was almost completely unexceptional. No "stay the blazes home" memes or multi-million-dollar support announcements or calling out of dumb information. But in the "almost" can be found a whole world of pain: There were four deaths announced, along with 55 new COVID-19 cases, both one-day records.

In this monstrously shitty week after a monster’s attack, Nova Scotia’s case statistics had offered a hint of promise. Monday the number of active cases dropped—more people recovered from the disease than got sick. It happened again Tuesday. And yesterday. In the graph at the top of this page, the "Active cases" line was starting to go downhill.

You can guess where this story ends. Today only 28 people recovered, not enough to offset the 55 new diagnoses, and the active cases line went back up.

At the end of the briefing, the premier announced that the 24-hour Kids Help Phone is now open to adults, too. So if you’d like to talk with someone, no matter who you are or what time it is, phone 1-800-668-6868 or text NSSTRONG to 741741.

Wednesday, April 22

Briefing is at 3:30 again…

…but everything else is the same. You can catch the C19 status update with premier McNeil and doctor Strang live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

Tuesday, April 21

A moment of silence

During today’s COVID-19 briefing the premier will be observing a moment of silence for victims of this weekend’s mass killings. The briefing starts at 3:30pm and you can watch live at here. The province is also collecting condolences through a Facebook page and via email, and the Stronger Together page has a variety of tartan and/or heart graphics in both French and English for sharing on social media.

Another person has died

In the province’s latest COVID-19 statistics, there are only 17 new cases—that’s a nice low number after 46 new cases announced on Monday—but one person has died. That’s Nova Scotia’s tenth fatality. The death happened at Northwood; the province has not given any other information about the person.

"This is a deeply sad day for the family and loved ones of this individual, as well as everyone at Northwood,” premier Stephen McNeil said in a press release. “Nova Scotians offer their heartfelt condolences to them.”

The 16 new cases coincides with 38 people recovering from the disease, making Tuesday the second day in a row that the number of active cases here has gone down. Very welcome news, even as C19 has been diagnosed at another long-term care facility.

Today’s briefing time change

The regular COVID-19 update from doctor Robert Strang and premier Stephen McNeil will start at 3:30 today, moving from the regular 3pm time slot as happened yesterday. You can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

Monday, April 20

How is Nova Scotia doing?

Monday’s press release from the province shows a record number of new cases, 46 in one day across Nova Scotia. In the nursing-home numbers, COVID-19 is now in nine different long-term care facilities, up from eight on Sunday, infecting 127 residents and 61 staff, a combined increase of 41 cases from Sunday. Everything feels up, up, up. And yet there were no new deaths, and with 48 people recovered from C19, the number of active cases actually went down for only the second time since this began.

You may be wondering what exactly this means for Nova Scotia, if things are out of control or in good shape or what. We’re definitely wondering. And feeling a little bit hopeful, but at the same time distinctly worried and kinda confused (the German word for that is "koronaviruz"). So at the Monday briefing we asked Robert Strang straight-up, how are we doing?

"I think we need to look at it a number of different ways," says the chief medical officer of health, "we have to tease it apart." Cases are reported by four Nova Scotia Health Authority zones. "In western, northern and eastern health zones, we have sporadic disease activity with localized cases. A few clusters going on but we don't have any indication of any substantive community spread."

Sounds good! But that’s only three of the four zones. The other shoe drops on the central zone, which includes Halifax Regional Municipality and West Hants. Strang says there’s more community spread here, particularly in Dartmouth. "However, when we look at the overall pattern, the numbers of cases are slowly coming down. So we’re on the downward trend even as that's the area of the province where we more have substantive community spread."

As for the long-term care facilities, the pattern is similar. Eight out of the nine LTCFs with C19 are "well controlled," in Strang’s words, while there’s a "very serious and concerning situation in Northwood, which is driving a lot of the data." Northwood is the largest LTCF in the province, and it was the subject of extraordinary support measures announced Sunday that make it definitely feel out of control. Yet Strang points out the positive aspect that "there's not community spread there because it's within a confined environment."

Strang is clearly not panicked. He seems to see the physical distancing and self isolation protocols basically working to thwart the virus’s spread around the province, with more active attention helping to bring a few areas of concern under control. So the doctor’s prescription is tempered optimism while maintaining the current treatment.

"Even though I said we have signs of decreasing disease activity in general, it's too early for us to kind of say we are clearly coming out of the woods. We have to continue this and watch this," Strang says. "Continue with our strong measures for the for the public, while we pay particular intensive efforts on situations like Northwood.

"And also we've done that in the Dartmouth area as well. We’ve identified community clusters, going in there with a much more comprehensive response focused on increasing capacity for testing, increasing the necessary supports to communities. And we'll continue to do that if we get more community clusters or additional long-term care facility outbreaks."

New briefing time

Today's COVID-19 update from premier Stephen McNeil and the chief medical officer of health starts at 3:30, a little later than the regular 3pm—probably because of the RCMP shooting briefing earlier in the afternoon. As usual, you can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

What coronavirus?

As the province mourns, it's hard to think about anything other than the mass killings right now. There is an RCMP briefing today about the shootings at 2pm, which should have "better sound quality" than yesterday's debut briefing, for what it's worth. Premier McNeil and doctor Strang will doubtless be having their daily COVID-19 briefing at 3pm.


The collection of news updates from the April 13 week is here.

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