Just the news on COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, for the week starting May 18

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.

Display problems with The Coast's Nova Scotia COVID-19 case graph? For the mobile version click here.

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.

Sunday, May 24

One more case

Nova Scotia still doesn’t have a day with zero new cases, as today’s report from the province says there is a single new diagnosis.

As we did yesterday, we’ve asked the province for clarification if this case is at Northwood, at another seniors’ centre or represents spread in the wider community. We haven’t heard back about either today’s or yesterday’s cases yet.

Active cases are evaporating fast

The province is reporting that 973 people have now recovered, out of the total 1050 cases diagnosed since this all began in March. Subtracting the 58 people who have died, that leaves just 19 active cases, and 17 of those are in long-term care facilities (Northwood has 16, and another facility has one). So currently there are only two active cases in the entire province outside of long-term care.

It’s possible there are active cases in all four of the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s zones: Northwood in the Central zone, and the case in the other long-term care centre plus the other two cases scattered, one case each, to the Northern, Eastern and Central zones. It’s also possible all the current cases are in the Central zone, and the rest of the province has no active cases. The province doesn’t yet report the active numbers by NSHA zone, although doctor Strang has told The Coast at a couple provincial briefings that it’s being worked on.

This is the map on the province’s COVID-19 site. It shows the total number of cases diagnosed in the four health zones, as of now. A map of active cases would have radically lower numbers, obvs.

Saturday, May 23

Four, maybe five days focused on Northwood

As promised, we are breaking down each day’s new case numbers to get an idea of where the case(s) are occurring. Friday there were two new cases, and at the regular briefing with the premier, public health czar Robert Strang explained those were one resident and one staffer at Northwood, the beleaguered Halifax nursing home that is the largest long-term care facility east of Montreal.

We’ve asked the province for the detail on today’s single new case, but haven’t gotten an answer yet.

The last time a new case was reported outside of Northwood was Monday. With no cases in the wider Nova Scotia community Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and only one new case reported in the rest of Atlantic Canada during that time, that’s four days of Northwood being very much at the centre of COVID-19 on the east coast. (If today’s case turns out to be Northwood-related, that will be five days.) Hopefully everyone on the east coast is sending good vibes Northwood’s way.

As a side note, there are people in New Brunswick who blame their new case on a protest at the NB/Quebec border. Something like 400 protesters assembled to demand the border be opened up between Campbellton, NB and Pointe-à-la-Croix and Listuguj First Nation in Quebec. If the new case is indeed traced back to this gathering, expect New Brunswick public health to be distinctly unsympathetic to the protesters.

There are only 22 active cases in Nova Scotia

With one new case and seven recoveries announced by the province today, there are now just 22 active COVID-19 cases in the province. The last time we had so few cases was another Saturday, March 21, nine weeks ago. 

Over those nine weeks, new cases keep being diagnosed—Nova Scotia hasn’t yet had a day with no new cases—and the total number of cases keeps rising, But the number of active cases is a different measure, and it fluctuates, adding new cases while subtracting those who recover from the disease (March 24 was the first recovery) and also subtracting people who unfortunately die of C19 (the first death was April 7).

Active cases peaked at 466 patients, on Sunday, April 19. That was five weeks to the day from doctor Strang announcing Nova Scotia’s first cases, on Sunday, March 15. Five weeks of a fast, intense lockdown response from Nova Scotians to reach the peak, and tomorrow will mark five weeks of steadfast maintenance—with careful loosening of restrictions—to keep it moving down. What a long strange trip it’s been. And as Strang keeps reminding us lately, it's not over.

You can trace the journey so far on the graph above. The active cases line is the orange one.

Friday, May 22

Testing, testing, new symptoms for testing

So far it’s been easy to keep track of the C19 symptoms, thanks to the two mnemonic devices in wide use around Nova Scotia. You know the ones, either “farts taste hairy near clowns” or, when certain church leaders felt that was too raunchy, the alternative “Father Terry has nice cassocks.” Reminding us of the big five symptoms: fever, throat soreness, headache, nose soreness and cough.

But today there’s been a shakeup, and Father Terry might not survive it.

Public health today unveiled a new and improved list of 13 symptoms. And a new approach to those symptoms: Before, you needed to have TWO symptoms before getting in touch with 811 (preferably online rather than calling right away. As of now you only need one before reaching out.

Here’s the complete list as published by the province. Note that even good old fever/farts/Father has become “fever (i.e. chills, sweats)” so there’s a lot to digest here. Including the fact that you’re now supposed to think you might have COVID-19 if you have sore muscles. Or sneeze. Not even both of those things, just one of them. Expect testing numbers to go up.

The current list of COVID-19 symptoms in Nova Scotia

  • fever (i.e. chills, sweats)
  • cough or worsening of a previous cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • shortness of breath
  • muscle aches
  • sneezing
  • nasal congestion/runny nose
  • hoarse voice
  • diarrhea
  • unusual fatigue
  • loss of sense of smell or taste
  • red, purple or blueish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers without clear cause

If you can figure out a mnemonic device for this collection complaints, please share with us in the comments below or by emailing fatherterry@thecoast.ca.

Two new cases

There’s been a change from the last three days of one death and one case in the province’s official COVID-19 report. Want the good news first? Nobody else died today! That’s a relief on a sunny Friday.

But there were two new cases diagnosed. We’ve asked the province to clarify if those cases are in nursing homes or wider Nova Scotia, and we’ll let you know.

Thursday, May 21

Case details

Just heard back from the province with specifics about today’s COVID-19 report. The person who died at Northwood was indeed a resident, the 52nd resident to die there, out of the 58 deaths the province has now faced due to C19.

The new case is also a resident at Northwood; 20 of Nova Scotia’s 29 currently active cases are among staff and residents at Northwood and another long-term care centre.

Deja vu all over again

Another Nova Scotian has died of COVID-19, and another patient has been diagnosed with the disease. Just like yesterday, and the day before. So tantalizingly close to zero, so sadly far from zero.

The province’s press release says the “death occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax Regional Municipality.” History tells us that person was most likely a resident, rather than a staffer, but we’ve asked the province to be sure. We’ve also asked if the new case in related to nursing homes or is in the wider community.

Wednesday, May 20

About those cases from today and yesterday

In details missing from the province’s case reports: Today’s newly diagnosed case was for a staff person at Northwood. The person who passed away at Northwood was a resident, not a staffer. And the new case reported yesterday was also a Northwood resident.

In case you’re wondering why these details arrive later than the raw case numbers, here’s what’s happening behind the scenes. After the official daily COVID report comes out—usually emailed to media between 11am and 1pm—we email the province asking for the breakdown on the new case(s). This info is particularly relevant because of the province’s recent change in the way the statistics are presented, to focus more on active cases in long-term care facilities.

The change happened two weeks ago, and we immediately had lots of questions about the details. But the province put us off, saying the nursing home numbers and the numbers from the wider community didn’t quite line up because they were collected differently, so they needed time and patience while kinks got fixed. We provided both, albeit impatiently.

Then last week doctor Strang announced that things were fixed, and each day’s statistics reflect the actually daily situation. So we started asking for the details every day. We always get this information, either from the province or from doctor Strang when there’s a briefing that day, so we’re not sure why the breakdown isn’t just included in the report.

At the start of today’s briefing, Strang pointed out that with all of Tuesday and Wednesday’s new cases getting diagnosed at Northwood, the wider community has now had two days in a row with no new cases. That’s a great development, which could have been highlighted in today’s report. But that’s where we are.

Rinse and repeat

Just like yesterday, the latest statistics from the province contain the sad news that yet another person at Northwood has died of the disease, and another new case has been diagnosed. And premier Stephen McNeil will be doing a briefing at 3pm with his top doc sidekick, Robert Strang. You can watch live at novascotia.ca/stayinformed/webcast, or catch it later at the Nova Scotia government's YouTube page.

Tuesday, May 19

A death and a new case

The latest statistics on C19’s spread have been released by the province. Sadly another person has died of the disease. Like everybody else the disease has killed over the last two weeks, this victim was a resident of Nova Scotia’s largest nursing home, Northwood. Of the 56 COVID-19 deaths the province has endured, 50 were at Northwood.

Today there was also a new case announced. We have asked the province to clarify if the person who received that diagnosis is also a Northwood resident.

If you’ve been keeping track, there have been 10 new cases diagnosed since Saturday, and four of them were not Northwood-related, but were in the wider community. That’s 40 percent, i.e. a large amount, and we don’t know about today’s case yet. Northwood is being hit hard, no question, but the rest of the province is still in the woods, too.

Update on the three new cases from Monday

We’ve heard from the province with clarification about where Monday’s three announced cases occurred. Only one was a Northwood resident. The other two cases have no connection to long-term care facilities. With the majority of Monday’s cases happening in the wider community, COVID-19 is clearly not limited to people who live in nursing homes.

Monday, May 18

What we learned about COVID-19 on Sunday

In case you were thinking Nova Scotia’s COVID crisis is limited to people who live at Northwood nursing home, think again.

The province reported three new cases yesterday (as there were coincidentally three Saturday and three today). And as usual the press release announcement did not break down that number into cases at Northwood, cases at other long-term care facilities and cases in the wider Nova Scotia community. But instead of doing the usual thing of just reporting the number, yesterday we asked for, and today received, the breakdown.

Two of Sunday’s three new cases were at Northwood—one staff member and one resident. The third case was in the wider community, not connected to a long-term-care facility.

The disease's pace is slowing, but it is still spreading.

No holiday for the coronavirus

Happy Victoria Day (observed). Also happy All-days-are-the-same-now Day, if that’s more your thing. And happy Essential-workers-still-gotta-work Day for everybody in that boat.

You’ll all be a little frustrated to know COVID-19 doesn’t care about holidays: The province just reported three new cases have been diagnosed. Happily nobody else has died from the disease today.

"The lower case numbers we have seen over the last few days is encouraging, but it doesn't mean we can let our guards down just yet," said top doc Robert Strang via provincial press release. "It is just as important now as ever to stay vigilant, follow public health advice and continue working to keep case numbers low."

Strang’s next scheduled briefing is tomorrow, and we do hope he’s gotten a break over the long weekend.

We’ve asked the province to break down today’s case numbers to find out if any of the three are at Northwood, and will update when we find out.


The collection of news updates from the May 11 week is here.

May 4 week is here.

April 27 week is here.

April 20 week is here.

April 13 week is here.

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