The province reported the deaths of three Nova Scotians due to COVID-19 today, marking 25 reported deaths in the last two weeks. Chief medical officer of health Robert Strang said these deaths are "unfortunate," but he remains confident in Nova Scotia’s current public health protections.
“I don’t mean to diminish it at all. Those are 30 people, 30 families,” Doctor Strang said of those who died of COVID in January.
“But if you look at the many thousands and thousands of people infected…the case fatality rate is extremely low,” Strang said during Wednesday’s provincial COVID briefing. He was alongside premier Tim Houston, who began the virtual briefing with condolences to the families of the 16 Nova Scotians who died of COVID since the last press conference on Jan 19.
“We’ve suffered significant loss of life since our last COVID briefing,” Houston said.
There are currently 91 people in hospital due to COVID-19, though 312 people in Nova Scotia hospitals have tested positive for the virus. Of the 312 patients, there are 100 people who were admitted into hospital for unrelated reasons and tested positive upon arrival, and 121 people who contracted COVID while in the hospital.
There remains significant stress on hospitals and the health system, Houston said, due to the loss of staff out sick or isolating. Patients with COVID, even mild cases, also require additional care in hospital to prevent further spread.
Strang believes we have passed the peak of the omicron wave, but hospitalization numbers often lag a couple weeks behind infections, so hospitalizations are expected to remain high for a bit longer. This is why the province is extending its current COVID restrictions by two weeks.
On December 21, the province brought back rules to try and shut down omicron without going into a full lockdown. Those rules include limiting the maximum social gathering to 10 people, closing restaurant dining rooms at 11pm, and pausing sports and events. These restrictions were slated to last more than a month, ending January 31, but with today's two-week extension Nova Scotia will remain in its semi-lockdown until Feb 14.
Active case tally & booster shots
The province is reporting 4,250 estimated active cases of COVID, though this number does not include positive results from rapid tests.
“We’ve just started the support to report program for rapid test results…the reporting of rapid results is incomplete at best and there may be a lot of duplicates, the same person reporting and we don’t know the total population that they're reporting from, what we call the denominator,” Strang said when asked how much the active case number would change if rapid results were included.
“So there's a number of factors that you have to have some sophisticated epidemiology along with vaccination rates, hospitalization rates and lab results to make some estimate of the total number of Nova Scotians who may have been infected in the omicron wave.”
The province is on track to have administered 296,000 booster doses of COVID vaccine by the end of January, for 400,000 total. Strang said he doesn’t plan to make booster doses a part of the proof of vaccine policy because he doesn’t expect to keep that mandate around in the near future.
“When we look at how we start to incrementally lift our restrictions, that would include looking at when we might be able to do away with the vaccine policy as we enter into a phase of living with COVID,” Strang said.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to add to that [mandate] for a short period of time when we’re looking at moving away from that in the near future.”
Premier talks about trucker blockade
The premier said he’s aware of a plan for some truckers who oppose vaccine mandates to block the Trans-Canada highway at the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia border this weekend. Houston said his opinion on blockades is well-known.
“My message to anyone planning to blockade a highway: Don’t do it, just don’t do it,” Houston said. “Nova Scotians have no patience for highway blockades. Personally, many people would know, I have even less.”