COVID cases, hospitalizations and news for Nova Scotia the week Feb 21-27 | COVID-19 | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

COVID cases, hospitalizations and news for Nova Scotia the week Feb 21-27

The charts and information we can provide while NS rides out 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

Saturday and Sunday, February 26 and 27

With Nova Scotia getting ready to scale back COVID updates from daily to weekly—next week will feature the last of the dailies!—someone in government probably thought it would be good to start getting people used to the idea by ending the weekend reporting that became a feature of the omicron surge. Lately the Saturday and Sunday reports have not had much information, but compared to the abject nothingness we are suddenly faced with this weekend, they were loaded with info. Or maybe that's just nostalgia talking. It's a wonderful development if the disease is slowing to the point where daily reports aren't useful; here's hoping we never need to get a weekend report about some rampaging coronavirus variant again.

Friday, February 25

After two days without death, today Nova Scotia has two deaths. The Friday provincial update is reporting a man and a woman are dead from COVID, both of them Eastern health authority zone residents in their 80s. The disease has now been officially implicated in the deaths of 191 Nova Scotians.

“I want to extend my condolences to the families and friends grieving the loss of their loved ones,” says premier Tim Houston in the daily report. “We must continue to work together by getting vaccinated, staying home if sick and following the public health protocols in place as we work our way through the reopening plan.”

As for new cases, there are 170 today, lower than the current 7-day average of 176 per day. And the number of patients in COVID-specific hospital units is down from 46 yesterday to 44 today, while the number of those who are in intensive care also fell—from 12 yesterday to 11 today.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the two Nova Scotians who passed away,” says Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health. “I continue to ask for people’s patience, understanding and co-operation. COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities. As we move to living with COVID, please continue to practise good hygiene, stay home if you are feeling unwell and get vaccinated whether it’s your first, second or booster dose.”

Thursday, February 24

For the second day in a row, Nova Scotia is not reporting any COVID deaths! Is this such a rare and wonderful occurrence that it requires an exclamation mark? Yes!! Yes, it is!!!

As for what the province is reporting in its Thursday pandemic update, there are only 187 new cases, which is below the 7-day average of 198 daily infections. The number of patients in hospital COVID units has dropped from 49 yesterday to 46 total (that's good), although at the same time the number of those patients in the ICU rose from 11 to 12 (not so good).

There are now 350 people hospitalized with COVID in various states of severity (our graph below explains those states), down slightly from 352 yesterday. And the province estimates there are 1,903 active cases of COVID in Nova Scotia, up slightly from yesterday's caseload of 1,898 active cases.

Wednesday, February 23

A daily COVID report without a new death is a good report. And we're thrilled to tell you today the province put out a good report.

This is only the third regular reporting day in the last month—not including holidays or the abbreviated weekend reports—without a death announcement. Going back to January 23, only Wednesday Feb 23, last Friday Feb 18 and Tuesday Feb 8 had no deaths. Between the rest of the days, there were 61 Nova Scotians who died from COVID-related causes, and a total of 78 deaths since the start of 2022.

Why are we talking about death so much on one of the rare days when COVID didn't kill anybody? Because today is also the day premier Tim Houston and Doctor Strang sat at the front of one of their webcast COVID briefings and informed the world that Nova Scotia is on the fast track to maximum pandemic reopening: No masks, no limits no proof of vaccine as our story puts it, starting in less than a month on March 21.

The idea that freedom could come so soon, when death feels so close, takes some getting used to.

Premier Houston seems to understand, as he launched the briefing by announcing that all COVID restrictions “will be gone,” then leaned right into the tension. “I know as much as this is the news so many have been waiting for, there are many, many others who will be extremely nervous by that news. But no matter the emotions you are experiencing right now, we can all agree, this has been a long, long run.”

Houston went on to talk about the ups and downs Nova Scotia has endured through the pandemic, and singled out Doctor Strang—that “one person who made Nova Scotia a real leader in pandemic response”—for thanks. However, this was not a COVID-is-over victory lap.

“COVID zero is not a reality. Certainly not right now. Someday hopefully, maybe it will be, but it's not right now,” Houston said. “Living with COVID—that's the reality that has to become our new reality. And I know and I respect that that is a scary thought for some Nova Scotians.”

The premier reiterated that he takes advice from public health on what the disease is doing, and how Nova Scotia should respond, and the advice says if the epidemiology stays on its current course, we will be able to reopen fully on Monday, March 21. “Between now and then, restrictions will methodically fall away,” Houston said. “There comes a point in time where the benefit of the restrictions is outweighed by the impact of those restrictions, particularly on our children, on our seniors, on our collective mental well-being. We've reached that point.

“We've always said we would follow the science, and the science is saying we're ready. There will be some that say it's not fast enough, others will say it's too fast. But the reality is that the pace we are moving, and the pace we will move over the next month, is right for our situation in our province.”

The day has more COVID information, albeit the mundane stuff. The number of COVID hospitalizations in Nova Scotia is unchanged from yesterday's total of 352 patients, but in positive news the number of severe cases being treated in specialized COVID units is down from 53 yesterday to 49 today. (The last time that figure was below 50 patients was January 9.)

There are 200 new infections being announced today, just below the current 7-day average of 206 daily cases. And the province estimates there are 1,898 people with active COVID cases in Nova Scotia. Today and yesterday are the first days in 2022 when the (estimated) caseload has been below 2,000. Nova Scotia's active caseload is estimated to have peaked—for both our current fourth wave and the whole pandemic—at 6,906 active cases 44 days ago on January 10.

Tuesday, February 22

In its first COVID report of the week, the province announces three disease-related deaths. The province describes them as:
• a man in his 60s in Central Zone
• a woman in her 70s in Central Zone
• a man in his 90s in Northern Zone

With these three people who died, Nova Scotia has officially lost 189 people to the pandemic. And the recent surge of deaths is the clearly worst the province has experienced.

As the graph of deaths lower down this page shows, in the first wave back in 2020, the province's first COVID fatality was announced on April 7; after that, deaths rose rapidly for several weeks, then slowed down. On June 7, two months after the first death, the curve was essentially flattened at 61 deaths. Over the next 11 months—nearly a year!—from June 7, 2020 through the fall 2020 second wave and on to May 7, 2021 there were only nine deaths, taking the province to 70 deaths total.

After May 7, in the rising third wave of infections, there was a corresponding increase in deaths. But it was a smaller surge than in the first wave, with 22 deaths in the two months from May 7 to July 7 as Nova Scotia went from 70 total deaths to 92.

From July through December 2021, Nova Scotia's death toll rose by 19 people, from 92 total deaths to 111. Then came 2022 and our current situation, a deadly spike arriving just behind the omicron-fuelled fourth wave of infections.

From January 1 to now, there have already been 78 deaths, and the graph shows no sign of flattening. In the first wave and the third wave, surges of death climbed then flattened in two months. If the surge we're in now is going to slow down in time to match the two-month pattern, it will have to hurry up and do it.

In other COVID news, Nova Scotia is reporting 263 new infections and an estimated caseload of 1,858 active cases—the (estimated) lowest since there were 1,641 cases on December 17. The total number of COVID patients in hospital is down from 366 on Sunday to 352 today, with only 53 of those patients being in designated COVID units. (Our graph of hospitalizations explains the various categories of pandemic patient.) The last time we had fewer people in COVID units was January 7, when there were 48, and between now and then that number peaked at 102 patients.

Despite all our talk of death, and the province's very real announcements of deaths, this omicron wave might just be threatening to subside.

Monday, February 21

Thanks to today's Heritage Day provincial holiday—not to be confused with the "Family Day" nonsense going on in several other provinces—Nova Scotia is not doing any COVID reporting. So whether or not you get Heritage Day off at your job, you definitely get a break from the pandemic.

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 February 14-20, 2022.

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