COVID keeps rising in Nova Scotia while pandemic info from the province is falling | COVID-19 | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
COVID is taking flight in Nova Scotia, where deaths are up, hospitalizations are up and the daily average number of new cases is up.

COVID keeps rising in Nova Scotia while pandemic info from the province is falling

With 1,152 cases reported per day on average, NS reaches its new record high.

The last time Nova Scotia issued its weekly COVID update, we discussed the two big things the report revealed. First, infections are up to the highest level of the whole pandemic. Second, it's hard to make good comparisons of disease data when the province switches around the way it reports information. That was for the April 7 report.

Now the April 14 report is out, and it's telling the exact same stories: Infections are up—again—to set a new pandemic high, and the province is making comparisons difficult—in a whole new way—by playing around with the numbers. It's almost like the worse the COVID facts are, the harder the government works to try and hide them.

The twist in the numbers this time out is the weekly report only covers six days, from April 6-11, instead of the standard seven days you've come to expect in a week. This is allegedly a one-time change to get the province on a schedule of reporting for a weekly period that ends on Mondays instead of Tuesdays.

"This adjustment allows public health’s data and surveillance team more time to collect, validate and analyze information," the report says. "The release will continue to be distributed on Thursdays." Unsaid is that it also gives more time for government to figure out how to spin surging disease numbers in order to avoid reinstating tried-and-true methods that block disease transmission, such as a mask mandate and/or distancing rules.

A six-day report also makes the numbers announced April 14 different from all the other numbers reported throughout the pandemic, which are mostly either daily or weekly. The April 7 report had 6,991 new infections for the week; on April 14 there were 6,912 new cases in six days. So on this graph, of the total reported every Thursday, it looks like infections dropped.

But looking at the average number of new cases reported every day, it's clear infections are still going up. This graph shows the daily average rising for five straight weeks:  from the 239 cases per day March 10, through 999 per day April 7, to the April 14 new record of 1,152 COVID cases reported every day in Nova Scotia.

And don't forget these are just the cases that get reported to, or diagnosed by, the province. People who get a positive result from a self-administered rapid test are encouraged but not required to officially register their infections.

Deaths are also up this week, as this graph shows.

After three weeks of the death count falling, the April 14 upturn to the reported 14 deaths is particularly awful to witness. But again, that is 14 people dying of COVID in just six days, more than two deaths per day. At that rate there would be 16 deaths in a full week, making this one of the four deadliest weeks of Nova Scotia's entire pandemic.

Finally we turn to hospitalizations, visualized on this graph.

Here, too, the numbers are up from April 7 to April 14, although it takes effort to figure out. The problem isn't that the data is obscured by the unusual six-day reporting period; it's that the April 14 report simply doesn't bother giving the data.

This is the number-rich chunk of the April 14 report, copied and pasted verbatim.

For the six-day period ending April 11:
• there were 6,912 positive PCR tests performed at the lab
• there were 72 new hospital admissions due to COVID-19
• there were 14 COVID-19 deaths reported in Panorama, public health’s disease information system
• the median age of COVID-19 reported deaths since the start of the Omicron wave is 80
• the median length of a COVID-19 hospital stay is 6.8 days.
As of April 14, 64.2 per cent of Nova Scotians 18 and older have received a booster dose.

And here's the same part of the April 7 report, verbatim but with bolding added to indicate what information is not given April 14.

For the one-week period ending April 6:
• there were 6,991 positive PCR tests performed at the lab
• there were 61 new hospital admissions due to COVID-19 and 32 discharges
• as of April 6, there were 57 people in hospital for COVID-19, with a median age of 72
• of the current hospitalizations, 15.8 per cent of people are unvaccinated or have had one dose of vaccine

• there were eight COVID-19 deaths reported in Panorama, public health’s disease information system, during this period
• the median age of COVID-19 reported deaths since the start of the Omicron wave (December 8, 2021) is 79, and 27.2 per cent of people were unvaccinated or had one dose of vaccine
• as of April 6, 87.5 per cent of Nova Scotians had two or more doses of COVID-19 vaccine, 4.9 per cent had one dose, and 7.6 per cent were unvaccinated.

April 14 added information about the population with booster shots of vaccine—which will doubtless prove vital in the months and years ahead—and the typical length of COVID-related hospital stays (meh). But it loses the number of patients who recovered from their hospital stay and avoids saying how many COVID patients are currently in hospital. It doesn't bother with the typical age of hospital patients, and it apparently doesn't care about anything to do with vaccinations except for that booster dose stat.

The province already cut back on its information sharing from daily reports to a weekly report. Now it's whittling back the info from one weekly report to the next. Luckily Nova Scotia still has its wonderful data dashboard, which provides information the report doesn't, allowing us to update our graphs when the report was lacking. In this case, for example, the dashboard plainly states there are 59 COVID patients in hospital, a quarter of them with either one or zero doses of vaccine.

The good news is that as long as that dashboard is running, the public will have a relatively full understanding of Nova Scotia's pandemic status. The bad news is it's about to be turned off. "The COVID-19 dashboard, active since January 2021, will be updated weekly until the end of April, at which point it will be archived," the April 14 report says. That's less than two weeks away, even if you count with six-day weeks.

Kyle Shaw

Kyle is the editor of The Coast. He was a founding member of the newspaper in 1993 and was the paper’s first publisher. Kyle occasionally teaches creative nonfiction writing (think magazine-style #longreads) and copy editing at the University of King’s College School of Journalism.
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