This week in Nova Scotia, the number of reported COVID cases is still on a downtrend. A total of 5,436 new cases were diagnosed by PCR testing between April 19 and 25, for an average of 777 per day. Compared to last week’s 1,072 cases per day, that’s a big drop, and a continuation of the decline from a peak of 1,152 new infections on average per day reported two weeks ago.
This decline, as shown on the following graph, is welcome news.
But some of the province’s other statistics don’t look as promising. This week there were 24 deaths reported, the most ever for a one-week period since the pandemic began. The week that comes closest to that is February 17, 2022, when 21 deaths were reported. Here is The Coast graph of Nova Scotia's COVID deaths, including the week back in May 2020 during the first wave when 16 people died, which had been the deadliest week until omicron arrived.
After we posted the latest fatality rate to Twitter, Andrew Burke pointed out 24 deaths means the disease "killed more Nova Scotians in the last week than the Mass Shooting of 2020." This is an impossibly grim statistic.
"Behind each of these 24 COVID-19 deaths is a family grieving an incalculable loss. It is those families and those loved ones that we should keep in mind," deputy chief medical officer of health Dr. Shelley Deeks said in the province's Thursday report. "That’s why we get vaccinated. That’s why we wear a mask. That’s why we stay home when we’re sick.”
According to that report, the province saw 91 new hospital admissions due to the disease over the past week, and according to the NS COVID data dashboard there are a total of 66 pandemic patients in hospital. Both numbers have risen from the 84 admissions and 64 in hospital last week. This graph tracks hospital admissions since the province started reporting that information in early 2022.
We've talked before about how the death rate and hospitalizations are "lagging indicators" compared to new infections, because the course of the disease that leads to the worst outcomes inevitably comes after—lags behind—the disease diagnosis. On April 8 The Coast pointed out "the steep rise in new infections we’re getting right now could lead to a rise in deaths in a few weeks." Unfortunately that's exactly what's happening now, as the joy of declining infections meets the nightmare of rising fatalities.
“I can’t tell you with certainty how long the increase in hospitalizations or deaths will occur, we can only tell that in retrospect,” said Deeks when speaking to reporters on Thursday about the information in the report. “You would see a lag of about two to three weeks” from the recent infection highs, she said.
In an interesting bit of nomenclature news, this week Nova Scotia officially divided the omicron wave into two separate waves, which become the “fifth” and “sixth” waves of COVID infections in the province's pandemic. The fifth wave lasted from December 8 until February 28, while the sixth wave began March 1 and is ongoing. Deeks says in late February, there was a “valley between two peaks,” that allowed for the separation of the waves.
You can track this valley on the above graphs. New infections hit a recent low with the Feb 24 report, the number of deaths dropped sharply in the same report, and hospital admissions were low across the Feb 24 and March 3 reports.
In terms of vaccinations, The province doesn’t differentiate between third and fourth booster doses yet in its reporting, because the percentage of fourth doses (which are open to those over age 70 who got their third dose 120+ days ago) is quite small. Deeks says to date, about 14,000 Nova Scotians have gotten a fourth dose, and as that number increases it will be reported separately from the third dose booster data.
With vaccinations ongoing and new infections declining, we may be on the way out of the sixth wave. But it’s still too early to know how many people will have COVID when the province isn’t in the midst of a wave.
“We don’t know what our baseline for this disease will be, because we’ve never really had a baseline, it’s a new infection,” Deeks says. “So we’re all learning about 'what does the transition to endemic mean in Nova Scotia, in Canada and globally?'”