Update Thursday, October 8: When this story was published yesterday, the then-current national COVID-19 numbers showed a record high of 24,640 cases diagnosed in the west of Canada over the past 14 days. Today we are sad to report that the latest numbers are pushing the record even higher, to 25,335 cases in two weeks. This is a real-life nightmare, unfolding in realtime.
Nova Scotia is preparing for COVID-19 disaster. Premier Stephen McNeil just announced the province is radically gearing up testing capacity. At the same briefing yesterday, top doc Robert Strang urged people to keep up the fight by following the public health rules about group gatherings, physical distancing and masking, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend. "Now is not the time to be relaxing and becoming complacent around COVID," Strang warned.
But cases are few and far between in the east coast provinces. Travel restrictions for people coming into the Atlantic bubble are working; Nova Scotia is happy to welcome visitors from anywhere in the world, as long as they do the mandatory two-week quarantine on arrival to keep the disease out of the community. Students are back at school, sports are on, restaurants are open. Now seems like exactly the time to relax and enjoy the benefits of being virtually C19-free, so what’s with the tough talk from McNeil and Strang? The rest of Canada is what.
Outside the North—where no territory has had a diagnosed case of community spread in months—and the east, the dreaded second wave has arrived. And as feared, it’s worse than the original.
Sunday, May 3, was the height of the first outbreak, as the above graph shows. The six provinces west of us had diagnosed 24,116 cases in the two weeks up to and including that Sunday. (That’s the “rolling 14-day total,” a statistic useful for giving a “robust sense for the trends” during a full C19 infection cycle.)
After peaking at 24,116 cases, things started getting better in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. Two months later, on July 9, the 14-day total was just 4,170 cases.
It was this during this drop in infections that premier McNeil started talking about dropping Nova Scotia’s quarantine rule and fully opening to the rest of Canada. However, the disease had other ideas. July 9 was a low point, but that was thousands of cases away from the rock bottom witnessed in Atlantic Canada and the North.
C19 simmered through the summer in the other provinces, then took off at the start of September in a rising infection curve familiar from the terrifying early days of the pandemic. The rolling 14-day total climbed and climbed, past 10,000 cases and 15,000 cases and 20,000 cases. Tuesday, October 6 it reached its highest point in Canada’s COVID-19 history: 24,640 cases.
The second wave is real, and it’s a tragedy that Nova Scotia is desperate to avoid. McNeil even walked back his interest in opening to the rest of Canada, promising it wouldn’t happen “any time soon” during his briefing with Strang.
“I'm certainly concerned with what I'm seeing in parts of the country,” McNeil said. “We are watching case numbers climb daily—it happens fast, and it's hard to control after it takes place. We don't want that to happen here and if you think it can't, think again.”