146 new cases and better Coast data delivery May 3

Our map and case table have improved on Monday, but Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 numbers still suck.

First thing this morning, there was good news from the province. "People Aged 50 to 54 Now Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccines; First Drive-Thru Clinic," reads the title of a press release at 8:58am. That title pretty much explains it: Another age group—the roughly 68,000 Nova Scotians from 50 to 54 years old—is now eligible for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, and a week from today at Dartmouth General Hospital the province will debut drive-thru vaccinations.

Monday, May 3, 2021

New cases
146

New recoveries
25

Active cases
943

Days in a row with cases
35

Total cases in Nova Scotia during pandemic
2,854

But any joy inspired by the idea of car-based inoculation—or "auto-immunity" if you want to make a doctor groan—was destined to be short-lived. Monday is the sixth day of the province-wide lockdown; and it comes after two days of the highest daily counts of new COVID-19 cases the east coast has seen during the pandemic; and the province is still working through the massive backlog of C19 tests that doubtless played a role in those high case tallies; and it's a Monday. Sure enough, the next provincial press release, four hours and seven minutes later, drove the happy thoughts away.

"Nova Scotia is reporting 146 new cases of COVID-19 today, May 3," says the release. That's the province's second-highest daily total, after the 148 cases reported Saturday. "There are 130 cases in Central Zone, nine in Eastern Zone, four in Northern Zone and three in Western Zone."

Hospitalizations have been steadily rising over the last couple weeks, and they've gone up again today. They actually went up twice today—once in this morning's report, and then they increased again when Strankin updated the numbers at this afternoon's C19 briefing. The figure from the briefing is 42 people in hospital (up from 34 in yesterday's report), with eight of those patients in intensive care (up from six in the ICU Sunday).

Only 25 people with the disease recovered since yesterday, nowhere near enough to offset the 146 new cases, so Nova Scotia now has 943 active cases, the latest record high. Most of those are in the Central zone, and inside the Central zone the Dartmouth community health network leads with 345 active cases, followed by Halifax at 287 and the Bedford-Sackville network with 77.

Central zone also has another 84 active cases that are not connected to a community health network—each of these cases will remain unassigned to a network until the public health department attaches a postal code to the patient's file in the Panorama public health tracking system. By popular demand our table at the bottom of this story that shows the new, closed (recovered) and active cases in the zones and networks has been updated today, to make clear how many cases are unassigned.

We've also improved the naming of the health networks to reflect that these are relatively large areas, even if they are small parts of the bigger health zone. For example, in the Western zone there's a health network covering the western tip of the province, a range that includes the towns of Shelburne, Yarmouth and Digby, Aiming for simplicity, our table used to call the network "Yarmouth," but that caused confusion about whether all that network's active cases—there are six today—are in the town of Yarmouth, or are located somewhere in a region called Yarmouth. Now that region is called "Yarmouth/Shelburne/Digby" in the table, and all we know for sure is that six infected people gave public health a postal code that connects someplace in the region.

But there's only so much that names in a chart can do to explain these community health networks. What's really needed is a map. So we made one. It's at the top of the page, in the same place our map of the province's cases has been running for hundreds of days straight. You might have seen the old map so many times that you didn't even notice the new one, but it is totally new, and interactive.

The old Coast map showed Nova Scotia's four health zones; the province started reporting COVID numbers broken out by zone around the start of April, 2020, three weeks into the pandemic. The new Coast map shows the 14 community health networks; the province began providing numbers at the network level when its improved data dashboard went live a few months ago, on January 20, 2021.

Our old map used four simple colours—red, yellow, green and blue—to indicate how recently a zone had reported a new case; the map's featured a lot of red lately. The new map has a scale that goes from a light cream through blue to dark red, to give a "heat map" view of how many active cases are in each network. Dartmouth, Halifax and Bedford are dark red; the cream-coloured Cumberland network, which includes the town of Amherst, has no active cases.

And the only other information our old map gave about the zones was the number of new cases that day, and the cumulative total cases in each zone since the start of the pandemic, infections from the first and second waves adding to our current third wave to obscure any useful context. The new map fixes all that—hover and/or click on a network to get an information box with the day's new, recovered and active cases.

During the current outbreak, more and more readers are contacting The Coast to say how much they appreciate these "data visualization" tools like maps and tables. When day-to-day life gets this scary and confusing, we're hearing that it's useful for vital information to be easily accessible and understandable. Useful, but rare.

Even the province's map of community health networks doesn't say how many new cases each network has that day, or how many people recovered there, and it doesn't use colour to help convey any information. We log the provincial data and analyze it across different days to calculate these numbers, then we work to present them accurately and effectively. This is part of The Coast's journalistic mission, and The Coast is committed to providing—and slowly but surely improving—this service. If you have questions or comments or suggestions about the new map and table, or there's some information you'd love to get graphically, please let us know. Comment here or on social media, or reply to one of our email newsletters. But first check out the new table, just below.

About The Author

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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