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COVID cases and news for Nova Scotia on Tuesday, May 18

Updates including briefings, infections and our daily map of community COVID-19.

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NOTE: This day is now over. Click for the latest on COVID-19 from The Coast. Or for an informative look back at Nova Scotia's evolving pandemic response, keep on reading.

90 new infections as active cases sink below 1,400

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

New cases
90

New recoveries
180

New deaths
0

Active cases
1,355

Days in a row with cases
50

Total cases in Nova Scotia during pandemic
4,927

Total COVID deaths
72

Halifax’s lockdown
26 days

Nova Scotia’s lockdown
21 days

On day 21 of the province-wide lockdown, Nova Scotia is reporting 90 new COVID-19 cases. That feels like a lot of fresh infections for a place that's been locked down for three full weeks, but then again the disease is finding news ways to attack people where they live—see "COVID in an elevator," below.

And the humans are making progress. One hundred and eighty infected people recovered from COVID since yesterday's report (double the number of new cases today), so the caseload drops to 1,345 active cases. The last time we were below 1,400 was 12 days ago, on Thursday, May 6.

The new cases are unevenly distributed around the province, "64 cases in Central Zone, 17 in Eastern Zone, seven in Northern Zone and two in Western Zone," according to the province's Tuesday COVID report. Our map and table below break down the numbers into Nova Scotia's 14 community health networks to give more localized information. Neither of the Western zone's two new cases are in the community network that spans Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties, for example. And the Truro/Colchester network has so much more disease activity than the rest of the Northern zone, it has all the zone's Tuesday cases plus a case that was just moved out of Pictou County.

Hospitalizations continue to rise, continuing to put pressure on the healthcare system. (For the very latest example, tune in first thing Wednesday morning, here at thecoast.ca, for a story about the many COVID-related job openings Nova Scotia Health is trying to fill.) There are currently 103 patients in hospitals across the province, 25 of them in intensive care, up from the 95 in hospital and 21 in ICU reported yesterday.

The province says 6,216 tests were analyzed by the local lab yesterday—these are the relatively slow, highly accurate polymerase chain reaction tests, which were at the heart of the recent backlog—down from the recent average of more than 7,500 PCR tests per day. And 5,198 doses of vaccine were injected into Nova Scotian arms yesterday, another low number compared to the 15,000+ delivered last Wednesday. But Strang just said 72,000 vax appointments are already booked for this week, which would average out to about 10,000 injections per day, so maybe Monday's low performance will prove to be anomalously cruddy.


COVID in the community health networks

Our table logs data from Nova Scotia's official COVID-19 dashboard in order to provide this information. The province reports the number of active cases in each of the 14 community health networks, but The Coast does the math to be able to report the new and resolved case numbers. We also map the data to provide a different view of the case information.


Our map of COVID by community health networks

This map was created by The Coast using daily case data from Nova Scotia's official COVID-19 dashboard. Our goal is for this to be the best NS COVID map around, clearer and more informative than the province or any other media organization provides. To get there we do an analysis of the data to find the new and resolved case numbers in the 14 community health networks, information the province does not provide. For a different but still highly accessible approach to the latest COVID statistics, check out our case table.

The honour system for getting out of quarantine

The ongoing overwhelm of the health system just lead to another cutback, this time in the way public health deals with people who have been exposed to COVID by being a "close contact" of an infected person.

Close contacts have to quarantine for two weeks, as a way to limit potential spread of the disease while they wait to find out if they're going to develop an infection. At the end of two weeks, public health used to phone every close contact to make sure they'd tested negative and weren't showing signs of COVID. "This call would confirm that they can stop self-isolation and return to normal life, as long as they have no symptoms," Nova Scotia Health says in a Tuesday press release.

But the recent sharp increase in cases—and therefore close contact exposures—is proving too much for for the system. Citing "several thousand close contacts who have completed their self-isolation and are awaiting a call back," public health is officially stopping the calling policy. As of now, close contacts are allowed to let themselves out of quarantine if, to quote NSH verbatim:

• They have completed their full 14 days of self-isolation. Each person would have been given a self-isolation end date by Public Health (isolation ends at 11:59 p.m. on that date) AND
• They have completed all required testing AND
• They have not been re-exposed to COVID-19 AND
• They have no COVID-19 symptoms

Shifting close contacts to the honour system is intended to let public health "focus efforts on the investigation of new cases and their contacts," NSH says. Public health thanks close contacts in advance "for completing their self-isolation requirements and helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia."


COVID in an elevator

Last night the province's complete list of COVID exposure sites was updated with the latest warnings about infected people being in places like grocery and drug stores. The additions include the Walmart in Sydney and the Walmart 11 kilometres away in Sydney River—the exposure risk periods were most of the day Saturday and Friday afternoon respectively—reminding us of the province's concern that community spread might be happening in Sydney.

The new exposures list also includes what might just be the scariest of these warnings that's ever been issued: an elevator in Park Victoria Apartments, one of the largest apartment buildings in downtown Halifax. All sorts of shopping can be delayed or avoided if you want to cut down your exposure risk, but when the main way from your home to the outside world is an exposure site, you're pretty much screwed just for following public health advice to get outdoors a little bit.

The warning is issued for the entire last week, from the start of Tuesday, May 11 through the end of Monday, May 17. "It is anticipated that anyone who used the residential elevator at this location may have been exposed to the virus on the named dates and may develop symptoms up to, and including, May 31." Anyone who used the elevator—which is gonna be basically everyone in the building—is advised to get tested immediately.


Hospitals still stressed

“All aspects of our healthcare systems are being impacted by this outbreak,” Nova Scotia chief medical officer of health Robert Strang said last Wednesday, when announcing that the province had to activate its emergency plan to move intensive care patients from the Central zone to other regions, in order to free up ICU beds for more COVID patients in the Halifax area.

Now it's seven days later, and that pressure on healthcare has not relaxed. Nova Scotia Health put out a notice yesterday afternoon confirming that the "escalation plan for ICU" is still in place. And it added a new wrinkle Monday, extending the plan from ICU beds to all hospital beds in the province. "As part of this plan, any inpatient, regardless of reason for admission, may be transferred to another facility based on level of care needed and available bed capacity," NSH says.

"Additional service reductions, including postponement of non-urgent surgeries, both in Central and other zones, may continue to be required so staff with the appropriate expertise are available to provide the required inpatient and intensive care around the province."


Click here for yesterday's COVID-19 news roundup, for May 17, 2021.

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