Jump to sections in this article:
Overview of today’s cases
“A tough situation”
Vaccination
Demographics
Testing
Potential exposure advisories

Nova Scotia announced 394 new cases of COVID-19 today, Thursday, Dec. 16.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases break down as:
• 295 Central
• 54 Eastern
• 27 Northern
• 18 Western

The graph above shows the weekly (Sat-Fri) number of new cases for the duration of the pandemic.

There are now seven people in hospital with the disease, two of whom are in ICU.

The graph below shows the number of people in hospital and in ICU on Fridays for the duration of the pandemic.

There were 16 school-connected case notifications issued yesterday (see the list in the “Potential exposure advisories” section below).

Because of the backlog in data gathering by Public Health, I don’t have active case or recovery numbers, but as I see it, those aren’t so important — active cases are self-isolating and so aren’t a threat to anyone else, and “recovery” only means they’re no longer contagious and not necessarily that they’re, er, recovered.


“A tough situation”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID briefing, Dec. 17, 20120. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

“We’re in a tough situation and will be for a while,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang. “We’re in the midst of an Omicron wave and there are still also cases of the Delta variant. The case numbers likely aren’t reflective of just how much disease we have — Omicron is spreading faster and easier than any other variant. Thankfully, what we’re seeing so far and elsewhere in Canada is relatively mild disease. We’ve only had two new hospitalizations so far, despite the high number of cases.”

Despite that, Strang admitted the Public Health system is overwhelmed:

Omicron is pushing us to our limits. Public Health reached capacity several days ago, and now our testing program and the lab have also reached capacity. The assessment centres are again running seven days a week and the lab has suspended some other types of routine testing.

It’s still not enough. We are past the point of full control of this variant.

We need to change how we manage and respond. We need to focus much more on severe illness and less on the overall numbers of cases and infections. There is going to be a lot of COVID and a lot of spread. It is inevitable.

But we can limit the impact of Omicron by focusing our resources in the health system on limiting severe disease. And that means directing, testing, and getting vaccine to those who are most vulnerable and most at risk.

As long as we have limited amounts of severe illness, we can be more comfortable with high cases and a fair degree of community spread.

We’re planning now and we’ll have more details to share next week, but I can tell you today that it will mean changes to who and how we test. Just like we have already shifted the way cases and our contacts are managed, we also need the help of every Nova Scotian. It’s going to mean many of you who are positive will have to self-manage your case without hands-on support from Public Health. Right now, the best we can do is to make initial contact and make sure you have the information you need to protect yourself and others.

It’s not ideal, and I don’t want Nova Scotians to think that we’re giving up on them or we’re giving in to COVID. We haven’t. We are changing our response to deal with Omicron. If you know you have COVID, we need you to identify and notify all of your close contacts.

Strang added that there will soon be a change in who can access the rapid testing kits.

Strang said an announcement about further changes will be made next week.

Also at the briefing, Premier Tim Houston said that summary offence tickets have been issued to Saint Francis Xavier University and to the StFX student union for failing to comply with masking requirements in the Public Health orders. Each ticket carries a fine of $11,622.50.

When the outbreak first was identified, Houston blamed unspecified “unsanctioned gatherings” — private parties — for violating the Public Health rules. But no individual party host has been fined, while there are scores of potential exposure advisories at Antigonish bars and restaurants. On the surface anyway, it appears that ring ceremony partying happened mainly at the pubs, and not at private homes in violation of the health orders.


Vaccination

Yesterday, 9,332 doses of vaccine were administered:
• 1,762 first doses
• 363 second doses
• 7,207 third doses

In total, there have been 1,708,855 doses of vaccine administered, which break down as:
• 60,261 people with only the first dose
• 718,461 people with the second dose but not the third
• 73,668 people with three doses

By end of day yesterday, 88.5% of the entire population (including babies, toddlers, etc.) have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 82.4% have received at least two doses.

The graph above shows the vaccination progress as captured on Fridays through the pandemic. The yellow line is people with at least one dose of vaccine The blue line is people with only one dose. The green line is people with only two doses. The grey line is people with three doses. The red line is 80% of the population.

From Dec. 10-16, there were 528 new cases of COVID. Of those:
• 361 were fully vaccinated, a rate of 45.7 per 100K fully vaccinated
• 7 were partially vaccinated, a rate of 14.0 per 100K partially vaccinated
• 160 were unvaccinated, a rate of 122.7 per 100K unvaccinated

As the stats above show, while cases among “fully vaccinated” people (especially students) were expected to be high, even with those high numbers unvaccinated people were still more than two-and-a-half times likely to get the disease. (Also, I get that “fully vaccinated” misses the need for a third shot, and I’ll work on a better way of phrasing that.)

For the same period, Dec. 10-16, no one in Nova Scotia was newly hospitalized with the disease, and no one died from it. (There was a new hospitalization announced today that will presumably show up in next week’s recap.)

Vaccination appointments for people 5 years of age and older can be booked here.

There are drop-in (no appointment necessary) vaccination clinics for anyone 5 years old or older to get their first or second dose at a number of sites in the Northern Zone:

Wallace Community Centre, 13938 Route 6, Wallace
• Monday, Dec. 20 from 12 p.m. (noon) to 4 p.m.

Upper Stewiacke Fire Hall, 5336 Highway 289, Upper Stewiacke
• Tuesday, Dec. 21 from 12 p.m. (noon) to 4 p.m.

Oxford Fire Hall, 107 Waverly Street, Oxford
• Wednesday, Dec. 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Debert Fire Hall, 34 Carter Road, Debert
• Thursday, Dec. 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

People in rural areas who need transportation to a vaccination appointment should contact Rural Rides, which will get you there and back home for just $5. You need to book the ride 24 hours ahead of time.


Demographics

Again, because of the backlog, only 149 new cases have been entered into the provincial COVID dashboard (this underreports the total). Those cases by age cohort:
• 23 aged 0-11
• 15 aged 12-19
• 73 aged 20-39
• 32 aged 40-59
• 6 aged 60-79
• 0 aged 80+

The active cases across the province (as reported on the dashboard, not as announced) are distributed as follows:

Central Zone
• 157 in the Halifax Peninsula/Chebucto Community Health Network
• 42 in the Dartmouth/Southeastern Community Health Network
• 99 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network
• 0 in the Eastern Shore/Musquodoboit Community Health Network
• 4 in the West Hants Community Health Network
• 62 not assigned to a Community Health Network
Total: 364

Eastern Zone
• 11 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network
• 4 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network
• 195 in the Antigonish & Guysborough Community Health Network
Total: 212

Northern Zone
• 12 in the Colchester/East Hants Community Health Network
• 19 in the Pictou Community Health Network
• 7 in the Cumberland Community Health Network
Total: 38

Western Zone
• 11 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network
• 2 in the Lunenburg & Queens Community Health Network
• 7 in the Yarmouth, Shelburne & Digby Community Health Network
Total: 20


Testing

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 7,585 tests yesterday. This does not include the antigen tests administered at the pop-up testing sites.

Self-testing kits are now available at libraries throughout the province. The kits come in packs of five, and there’s a limit of one pack per person. Call your library to see if they have them before going there.

Additionally, pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites (take-home tests are also available at these sites):

Saturday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm

Sunday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-4pm

You can volunteer to work at the pop-up testing sites here or here. No medical experience is necessary.

You can also get PCR testing at the Nova Scotia Health labs by going here. Appointments can be made for the IWK, or for various locations in each of the health zones (appointments may not be available at each site).


Potential exposure advisories

There were school-connected case notifications issued yesterday for 16 schools:
• Evangeline Middle School, New Minas
• Hants East Rural High School, Milford
• Atlantic Memorial Terence Bay Elementary, Shad Bay
• Bay View High School, Upper Tantallon
• Cavalier Drive School, Lower Sackville
• Charles P Allen High, Bedford
• Citadel High School, Halifax
• Dartmouth South Academy, Dartmouth
• Hammonds Plains Consolidated, Hammonds Plains
• Madeline Symonds Middle School, Hammonds Plains
• Millwood Elementary School, Lower Sackville
• Prospect Road Elementary, Hatchet Lake
• Sackville High, Lower Sackville
• Antigonish Education Centre, Antigonish
• Saint Andrew Junior School, Antigonish
• Strait Area Education and Recreation Centre (SAERC), Port Hawkesbury

Additionally there were many potential COVID exposure advisories, especially in Antigonish..

We’ve collected all the active advisories for potential COVID exposures on bus routes and flights here. I’ll be adding schools to the map tonight.

The updated potential COVID exposure advisory map is below. Blue school icons denote school-connected case notifications. Yellow caution signs are “precaution notifications” (fully vaccinated people need take no action beyond looking for symptoms and getting tested), and red coronavirus icons mean everyone must self-isolate and get tested. You can zoom in and click on the icons to get information about each site.

* As originally published, this article misstated the number of cases tied to StFX.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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