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Overview of today’s cases
Vaccination
Testing
Potential exposure advisories

Nova Scotia announced 511 new cases of COVID-19 today, Thursday, Dec. 30. That figure is based on PCR testing at Nova Scotia Health labs, and does not include those who test positive with take-home rapid tests.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases break down as:
• 331 Central
• 56 Eastern
• 59 Northern
• 65 Western

Nursing home outbreaks

There are four new nursing home outbreaks:
• Sagewood Continuing Care in Lower Sackville (four staff)
• Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre in Waterville (five staff and one resident)
• Melville Gardens in Halifax (four staff and one resident)
• New Vision in South Berwick (two residents — one of whom is in hospital)

Additionally, there is a new case in the ongoing outbreak of Parkstone Enhanced Care in Halifax, making a total of two residents and three staff who have tested positive. No one is in hospital.

Hospital outbreaks

There are two new hospital outbreaks:
• Victoria General (fewer than five patients)
• New Waterford Heights (fewer than five patients)

Additionally, there are three new cases in one of the Halifax Infirmary outbreaks (there are two wards at the Infirmary with outbreaks), making a total of nine patients testing positive in that ward.

There are now an estimated 5,106 active cases in the province; 25 people are in hospital with the disease, three of whom are in ICU.

At a COVID briefing today, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang clarified the hospitalization numbers:

The [hospitalization] number we have been reporting — and the number today, 25 — is based on people who were admitted to hospital because of the severity of their COVID infection. There are also other people who were maybe there because we test people when they come into hospital [and] they have been identified as being positive, but the reason for hospitalization wasn’t COVID. That number changes all the time. And also, we have some people who are now being exposed in the hospital [i.e, the hospital outbreaks above]. And again, those are numbers that change. We look at those numbers. But for me, from Public Health, the most important number and the one that we report publicly is out of all of our cases, how many people are ending up in hospital because of severe COVID infection? And so far, it’s very low. We’re probably less than 0.5% of the known cases [being hospitalized]. And if we assume that there’s a lot more cases that aren’t known, our percentage of hospitalization is even below that 0.5%.

Further, Strang said that soon, the daily case numbers will not be reported:

We’re looking at starting to move away from even reporting and counting daily cases, and we’re looking at trends. One of the things you can look at as well is our rolling seven-day average of cases, and starting to look at what is the trend over time? We’re certainly still doing seven, eight thousand PCR tests a day, which is more than adequate to be able to tell where we are at on the epidemic curve. Are we going up? Are we stable or are we going down? But it’s more important that we look at that with a longer period of time and not on a daily basis. And so we would have a good method to look at where we are on the epidemic curve. And as I’ve said previously, paying much more attention to the indicators of severe disease, which is people who are hospitalized or whether it’s a medical bed or an ICU bed, and really understanding those and what patterns of hospital admissions we’re seeing. That’s far more important than the daily case count now.


Vaccination

Yesterday, 8,704 doses of vaccine were administered:
• 917 first doses
• 317 second doses
• 7,470 third doses

In total, there have been 1,785,034 doses of vaccine administered, which break down as:
• 67,833 people with only the first dose
• 666,326 people with the second dose but not the third
• 128,183 people with three doses

At end of day yesterday, 88.8% of the entire population have received at least one dose of vaccine:
• 7.0% with one dose only
• 68.6% with two doses but not three
• 13.2% with three doses
• 11.2% unvaccinated

Today, the province announced that due to increased supply of vaccine being delivered by the federal government, the booster vaccination program will be expanded:

Starting next week, booking for booster doses will open to people age 30 and older. Appointments can be booked for at least 168 days after completing a primary series.

Pharmacies will continue to be key in delivering COVID-19 vaccine across the province. The following additions will take place over the next couple weeks, to expand capacity:

  • community vaccine clinic in Central zone starting January 6 at the Halifax Forum. Appointments will go live early next week. Additional clinics are being explored in other health zones
  • hybrid testing/vaccine clinics using existing Primary Assessment Centre locations in Northern, Eastern and Western Zones by mid-January. Testing and vaccine appointments will be provided at different times of day
  • drop-in mobile outreach clinics will also be deployed to increase vaccination capacity where needed.

Vaccine will also be delivered through a clinic at the IWK, through various physician clinics and to healthcare workers via Nova Scotia Health clinics.

Because of the expansion of the vaccination program, the province is asking for help from “anyone who is able to help administer vaccine, including existing and retired healthcare professionals.” Such people can go here to offer their services (as I read it, some of the work is paid, and some is volunteer).

For now, appointments for booster shots are now open to people 50 and over for whom 168 days have passed since their second shot.

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

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.


Testing

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 3,960 PCR tests yesterday, with a positivity rate of 12.9%. I realize everyone wants to know about the self-reporting of rapid test results, but I don’t have any info on that front.

The testing protocols have changed. Now, if you test positive with a rapid (antigen) test, you no longer will follow that up with a PCR test. Instead, you are assumed to definitely have COVID, and you and your household are to self-isolate as required.

But take-home rapid testing kits are no longer widely available.

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

Thursday, Dec. 30
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm

Friday, Dec. 31
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-4pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm
Chester Basin Volunteer Fire Department, 11am-5pm

Saturday, Jan. 1
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-4pm

The province has announced that more pop-up testing sites will be established across the province, with details to be announced this week.

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


Potential exposure advisories

School-connected case notifications have ended.

We’ve collected all the active advisories for potential COVID exposures on bus routes and flights here.

You can zoom in and click on the icons on the map below to get information about other sites.


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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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2 Comments

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  1. Not reporting daily cases when cases are very high? Come on. We would be the only province and one of the few countries in the world not to report daily cases. We can do our own trend calculations, thank you very much. It’s stuff like this that makes one use lose trust in these people. They are withholding easily reportable data.

    On the other hand it is good to see more emphasis on masks. Vaccines, boosters, isolating, distancing, gathering limits etc. are all great but it is probably masks that make the most difference with spread, if they are good masks. The South Asian countries like S Korea and Taiwan have probably done the best (China is best but their rules are Draconian and that wouldn’t work here). Do what they do.

    1. I agree. There is no shortage of people in NS who have Excel and the inclination to track covid with it. This helps keep everyone honest. Transparency has contributed to the relative success against the virus in NS. Let’s not abandon it now.