a man gesturing in front of Nova Scotia flags
Premier Tim Houston at the COVID briefing, Feb. 23, 2022. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

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Restrictions to end/a>
Overview of today’s numbers
Vaccination
Testing

The remaining COVID restrictions in Nova Scotia will be eased starting next week and ended entirely on March 21, Premier Tim Houston announced today.

“There comes a point in time where the benefit of the restrictions is outweighed by the impact of those restrictions, particularly on our children, on our seniors and on our collective mental well-being,” said Houston. “We’ve reached that point.

On Monday, February 28, proof of full vaccination will no longer be required for “non-essential, discretionary events and activities” such as going to restaurants, bars, and gyms, and participating in sports. Proof of vaccination will still be required for health care settings.

The following week, on March 7, restrictions will be further eased, as detailed in this press release.

Also on March 7, COVID reporting will become weekly, rather than daily. And today’s COVID briefing may have been the last, said Houston.

“A week and a half into our reopening, key indicators continue to trend in the right direction,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang.
“Vaccine coverage is still going up as children in the five to 12 age group get their second doses and more people receive their booster doses, and our lab confirmed case numbers continue to go downwards. Outbreaks in group settings like long-term care and more vulnerable communities are coming to an end. There are now more people being discharged from hospital than are being admitted with COVID 19, which means fewer people in hospital overall due to COVID.”

I asked Strang about COVID deaths; our exchange:

Bousquet: Dr. Strang, I wonder if you could just speak a little bit to the COVID deaths we’re still experiencing and put that in some sort of context. I think last time we had numbers is probably a month ago or so, and you said something like 30% of the people who died were unvaccinated. Has that percentage changed? And is it the fact that because we’re so highly vaccinated in Nova Scotia, necessarily a greater percentage of the people dying are vaccinated, but the total number of deaths is lower compared to elsewhere?

Strang: Less than 7% of our population who are eligible to be vaccinated are unvaccinated, but they are still representing about a third of deaths. So there’s a disproportionate impact on both severe disease and death of those who are unvaccinated. And that is consistent. There’s national data, the same thing. But what we’re seeing in deaths now, we have to remember that  deaths are reflective of the disease activity several weeks ago because there’s a time lag between people getting infected and then getting severely ill and hospitalized and dying. There were a lot of questions recently about, ‘well, how can you do this when there’s such a high death rate?’ But those deaths are not reflective of what’s currently going on, and we are starting to see the death rate go down. So I don’t know if I’m answering your question, but there still is this very disproportionate impact on on severe disease and death for those who remain unvaccinated.

I also asked Houston about what COVID has taught us about resourcing hospitals:

Bousquet: Premieryou ran on a platform in large part on addressing health care issues. Not to put COVID entirely in the rearview mirror, but I think it showed that just a relatively small outbreak in Nova Scotia compared to elsewhere really stressed the hospital system. And it’s argued that had we had the hospital system we had two or three decades ago, that stressor wouldn’t have happened. How does that experience inform you about where we need to go with our health care expenditures and building our hospitals system into the future?

Houston: It’s it’s absolutely true that the significant weaknesses of our deficiencies of our health care system have been laid totally bare for everyone to see. Most Nova Scotians knew they existed and seen them in some way, shape or form, or heard about them, but they are extremely obvious to people now. So two things have been confirmed for me. One, we have incredible people working in health care. I mean, what they’ve dedicated to Nova Scotians and how they’ve stepped up is pretty remarkable. But it’s also given me more resolve to address the issues that we knew existed. So I think over over the next couple of weeks… certainly the COVID situation has consumed a lot of a lot of time and effort and focus, rightfully so. But there’s lots of issues to be focused on. So I think with the resumption of the Legislature and heading into the budget season, you’ll see a lot of talk on things that can and will be done in health care. We’ve made a lot of strides in certain areas, incremental changes that will have positive effects, but there’s a long way to go. And what I would say to two Nova Scotians is I’m even more committed right now than I was on August 17th. I know absolutely what what I need to do, and I will give everything I have to do.

Strang seemed to take the opening Houston left him to also argue for better funding for hospitals:

Strang: Certainly, COVID has exacerbated things. But as the premier’s talked about, [COVID hospitalizations] also reflected some long standing challenges in the health care system. So as a as a citizen of Nova Scotia, I am concerned that we need better surge capacity in our hospitals, whether it’s for the next pandemic, whether it’s the next bad flu season — as we talk about climate change and maybe heat emergencies and having a prolonged heat event, which could cause increases in hospitalizations. We need to invest in our health care system and have more flexibility and more surge capacity as vents that create health issues happen in communities.


Overview of today’s numbers

There were no new COVID deaths reported today.

The province reported a total of 352 people in hospital who either now have COVID or once did have COVID, as follows:
• 49 admitted because of COVID symptoms, 11 of whom are in ICU. Those 49 range in age from 18 to 96 years old, and their median age is 65;
• 125 admitted to hospital for other reasons but who tested positive for COVID during the admissions screening or who were admitted for COVID but no longer require specialized care;
• 178 who contracted COVID in the hospital outbreaks

The 49 people now hospitalized because of COVID have the following vaccination status:
• 13 (26.5%) have had 3 doses
• 22 (44.9% have had 2 doses but not 3
• 1 (2.0%) has had 1 dose only
• 13 (26.5%) are unvaccinated
Note that less than 8% of the population is unvaccinated.

Additionally, there are 200 new cases reported yesterday. The new cases are people who received a positive PCR test result from a Nova Scotia Health lab; it does not include people who tested positive using a take-home rapid (antigen) test.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases break down as:
• 63 Central
• 52 Eastern
• 39 Northern
• 46 Western

Based on PCR testing, Public Health estimates that there are 1,898 active cases in the province; the actual number is undoubtedly much higher.


Vaccination

Yesterday, 2,133 doses of vaccine were administered:
• 126 first doses
• 743 second doses
• 1,264 third doses

In total, 2,206,101 doses have been administered:
• 882,381 first doses
• 827,730 second doses
• 495,990 third doses

By the end of day yesterday, 92.1% of the entire population have received at least one dose of vaccine:
• 5.7% with 1 dose only
• 35.2% with 2 doses but not 3
• 51.2% with 3 doses
• 7.9% unvaccinated

Appointments for boosters are now open to people 18 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 1,617 PCR tests yesterday, with a positivity rate of 12.4%.

If you test positive with a rapid (antigen) test, you are assumed to definitely have COVID, and you and your household are to self-isolate as required.

Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Wednesday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm
Bridgetown Fire Hall, 11am-3pm
Windsor Legion, 11am-3pm

Thursday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Annapolis Royal Legion, 11am-3pm
Enfield Fire Hall, 11am-3pm
New Waterford Legion, 11am-3pm

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


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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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  1. Thank you Tim and the Halifax Examiner for your excellent reporting on the COVID epidemic.
    While I am a bit relieved about COVID restrictions being lifted. I find the Conservative justification for removing the masking requirements based on “personal responsibility” a bit disingenuous. COVID poses a risk not just to the unvaccinated, but also to the 3% of us who know we are immune compromised, to the others who may be immune compromised but are unaware of it, and to the large number of individuals who are over the age of 60. Masking is a relatively minor intrusion into one’s life and shows that individuals are willing to be personally responsible for others living in the same society because two masks protection for the vulnerable in the population.
    Here is a bit an outrageous analogy that makes the point. Suppose in the interest of personal freedom we allowed people to go out in public with a machine gun that shoots automatically depending on a computer program (which updates regularly without warning). The guns may be loaded with blanks or with live ammunition but, that is not completely within the control of the bearer of the weapon. To be “personally responsible” anyone who does not wish to be killed or maimed would either have to stay at home all the time or wear full body armour. The simpler and more responsible solution is to insist that all people who wish to go out in public with a machine gun have the gun locked the entire time that they are in public. The gun lock is a modest intrusion into their right to carry arms in public. Personal responsibility should be defined in terms of stepping up to the reasonable and minor measures imposed to protect all of society, not just the young, healthy individuals. Besides, COVID is and will evolve and this is not going to be the only pandemic that hitchhikes on our highly interconnected global economy. No one can predict who may ultimately become a target of such epidemics. Masking just makes sense.

  2. To those of us trying to protect vulnerable people in our life and our children under 5 this will make avoiding COVID a lot more difficult. We’re probably only months away from having information on when first shots can be given to kids under 5 so the timing of this is kind of shitty.

    A lot of kids born after last march have immunity through their mothers if they got the vaccine but the 1 to 5 year olds are in limbo still. The youngest of that group has grown up with almost no exposure to common pathogens apart from the regular schedule of vaccines so we have no idea how their immune systems will handle COVID or even infections in general when society goes back to the regular level of hygiene.