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Nova Scotia now has over 500 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The province released estimates today based on models that show that if compliance with distancing measures and closures remain in place, Nova Scotia could expect to see nearly 1,500 people test positive by June 30. That’s the best-case scenario.

If people do not comply with the restrictive measures that are in place, those numbers more than triple and 6,269 people could be infected with COVID-19 by June 30. These are projections only and do not predict how many people might die because, as the Chief Medical Officer of Health noted, the mortality rate will depend on to what extent the virus gets into long-term care homes where people are most vulnerable.

Graph from province’s COVID-19 update, April 14.

Nova Scotia’s model demonstrates what a dramatic impact the lockdown that businesses and families are experiencing today could have on what hospitals will see in the next few weeks and months. If compliance to the restrictions continues to damp down the spread, the peak number of COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization would be 35. About one-third of those patients would land in the Intensive Care Unit. That’s manageable, according to Dr. Robert Strang, and would not overwhelm our Emergency rooms and paramedics.

“It’s the other scenario that scares me,” said Premier Stephen McNeil at today’s briefing. That’s the one where the current physical distancing and other restrictions no longer apply. Under that projection, the number of people being hospitalized at the peak of the pandemic rises to 85, with more than 30 severely ill people requiring admission to the ICU.

“If we go to doubling hospitalizations at the peak of the curve,” said Strang, “that is beyond the capacity of our healthcare system. Like other countries, Nova Scotia would be overwhelmed and that would put even more lives at risk.”

Strang was asked whether Nova Scotians should expect to see tight restrictions on where they can go and whether they can work continue until June 30, the end date of the model and projections.

“We are looking at May into June before we start relaxing things, in all likelihood,” replied Dr. Strang. “Although we will look at it week by week.”

The model does not estimate when the peak of the infection will hit. The numbers of new cases climbed by 43 today, partly as a result of record numbers of lab tests done yesterday — more than 1400. The total number of positive cases in Nova Scotia now sits at 517. Ten people have been hospitalized and four remain in Intensive Care.

There are two areas of very real concern, as highlighted by the Chief Medical Officer of Health in his presentation. Of the more than 500 COVID-positive people, Strang estimates 200 are currently in the East Dartmouth area. He did not further define the area which appears to include several large privately-owned nursing homes  in the Woodlawn and Cole Harbour areas as well as African-Nova Scotian communities off Highway 7.  The province has set up mobile testing centers in the North Preston Community Centre as well as in East Preston. Fourteen of the 43 newly reported cases Tuesday are in East Dartmouth.

Northwood’s long-term care facility in Halifax is also continuing to see more spread. Thirteen of today’s newly reported cases were at Northwood, where 26 residents and staff tested positive over the past five days. East Dartmouth and the Northwood nursing home are both experiencing outbreaks and Strang did not rule out a potential connection between the two.

“One of the challenges we have is in a number of our long-term care facilities in HRM, there are individuals — not just from those communities but that’s where the majority of our disease activity is — who work in long-term care or home-care across the HRM area,” Strang said. “But we are also seeing the same in other communities. The reality is people live somewhere. They work in a long-term care facility and they live in a community. So the more we can do to decrease community transmission, that’s critical for protecting our long-term facilities and protecting the very vulnerable people in those facilities.”

During the briefing, Strang said he was not able to provide a precise number for how many staff and residents in long-term care homes across Nova Scotia have currently tested positive for the virus. It’s unclear why that is so — given that nearly half the deaths across the country have occurred among the frail elderly — and the Chief Medical Officer committed to making better information available soon.

What we do know is the outbreak of COVID-positive cases is up to 39 at Northwood in Halifax. On its website for families and media, the Admiral Long Term Care facility in Dartmouth reports one former male resident died Monday from COVID-19. Ten staff and one other resident from Admiral have tested positive and are in isolation. The home is owned by the Gem Health Care Group.

At least two of the three COVID deaths in Nova Scotia have links to long-term care but Strang would not confirm if all three fit that profile.

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Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. It would be nice to see a graph of active disease by date assuming a 14 day period of illness. 1600 may have been infected by June 30 but if the illness only lasts an average of 14 days, those infected in March are no longer a risk to the public and hopefully will have recuperated for the most part.

    1. Good point – decent graphic, but limited
      • that I read to indicate that the number of NEW ‘good compliance’ confirmed cases will drop to very low levels throughout all of June.
      * that does not speak to the number of cases active on any particular date.

      Slide 11 in the province’s report
      shows the impact of the NON-COMPLIANCE. Not only is the peak demand for ICU support higher, but the demands on our sickness-care frontline providers will also be continually replenished by new cases at that 250% higher level throughout May and June.

      1. It’s definitely going better than I’d expected. It says there are 25 in queens/lunenburg where I’m based. Some (most) of those were undoubtedly travel related and have probably resolved with quarantine. Seems like a waste of rcmp resources to patrol remote beaches for non compliance when hospital workers in the city still huddle on the sidewalk for a smoke.

  2. East Dartmouth is vague; could be Manor Park, Woodlawn, Ellenvale, Portland estates,Southdale.
    Nova Scotia secrecy at work one again, the peasants can’t be trusted to handle the truth.
    I note we are still waiting for pandemic supplies – is Trump in charge of our response ?

    1. What was described as “East Dartmouth” is more accurately called the Dartmouth and Southeastern Community Health Network.

      The Dartmouth and Southeastern Health Network is part of the Central Health Zone and is made up of 5 “community clusters”: Dartmouth South, Dartmouth, North, Dartmouth East, Cole Harbour and Eastern Passage, and Preston/Lawrencetown/Lake Echo. (I found this info here: -Appendix 2 on p14)

      1. Thank you for the clarification. It would help if Dr Strang and the province provided a map to the media and showed the map during a daily briefing. The map they now show is of little to no use.