Nova Scotia reports 2 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday; one variant case identified

Nova Scotia health officials are reporting two new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. Three previously reported cases are now considered recovered, as the active number of cases in the province drops to 23.

One of Wednesday's new cases was identified in the Central Zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case. The other case was identified in the Western Zone and is related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. The person is self-isolating, as required.

Also on Wednesday, public health confirmed a case identified earlier this month in the Central zone was the B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the United Kingdom. Officials say that case was related to international travel, and there is no sign of community spread at this time.

This brings the total number of cases of the B.1.1.7 variant (first found in the U.K.) in Nova Scotia to 18. There have also been 10 confirmed cases of the B.1.3.5.1 variant, first found in South Africa.

"Passover, Easter and Ramadan are times to celebrate and gather with loved ones," said Premier Iain Rankin in a release. "As we work to contain the virus, let's keep our gatherings small and continue to follow the public health protocols that are in place to keep our communities safe."

"As we approach a holiday weekend, I want to remind Nova Scotians of the importance of celebrating safely," said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health in a release. "Do your part by following the gathering limits, keeping a consistent social group, staying home if you are feeling unwell, washing your hands and self-isolating if required."

N.S. COVID-19 CASE DATA

The Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 4,446 tests on Tuesday. The province has completed 426,519 tests since the pandemic began.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 1,716 COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 1,627 cases have recovered and 66 people have died due to the novel coronavirus.

There is currently one Nova Scotian in hospital due to COVID-19.

There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the Central Zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.

The numbers reflect where a person lives and not where their sample was collected.

  • Western Zone: 107 cases (2 active case)
  • Central Zone: 1,384 cases (19 active cases)
  • Northern Zone: 133 cases (1 active cases)
  • Eastern Zone: 92 cases (1 active cases)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to April 4, 2021.

VACCINE UPDATE

Nova Scotia's COVID-19 online dashboard provides an update on the amount of vaccines that have been administered to date.

As of Wednesday, 100,832 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. Of those, 74,233 were first doses and 26,599 Nova Scotians have received their second dose.

Of the vaccines administered 48,882 went to health care workers, and 8,971 were long-term care residents.

As of Tuesday, the province has received a total of 155,319 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and are holding 36,250 in reserve for second doses and planned clinics.

Also during Tuesday's briefing Dr. Robert Strang said the suspension of AstraZeneca rollout isn't expected to impact the province's vaccine rollout at this time.

"We haven't got final confirmation yet about what exact amount of AstraZeneca we're getting. So we've always built our funding based on the major proportion of what we're getting will be the mRNA vaccine. If we aren't able to use AstraZeneca at all, that that may push out our timeline a bit. But right now where we were, we were the group that we're using AstraZeneca in we can, as the evidence right now says we can continue to use that vaccine in that age," said Strang.

ASTRAZENECA VACCINE WILL CONTINUE FOR AGES 55-64

Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that they will continue to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine for individuals ages 55-64, after suspending the use of the vaccine for individuals under 55 on Monday.

“Anyone 55 or over can still get this vaccine if given the choice, as the benefits of getting the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the increased risk of COVID-19 in older adults,” said Strang.

On Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended pausing administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under the age of 55, pending further investigation on reported cases of vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), a rare blood clotting disorder, in Europe.

“In the past few weeks there has been an increasing number of reports from Europe of rare but serious cases of blood clots, following immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said Strang during Tuesday's news conference. “At this time a definitive link between the vaccine and the blood clotting vents has not been made, but it is very suggestive, the evidence to date.”

Strang says that he has had many conversations with Public Health officials from across the country, and the consensus is that the benefit of AstraZeneca outweighs the risk for those in the 55-64 age group.

“We know looking at the epidemiology of this it higher risk of blood clots seems to be mostly women under 55," said Strang. We’ve had a lot of conversation about this, and part of this is what is the risk/benefit. As you get to the ages 55 and above, it seems there is a much lower risk of this blood clotting happening, and the risk of getting serious outcomes from a COVID-19 infection substantially increases.”

“I know this might be scary for people, especially if they have had their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine already, but we’re fortunate that in Nova Scotia, our use of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been focused on the ages 60 to 64, which is well within the age range recommended for use.”

Strang says anyone who has received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the last 20 days, and anyone vaccinated with it going forward should monitor for symptoms and seek immediate medical attention in the unlikely event that they develop the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Leg swelling
  • Persistent abdominal pain
  • Sudden onset of severe or persistent headaches or blurred vision
  • Skin bruising other than at the site of vaccination

NOVA SCOTIANS ENCOURAGED TO SEEK ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING

Public health is strongly encouraging Nova Scotians to seek asymptomatic COVID-19 testing, particularly if they have had several social interactions, even with their own social circle.

COVID-19 tests can be booked through the provinces online self-assessment COVID-19 tool, or by calling 811.

People can also visit one of Nova Scotia’s many rapid pop-up testing sites that continue to operate throughout the province.

COVID ALERT APP

Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.

The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

LIST OF SYMPTOMS

Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:

  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny nose/nasal congestion