Nova Scotia reports record 148 new cases of COVID-19 as province works through backlog

Nova Scotia is reporting a record 148 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, as the province works through its backlog.

In a release, N.S. health officials say 129 of Saturday's new cases are located in the province's Central zone.

Seventeen new cases were identified in the Eastern zone, and two new cases are being reported in the Western zone.

"There is no doubt we are in a very serious situation,” says Dr. Robert Strang, N.S. Chief Medical Officer of Health. “The vast majority of our cases are in the Halifax area where we have certainly wide community spread. With all the testing we've done in the last week or so we've reached our maximum."

Public health says two new cases in Central Zone are residents of the Clarmar Residential Care Facility, a residential care home in Dartmouth, and are linked to a previous case at the facility. Two cases involving staff members at the care home were identified earlier this week.

Another case in the Central zone involves a staff member at the Shoreham Village long-term care home in Chester. Public health says residents living on one of the units are being isolated and cared for in their rooms as a precaution. Staff in the facility and residents on the unit are being tested. Residents on this unit have received both doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Public health is following up with Closing the Gap, a home-care provider, connected to the case.

Saturday's 148 new cases sets a new single-day record, breaking the 96 new cases identified on Tuesday, April 27.

"We expected a large case number today as the lab catches up with the backlog," said Premier Iain Rankin in a news release. "The case count today reinforces the need for people to stay at home as much as possible, go out only for essential reasons, and closely follow the restrictions."

"We're making progress with the lab and data-entry backlog but we will continue to see high case numbers for a few days," added Dr. Strang in a news release. "We are in a serious place right now and every Nova Scotian needs to be vigilant, stay home, and make the new public health measures a way of life for the next while."

The province is no longer including an "exposure category" (travel, close contact, etc.), citing increased investigations.

Health officials say there is evidence of community spread in Nova Scotia’s Central zone.

Public Health says the province’s other zones, Eastern, Northern, and Western, are being monitored for signs of community spread.

Twenty-four of Nova Scotia’s previously reported cases are now considered resolved, with the total number of active infections increasing to 713. 

N.S. COVID-19 CASE DATA

Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed a single-day record 16,578 COVID-19 tests on Friday. It is the province's fourth consecutive day with over 12,000 tests completed, as a combined 57,814 tests have been completed since Tuesday.

As of May 1, Nova Scotia has completed 540,798 COVID-19 tests. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 2,575 COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia. Of those, 1,795 cases have recovered and 67 people have died due to the novel coronavirus.

There are currently 30 people in hospital due to COVID-19, five of which are in the intensive care unit.

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: 147 cases (18 active)
  • Central Zone: 2,092 cases (619 active)
  • Northern Zone: 155 cases (17 active)
  • Eastern Zone: 178 cases (59 active)

The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, 2020, has been extended to May 16, 2021.

CHANGES TO ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING STRATEGY

In order to address the test result backlog, Nova Scotia is shifting their COVID-19 asymptomatic testing strategy.

In the interim, most Nova Scotians are encouraged to use pop-up testing sites instead of booking a COVID-19 lab test over the next few days.

Individuals under the following categories are still encouraged to book lab tests:

  • anyone with symptoms
  • anyone who has been notified that they are a close contact of a known case
  • anyone who has been at an exposure location
  • anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador

"Knowing the results in one day or five shouldn't really change a whole lot of what folks are doing right now,” says infectious disease specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett. “Masking, distance, hand wash and please just for the weekend, staying home is going to be so important and so helpful to us in getting through this without a complete meltdown of our health system as well as our lab system."

“This is a short-term issue, and we have a plan to clear up the backlog,” adds Rankin. “Following the restrictions and public health measures are critical to protect you, your loved ones and the health system from being overwhelmed.”

Public health says anyone who does not meet the above criteria and has already booked an appointment should cancel it following the instructions provided in their confirmation email.

"Efforts are being made to increase rapid testing capacity around the province," wrote the province in a release on Friday.

Pop up testing locations being provided on Saturday, include:

  • East Dartmouth Community Centre (50 Caledonia Road, Dartmouth) from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Centre 200 (481 George Street, Sydney) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Halifax Convention Centre (Argyle Street entrance at 1650 Argyle Street, Halifax) from noon to 7 p.m.
  • Alderney Gate Public Library (60 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth) from noon to 7 p.m.
  • Cineplex Bridgewater (349 Lahave Street, Bridgewater) from noon to 7 p.m.

OPPOSITION LEADER CALLS FOR AIRPORT TESTING

The leader of Nova Scotia’s opposition says the number of new COVID-19 cases is very concerning.

"Now the third's wave here, there were some decisions made that kind of put us as risk and now we have to deal with it and hopefully we can get through it,” says Tim Houston, leader of the N.S. PC party.

With case counts rising, Houston continues to call on the provincial government to start testing travellers at the airport.

“The fact that we're not doing testing at the airport even still today, that means every single day the door is wide open for a variant to arrive here,” says Houston. “That's a real, real problem. We've been urging more caution at the airport for quite some time. We'd definitely like to see testing at the airport." 

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 Tuesday, 312,493 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered. According to the province, 25.6 per cent of the eligible population have received vaccines as of Thursday, with 3.6 per cent having received a second dose.

The province has received a total of 345,940 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since Dec. 15, 2020.

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