Nova Scotia reported its lowest daily average of new COVID-19 cases in nine months Thursday, but infectious diseases researcher Tara Moriarty says that's not an accurate reflection of the province's "painful" COVID-19 situation.
The province's COVID-19 dashboard says there was a daily average of almost 128 new cases for the week ending Sept. 19, which is the smallest it's been since December 2021.
"Nova Scotia is having a hard time right now," said Moriarty, an associate professor at the University of Toronto.
She's part of a team at the COVID-19 Resources Canada project doing modelling to help members of the public better understand the COVID-19 situation. It receives funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada for its work.
Moriarty said that because Nova Scotia's COVID-19 testing strategy prioritizes high-risk individuals, it reduces the number of people eligible for a PCR COVID-19 test, which reduces official case numbers.
The case numbers from the province also don't include cases where people test positive using a rapid test.
Moriarty estimates Nova Scotia is only identifying five to 10 per cent of new daily infections, and said it's a similar rate across the country.
Moriarty said Nova Scotia's numbers for severe COVID-19 outcomes — such as deaths, hospitalizations and ICU admissions — are high.
"It's really easy to see that Nova Scotia is not doing very well compared to the rest of the country and it's also really not doing well compared to even early December," she said.
Nova Scotia's Thursday update revealed 42 new hospital admissions from the coronavirus.
The province also reported 12 new deaths. That brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the province to 534 since March 2020.
"It's made for a very painful summer for Nova Scotia," said Moriarty.
Moriarty's comments about looking at severe outcomes to better understand the province's COVID-19 picture echoes words from Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang.
"We need to focus more on severe illness and less on overall number of cases and infections," Strang said Dec. 17, 2021.
On that day, seven people were in hospital, including two in intensive care.
Moriarty expects Nova Scotia's COVID-19 situation will briefly improve, but cautions it will get worse very soon. She cited high COVID-19 presence in Nova Scotia wastewater, which is a sign of how much coronavirus is circulating in the population.
As well, she said France and the United Kingdom provide good road maps for what Canada can expect for future waves. She said they're seeing a "rapid increase" in cases and hospitalizations.
As of Thursday, Sept. 22, Nova Scotia Health reported 226 patients in hospitals across the province tested positive for COVID-19 — a decrease of 50 from the previous week. That number includes:
36 patients in hospital being treated for COVID-19, three in intensive care.
125 patients in hospital have COVID-19, but are being treated for something else.
65 patients in hospital contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital.
Nova Scotia Health reported 171 employees off work on Thursday due to being diagnosed as positive for COVID-19, awaiting results of a COVID-19 test, or being exposed to a member of their household who tested positive for COVID-19. Last week that number was 123.
At the IWK Health Centre, 32 staff are off work because of COVID-19, while five are isolating. The number of children hospitalized because of COVID-19 is under five.
Earlier this week, the province opened bivalent vaccine bookings for adults over the age of 18. Bivalent vaccines offer better protection against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
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