HALIFAX — The latest wave of COVID-19 infections in Nova Scotia may have peaked, a senior health official said Thursday.
Dr. Shelley Deeks, Nova Scotia's deputy chief medical officer of health, said infections have stabilized in terms of lab-confirmed cases and outbreaks at long-term care facilities, which she said are key indicators for the infection rate.
"The data suggest we may be at the peak," she told a teleconference, noting there had been a steep increase in the number of cases since the beginning of March.
"Over the last couple of weeks, it has been more stable …. It's appearing to be flatlined now. It hasn't decreased yet, so we can't ... say we're past the peak."
Asked how long it will take before the numbers start coming down, Deeks said that was a tough call. "There's still a lot of virus out there, and this has been the largest wave so far," she said. “I would say at least another month before we start seeing a nice, sharp decrease."
According to Nova Scotia's latest epidemiological summary, for the seven-day period ending April 18, the province reported 13 deaths related to COVID-19. The median age of those who have died because of COVID-19 since the start of the Omicron wave is 80.
Of the 1,956 infections reported in long-term care facilities since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, 83 per cent have been during the most recent wave.
As well, there were 7,508 positive PCR lab tests. As usual, the province's latest summary included a caveat stating that the number of positive PCR tests does not represent an accurate case count because there is no requirement to report positive rapid tests.
As of Wednesday, there were 325 patients in hospital with COVID-19, and 10 of them were receiving intensive care. And 450 health-care staff were off work as a result of the virus, most of them in the Halifax area.
Overall, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 this past week was similar to the week before. The death toll was slightly lower.
The province also reported that people who have received three doses of a vaccine had an 82.5 per cent lower risk of hospitalization and 90.7 per cent lower risk of death than people who have not been vaccinated or only received one dose.
Deeks said the Omicron subvariant BA.2 was to blame for the more recent infections.
She said most people recently infected with the virus are experiencing mild symptoms, but she said that is not the case for everyone. Getting vaccinated, wearing a mask and keeping social circles small remain the best ways to limit the spread of the virus, she added.
In Nova Scotia, masking is only mandatory in certain limited indoor settings, such as schools and health-care facilities. This week, the mask mandate in schools was extended until at least May 20.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2022.
Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press