36 in hospital with COVID-19 as 1,020 cases announced Monday in N.S.

Premier Tim Houston speaks during a COVID-19 briefing on Nov. 24. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Premier Tim Houston speaks during a COVID-19 briefing on Nov. 24. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

Nova Scotia: COVID-19 hospitalizations

Nova Scotia reported 1,020 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 36 people in hospital due to the virus, including four in intensive care.

That's two more people hospitalized since Friday's update. The province said in a news release Monday that since Omicron arrived, 31 people have been admitted to hospital. The remaining five people were in hospital before Omicron arrived.

Hospitalizations are currently well below the number during the spring wave of COVID-19, when at one point in May more than 100 people were in hospital due to the virus.

Premier Tim Houston and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, gave an update Monday.

Houston said people aged 19 to 98 are in hospital with the virus, and their average age is 72. He said in 77.8 per cent of those cases, the patients are vaccinated to some degree.

Nova Scotia: Daily new COVID-19 cases

The premier said the province is not introducing new public health restrictions at the moment, but officials are watching the situation closely.

Houston said the province has recorded more than 9,000 PCR positives in the last two weeks and noted that 36 people are in hospital. He compared that to May 30, 2020, with 585 active cases and 53 people in hospital, including 18 in ICU.

"The case numbers are high," he said. "But the [Omicron] variant is different. The world is also different."

Of Monday's reported cases, 664 are in the central zone, 120 are in the eastern zone, 132 are in the western zone and 104 are in the northern zone.

The province said Monday that because of a spike in testing and positive cases, those who test positive should contact their close contacts.

"Public Health is prioritizing contact tracing in long-term care, health-care facilities, correctional facilities, shelters and other group settings," read the release.

Hospitals impacted by staff isolating

Strang said the low and steady ICU number is a good sign. He said the health-care system is managing the COVID-19 caseload well, but is facing operational slowdowns.

"And these are really from the hundreds of staff that are off because they are positive or isolating because they've been identified as contacts," he said.

"Right now we can't justify a stricter lockdown, but nor can we justify throwing the doors wide open," Strang said.

He said an Omicron wave without vaccines would have been much worse.

Strang said some people go to ER and get treated and that's it, while others stay for a few days. "The overall numbers are staying well within our capacity," he said.

He said the main goal now is to spread those hospital cases out so as to not overwhelm the hospital system.

He said he expects changes to how long people need to isolate will be announced Wednesday. He said it's "not yet" the time to stop public health measures as the risk is low for most, but high for some.

Strang told CBC's Information Morning on Monday that the increase in COVID-19 numbers over the weekend lines up with people gathering last weekend for Christmas. He also said he expects to see a similar bump in numbers in about a week due to New Year's Eve gatherings.

As well, Strang said masking remains "critically important," not just in schools but everywhere. He encouraged parents of school-aged children to give their kids three-layer masks to better protect them.

He said he feels the masking and other measures put in place will help protect kids when they return to school next week.

"By and large, COVID is a relatively mild illness especially in young people so we need to balance those out and so we feel where we're at today, we're still moving forward starting ... in-person learning a week from today," said Strang.

Several hospitals have reported outbreaks, including the Halifax Infirmary, Dartmouth General, the Victoria General site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, St. Martha's Regional and New Waterford Consolidated.

Visitor restrictions have been put in place at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, Dartmouth General and Colchester East Hants Health Centre because of increased COVID-19 activity.

The province opened up access to booster dose appointments Monday morning for those 30+ who last had their second dose of vaccine at least 168 days ago.

Atlantic Canada case numbers