Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health called for people to put public health first as the province grapples with a health care system under tremendous stress from the Omicron variant.
"There's no doubt we are in a very serious situation, the most serious we've been in during this entire pandemic given all the pressures on our health care system," Dr. Robert Strang said Wednesday during a news briefing.
"This is different than other waves. We've never before had hundreds of health care workers not able to work, or so many cases Public Health is no longer to identify and closely manage each case and all their contacts."
Strang strongly urged all Nova Scotians to follow COVID-19 restrictions, wear their mask properly, keep their social circles small and to alert their contacts if they test positive for COVID-19.
"If I sound concerned, it's because I am, deeply," Strang said.
"I'm asking every Nova Scotian to please step up. Take this seriously, do your part. Many of you have been but too many are not. Omicron really does require every single one of us to do what they can to get this wave trending in the right direction.
"The actions of every Nova Scotian matter right now. "
Nova Scotia: COVID-19 hospitalizations
Woman in her 60s dies
Nova Scotia reported one death, 12 new hospitalizations — including a child younger than five — and seven discharges on Wednesday.
The death was a woman in her 60s in the western zone.
There are 60 people in hospital who were admitted due to COVID-19, with five people in the intensive care unit. Of the 60 people in hospital, 58 were admitted during the Omicron wave. The average hospital stay is 5.8 days, the provincial government said in a news release.
The vaccination status of those in hospital is:
Five (8.3 per cent) people have had a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Thirty-six (60 per cent) are fully vaccinated (two doses).
Three (five per cent) are partially vaccinated.
Fifteen (25 per cent) are unvaccinated.
One (1.7 per cent) person's vaccination status is unknown at this time.
The province noted less than 10 per cent of Nova Scotians are unvaccinated.
There are two other groups of people in hospital related to COVID-19. They include:
Forty people who were identified as positive upon arrival to hospital but were admitted for another medical reason, or people who were admitted for COVID-19 but no longer require specialized care.
Ninety-four people who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital.
The average age of people in hospital is 66. Only two people in hospital were there prior to the Omicron outbreak.
Nova Scotia: COVID-19 positivity rate
On Jan. 11, the provincial health authority reported 837 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 500 cases in the central zone, 109 cases in the eastern zone, 106 cases in the northern zone and 122 cases in the western zone.
As of Wednesday, there are an estimated 6,867 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
During a press briefing Wednesday, Premier Tim Houston said Nova Scotia is distributing 830,000 rapid tests a week — almost one test for every person in the province.
Nova Scotia: Daily new COVID-19 cases
Houston said students will go back to school as planned Monday, and 25,000 tests will be distributed to 400 schools based on enrolment. The tests will be available for those who need it, Houston said.
Houston said the COVID-19 situation in the province is the worst it's been, but getting students back in the classroom is important because it's the safest place for many of them.
"Our schools are safe. I think we've shown that where necessary to close a school, we will," Houston said.
However, he urged parents to keep their children at home if they are sick.
Booster doses for those over 30
Houston said 49.6 per cent of people 30 and older have either booked their third dose of vaccine or received their third dose.
The premier acknowledged long wait times and delays to surgeries and procedures because of COVID-19. He said the province is working to move people and provide support where possible, and commended health-care workers for their efforts.
"We see you, we hear you, and we really can't thank you enough for what you're doing," he said. "Hang in there."
Strang said thousands of people are isolating because of COVID-19 and are unable to work, including many in the health sector.
He said at any given time, there are between 500 and 700 health-care workers off work because of COVID-19 or isolation requirements. Strang said patient volumes are at a high and emergency rooms are experiencing delays.
"It's paramount all Nova Scotians do what we can to protect patients who need care the most," Strang said.
When asked Wednesday about surgeries being cancelled at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, a spokesperson for the provincial health authority said emergency and urgent surgeries are continuing.
Strang also said Wednesday there continues to be confusion and anger around the changes in the province's testing strategy since Omicron arrived in Nova Scotia. He said given the amount of virus in the province, there is no need to identify every case of COVID-19.
Strang said testing priority is given to testing centres, workplaces where workers support vulnerable populations, schools and community distribution centres, and areas experiencing a surge in cases.
He said effort is being put into reducing severe illness and rapid tests need to be used more efficiently. Strang said there are currently just over one million tests in the province.
"We ask for your patience while we rebuild our testing supply," Strang, adding that 3.6 million more tests are on the way.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
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