N.S. reports total of 20 COVID-19 deaths in first weekly update of 2023

Nova Scotia reported one new and 19 past COVID-19 deaths in its latest weekly update. (Shutterstock - image credit)
Nova Scotia reported one new and 19 past COVID-19 deaths in its latest weekly update. (Shutterstock - image credit)

Nova Scotia has reported a total of 20 deaths in first weekly update of 2023.

One of those deaths happened between Dec. 20 and Jan. 2. The remaining 19 deaths are from a previous, unspecified time period. The province said these previous deaths could be from any past reporting period, but most likely to be within the last weeks or months.

Since March 2020, Nova Scotia has recorded 694 COVID-19 deaths.

The province reported 1,553 new cases confirmed by PCR tests in the latest time period — a daily average of about 222. This is up from the last update on Dec. 22, when there were 584 PCR-confirmed cases.

Nova Scotia Health reported 246 people in hospital with COVID-19 on Thursday. This is an increase from the previous reporting period when there were 164 people in hospital with COVID-19.

Of those 246 people:

  • 34 were in hospital for COVID-19 (including 1 person in ICU).

  • 99 were in hospital for something else but have COVID-19.

  • 113 patients contracted COVID-19 after admission.

The IWK Health Centre reported fewer than five hospitalizations on Thursday.

Nova Scotia Health said there were 94 employees off work Thursday due to being diagnosed with COVID-19, were awaiting test results or being exposed to a member of their household who tested positive.

The IWK reported 56 employees off work due to COVID-19 or isolating because of COVID-19 on Thursday.

New year, new variant

A new COVID-19 variant is spreading around the world, including in Canada.

XBB.1.5 — also known as the Kraken — is a subvariant of the Omicron variant.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Lisa Barrett says one of the main concerns with this variant is how quickly it's spreading. But it's not yet clear how sick people will get compared to other variants.

"It doesn't seem to be overly causing more hospitalizations and deaths but that's certainly a big concern [as] it's spreading. And also that there is some mutation in there that may change how well your immune system protection, either from natural protection or vaccine, works," Barrett told CBC's Information Morning Halifax on Thursday.

Immunologists have called the new variant "immune evasive." Barrett says that means the virus mutates around your immune system. While that could mean more severe disease, Barrett says experts aren't certain if that's the case yet.

"The biggest thing that concerns me about these continuously evolving viruses is not that they're unexpected, but that we may not be doing the best job at keeping track of them anymore," she said.

The province has not said whether the variant has been detected in Nova Scotia, though it is in Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador identified its first case on Thursday.

Barrett said it's important people continue to test themselves when they get sick.