Nova Scotia reported 146 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 42 people in hospital and eight in intensive care.
There are now 943 known active cases in the province. A list of active exposure sites in Nova Scotia can be found here.
Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said during a briefing they're concerned to see COVID-19 hospitalizations rising, especially the number of patients in intensive care.
Strang said the people coming into hospital now are younger and healthier than ever before in the pandemic, but are getting sicker, due to variants of the coronavirus.
People should really be thinking about the third wave being driven by a completely different coronavirus, Strang said, one which spreads much more quickly.
The province is not yet "anywhere close" to being out of the woods when it comes to the current outbreak, he said.
After a weekend of police ticketing 37 people for breaking the Health Protection Act in Halifax, amounting to a total of $74,000 in fines, the premier directed angry words at rule-breakers.
The RCMP also fined two men from Halifax on Monday for leaving the municipality for non-essential reasons.
"That's outrageous," Rankin said. "I have a serious question: what is wrong with you? How come you don't take this as serious as you should?"
Rankin said seeing people in their 20s and 30s going into the ICU should be a "wake-up call" for those who aren't taking the restrictions seriously.
Strang noted that some people now in hospital went out to celebrate after their first vaccine dose, and contracted the coronavirus. He said the vaccine only becomes effective two weeks after the shot.
There have also been a few cases where people who were very sick with COVID-19 did not call 911 because they could not pay the ambulance fee, Strang said. The province has now waived the fee for anyone with COVID-19 who needs emergency transportation, Strang said.
If anyone is concerned about their immediate health issues and are still awaiting test results, they should call 811 or 911, and not Public Health, Strang said.
After a weekend of lab technicians going flat-out to clear the backlog of COVID-19 tests, Strang said the lab teams have worked "miracles" and will be caught up by the end of the day Monday.
By Tuesday, the lab should be able to meet the 48-hour turnaround time for test results.
Strang expects case numbers to remain high over the next few days, and hopefully start to drop by the end of this week to reflect the impact of public-health restrictions.
Health authority reports 166 staff in isolation
Nova Scotia's health authority has 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff in the central zone, with one probable case discovered in their rapid testing that is pending a full PCR result.
According to an email from the authority, two of the 12 confirmed cases are deemed recovered, putting them at 10 active cases.
Five health-care workers are in isolation as a result of these positive cases in the workplace.
There are 166 staff members in isolation as a result of reporting symptoms, or as a result of being in an exposure location.
The health authority said this number fluctuates daily as a result of staff self-reporting their isolation through internal occupational health and safety phone lines.
The new COVID-19 cases reported Monday were identified among 17,092 tests Sunday. According to posted provincial figures, one per cent of tests conducted Sunday came back positive.
There are 130 new cases in the central health zone, nine in the eastern zone, three in the western zone and four in the northern zone.
The province has reported high daily case numbers in recent days, as it works through a backlog of about 45,000 unprocessed tests.
On Saturday, the province reported a record 148 new cases after conducting nearly 17,000 tests.
Expanded eligibility for Moderna, Pfizer vaccines
On Monday, the province expanded eligibility for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
There are about 67,625 eligible Nova Scotians in the 50 to 54 age group.
Up until Monday, the two vaccines had been available to Nova Scotians 55 and up. The province has been gradually lowering the age cohort eligible for the shots as part of its vaccine rollout strategy.
The vaccines will be available to the new age group at all community clinics and designated pharmacies, and more appointments will be released as vaccine supply is confirmed.
The province also announced it will hold its first COVID-19 vaccination drive-thru clinic next Monday, at the Dartmouth General Hospital.
The clinic will be open to Nova Scotians 50 and older. Appointments for the drive-thru will open Tuesday.
Halifax Transit spacing passengers
On Monday, Halifax Transit said they would begin installing signage on conventional buses and ferries to encourage passengers to appropriately distance where they sit "out of an abundance of caution," according to a news release.
They have taken several other measures to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, including cleaning high-touch surfaces more often, and installing shields next to bus operators.
Recent data has shown that ridership on buses is low, with the busiest daily trip reaching 43 per cent capacity, the municipality said.
Halifax Transit noted that since they have been designated an essential service by the province, the two-metre physical distancing and gathering limits do not apply on buses and ferries.
N.S. on track to offer vaccine to all adults by June
As of Sunday, 320,910 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered. Of those, 36,600 Nova Scotians had received their second dose.
So far, Strang said they have been getting very good uptake of the vaccine (around 80 per cent) of those 65 and up.
Strang said the province is on track to open up vaccine appointments for people 18 years old and up by mid-June.
When asked about when the province could reach herd immunity, he said that depends on the younger age groups having the same high percentage of vaccination rates.
Strang said he hopes to see a large number of people vaccinated sometime in June.
"Which then puts us in a position to have a much less restricted summer," Strang said.
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