Nova Scotia reports 175 new COVID-19 cases for another single-day high

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HALIFAX — Halfway into what was supposed to be a two-week provincewide lockdown, Nova Scotia recorded another single-day high in COVID-19 cases Wednesday with 175.

The epicentre of the current outbreak is the Halifax area, where health officials identified 149 cases, while 13 cases were reported in the province's eastern zone, nine in the western zone and four in the northern zone.

The province now has a total of 1,203 known active cases, with 40 people in hospital, including nine in intensive care.

"We're still dealing with very high case numbers that do involve the variants," Premier Iain Rankin said in a news release. "I want to thank all Nova Scotians for following the restrictions. Please continue to do your part to protect your province and keep each other safe."

The current lockdown is scheduled to last until at least May 12.

Wednesday's figures came one day after a record 153 cases were reported along with the deaths of two people — a woman in her 50s and a man in his 70s — who health officials said died in their Halifax-area homes.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University, said in an interview that deaths like those reported Tuesday illustrate that the novel coronavirus variants move more quickly through the population and that people can quickly go from being "fairly well to very sick."

Barrett said people also may not be getting tested as early as they need to when they have symptoms, adding that the disease is also showing up more in the younger population than it did during the first wave last spring.

"Between moving more easily and seeming to cause worse disease, people should pick up on that sooner rather than later if we want to avoid having the 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds that we are seeing in our hospitals right now getting very sick," she said.

To help get out of the current wave of the virus, vaccine and testing rates will need to continue to increase, Barrett said.

Officials said that as of Tuesday, 334,775 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered, with 36,858 people having received their required second dose. Thirty-five per cent of the population 16 and over has received at least one shot. The province completed 11,506 COVID-19 tests Tuesday.

Barrett, who has also been one of the lead organizers for Nova Scotia's rapid testing regime, said the test sites proved key in the last week after the provincial lab confirmed a backlog of 45,000 unprocessed COVID-19 tests.

"When the system became overwhelmed, we rapidly were able to pick up the slack of asymptomatic testing," Barrett said.

She said once the current outbreak is under control, the idea will be to expand rapid pop-up testing to areas that currently don't have as much virus. "The absolute best thing to do is to keep the virus down in other areas by doing a lot more asymptomatic testing," she said.

Meanwhile, health officials confirmed that the backlog of tests reported at the provincial lab last Friday had been cleared, and results would now be available within 48 to 72 hours.

"We should not take any comfort from this — even without a lag, our numbers would still be too high," chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said in a news release. "Nova Scotians need to stay the course and follow restrictions."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.

Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press