Nova Scotia is reporting 117 new cases on Friday, and one more death in the province related to COVID-19.
The person was a man in his 80s and died in hospital, Premier Iain Rankin said in a press briefing Friday. It is the province's 72nd death related to the coronavirus.
There are 95 Nova Scotians in hospital related to the coronavirus.
Twenty-nine people are currently in intensive care, said Dr. Tony O'Leary, the province's medical director for COVID critical care, although that number is constantly in flux.
Rankin said people are going to the hospital sicker and later into their symptoms, nine to 10 days into their illness. They range in age from early 20s to 90s.
There have been more hospitalizations in Nova Scotia in the third wave of the pandemic than in the first and second waves combined.
One of the cases announced Friday is a resident of Harbour View Haven nursing home in Lunenburg. A staff member there tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
Most residents have been fully vaccinated. As an added precaution, some residents are being isolated and cared for in their rooms, according to a news release from the Department of Health.
There are currently 90 workplace investigations underway in the province, as workplaces continue to be a significant source of exposure and spread.
Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said employers, especially those in the Halifax area, should have their employees work from home if possible.
"Limiting spread in workplaces is critical if we are going to get this outbreak under control," he said.
The provincial government is renewing a state of emergency that was first declared on March 22, 2020. It will extend until May 30.
On Friday, the province was granted an injunction to stop all protests against public health orders, a decision both Rankin and Strang said they are pleased with.
Monitoring clusters outside central zone
There are a few communities with clusters of cases outside the central zone. They are Sydney, Bridgewater, and the Annapolis Valley from Middleton to Kentville.
Broad testing will be available in those communities in the coming days to determine if there are cases in those communities Public Health is not yet aware of.
"Regardless of what health zone you live in, what part of the province you live in, assume COVID is in your community," Strang said.
Vaccine rollout 'slightly ahead of schedule'
On Friday, Nova Scotia opened vaccination appointments for people aged 35-39, as part of its age-based vaccine rollout.
More than 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nova Scotia.
As of the end of the day on Thursday, 45 per cent of all eligible Nova Scotians have received one or both doses of the vaccine. In order to meet the province's target of 75 per cent of the population vaccinated, 85 per cent of people eligible will need to get the shot.
The federal government recommends provinces should have a 75 per cent vaccination rate among adults — including 20 per cent having both doses — before beginning to lift public health measures.
"We are on track, and even slightly ahead of schedule," Strang said, adding the province is looking into whether it can start to give out second doses of the vaccine faster than originally planned. More information on that is expected in the coming weeks.
Update on AstraZeneca
Following the lead of some other Canadian provinces, Nova Scotia paused the use of AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the government said 57,576 doses had been administered.
Strang thanked those Nova Scotians who had received their first dose of AstraZeneca, and assured them the vaccine is effective in protecting them from COVID-19 and preventing serious illness and death.
"Many of you are feeling confused, angry, or even scared. I understand that and I apologize if we contributed to this," he said.
There have been no blood clot events related to the vaccine in Nova Scotia. Side-effects can occur anywhere between four and 28 days after vaccination.
Anyone who is still in that 28-day window should monitor closely for any listed side-effects and seek medical attention immediately if they experience one or more side effects.
Strang said the province is "committed" to getting people their second dose of a vaccine, and will have more information in the coming weeks when the National Advisory Committee on Immunization makes a recommendation about mixing vaccines.
"The vaccine is our way forward, but it alone won't get us out of the outbreak situation we're in right now. Whether you've received one or both doses, or are waiting for your first dose, you still have to be vigilant," he said.
The province reported 110 new cases on Thursday, including eight patients at the Halifax Infirmary who weren't originally in the COVID unit. A ninth person at that hospital tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release Friday from the Department of Health.
Strang said on Friday while it does put additional pressure on an already strained system, Public Health is investigating the outbreak and there are protocols in place to minimize spread within the hospital.
Nova Scotia Health is testing staff and doctors who worked in the unit.
"Given the number of patients we've had come into the hospitals through this pandemic, the fact this is now the first time we've had any kind of a patient with some spread in a unit, I think is testament to all those steps that are in place," he said.
ICU patients to peak at 60
O'Leary said modelling shows the province will peak at 60 patients in the intensive care unit sometime over the next week or so, with another 140 in acute care.
But he said a plan is in place to deal with the influx.
"We will have to increase the usual operating number, and we've already done that at the Halifax Infirmary," said O'Leary in a media briefing Friday. "But we have enough beds and enough ventilators."
O'Leary also clarified what is sometimes a discrepancy in the number of ICU patients reported by the health authority and what is shown on the government's COVID-19 dashboard.
He said the dashboard is only updated once a day, but the number is fluctuating by the hour.
Irving halts production
On Thursday, Irving Shipbuilding halted production at the Halifax Shipyard due to a positive COVID-19 test from someone connected to its second Arctic and offshore patrol ship.
Operations at the shipyard are paused until at least Monday's day shift.
Nova Scotia is more than two weeks into a provincewide lockdown that came into effect on April 28. Health officials have since said it would last at least until the end of May.
Strang said the province is working on a reopening plan, but it's "premature" to announce anything and create expectation. The province will move forward with reopening only when the epidemiology allows.
"We're in this for at least the next few weeks before we can even consider how we might start to reopen," he said.
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