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N.S. reports 13 new COVID-19-related deaths; possible stabilization in two key metrics

Health officials in Nova Scotia are reporting 13 new COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday – one fewer than what was reported in the province's weekly COVID-19 update last week.

In the data released Thursday, which covers the seven-day period between April 12 and April 18, the province reported a total of 290 deaths related to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Of those, 178 were during the Omicron wave.

Since the start of the Omicron wave, which began on Dec. 8, 2021, the median age of reported COVID-19 deaths is 80.

POSSIBLE STABILIZATION IN TWO KEY METRICS

The province's weekly COVID-19 update points to a possible stabilization in two key metrics after a period of steady increases.

Public health says during this seven-day reporting period, the number of lab-confirmed cases and the number of cases linked to long-term care outbreaks are similar to levels in the previous six-day reporting period.

"After several weeks of increases, the data suggests we may have hit the peak of the wave when it comes to new COVID-19 infections," said Dr. Shelley Deeks, Nova Scotia's deputy chief medical officer of health, in the weekly release.

"For many, COVID has been a mild to moderate illness with symptoms that can be managed at home. But that is not the case for everyone, especially older people, which makes our individual actions - getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, keeping our social circles small - that much more important."

HOSPITALIZATIONS

The number of hospitalizations in Nova Scotia have gone up slightly since the province's last update.

The latest release from public health says there were 84 hospital admissions due to COVID-19 for the seven-day period ending April 18.

Last week, the province reported 72 new hospital admissions.

Of those in hospital, the Nova Scotia COVID-19 dashboard says:

  • 11 are in ICU
  • 23 per cent are unvaccinated
  • the median age is 76
  • the average length of stay is 6.8 days

CONTINUED PRESSURE ON HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM

The sixth wave of COVID-19 has tested Nova Scotia’s health-care system that was already feeling the strain prior to the pandemic.

“There is a lot of staff shortages and there is also a lot of staff shortages to burnout,” said Dr. Leisha Hawker, a family physician in Halifax.

At last glance, there were 450 Nova Scotia health-care staff off work due to either testing positive for the virus, awaiting results of a COVID-19 test, or being exposed by a close contact.

There are currently more than 27,000 Nova Scotians waiting for a surgery or procedure, and it seems the challenge to playing catch-up and addressing the backlog is weighing heavy on the health system and staff.

“A lot of my colleagues that work in anesthesia or surgical specialties, they are really seeing the long wait times from a lot of operating room cancellations,” said Hawker. “They are really struggling to manage their wait times and to see patients in a reasonable timeframe.”

Premier Tim Houston was grilled during question period on how his government will provide solutions to ease the pressure on the health-care system and address the surgery backlog.

“We’re going to be doing some things that will be kind of outside the box,” said Houston. “To make sure the people get those surgeries that are necessary.”

Houston said he understands the impacts the surgery backlog has on families, communities and the economy.

The Progressive Conservative government, which was largely elected on its promise to fix the health-care system, said it plans to release its action plan for health care on Friday.

VACCINES

As of Thursday, 64.5 per cent of Nova Scotians have received three doses of COVID-19 vaccine, 87.6 per cent have received two doses, 4.8 per cent have received one dose, and 7.6 per cent were not vaccinated.

NEW CASES

There were 7,508 new COVID-19 cases identified with PCR tests between April 12 and 18.

This is an increase of 596 new cases since the province announced 6,912 new PCR-confirmed cases last week.

DASHBOARD UDPATES ENDING SOON

Nova Scotia will be ending its COVID-19 dashboard updates at the end of April.

The dashboard first became active in January 2021.

Until then, COVID-19 data can still be found on the province's COVID-19 online dashboard.

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