A group of researchers analyzing COVID-19 data from across Canada ranked Nova Scotia as the highest in the country in its risk index at the end of July.
For the week beginning July 29, COVID-19 Resources Canada has rated Nova Scotia very high on its risk index. The rest of the country was rated either high or high. The group receives funding from Public Health Canada.
It came as Nova Scotia reported no deaths this week in its COVID-19 update — for the first time since January 3.
The Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness said it was unable to comment on the index because “we don’t know the data sources or the methodology used to analyze the data.”
“In the first Omicron wave and even to some extent in the second Omicron wave, Nova Scotia had fewer cases per capita than the rest of Canada,” said Tara Moriarty, an infectious disease expert at the University of Toronto and partners. Founder of COVID-19 Resources Canada.
“Nova Scotia had a bit of a hold and did better for longer during the first wave and part of the second omicron waves than many other counties.
“The second part of the problem is that first-timers in Nova Scotia are more infected than in the rest of the country, and I think that’s partly why Nova Scotia is doing consistently worse this time around.”
To come up with an indicator of risk, Moriarty said her group is studying infection rates, vaccine prevention, effects on the health care system and mortality.
Over the past few weeks, Moriarty said infection rates are high in Nova Scotia. She said COVID-19 appears in wastewater, reporting of hospitalizations collected by the Canadian Critical Care Association, deaths, intensive care admissions, and vaccination rates.
“All indications, especially for the actual estimated casualties and sewage, have been high in Nova Scotia for a long time, which is partly why Nova Scotia is kind of stuck at this very high level,” Moriarty said.
COVID-19 Resources Canada updates its risk index once a week. Moriarty said that while smaller populations tend to have more variable results, in larger populations there isn’t much ups and downs.
“We don’t see it with Nova Scotia or Saskatchewan…Most of the counties are north of 700,000 people, the trends are more stable,” Moriarty said.
“Prince Edward Island is a small place for example, and if you have one big event in Charlottetown that’s driving a lot of transmissions, you can see a really big impact but it might not spread to the rest of the county.”
Moriarty said Nova Scotia has been consistent with its index score over the past two weeks. Canada’s COVID-19 Resources said that if the score drops, “it’s very reasonable to assume that it will continue to improve for a while and not bounce back very much.”
Effects on the health care system
Brendan Maguire of Halifax Atlantic MLA said he was not surprised to see Nova Scotia ranked higher on the index. He said healthcare professionals and front-line workers have been sounding the alarm for some time.
“We’re seeing an impact on our surgeries, we’re seeing an impact in emergency rooms, so we brought this up in the legislature that COVID is here, it’s bad and there’s no recognition,” Maguire said. “It shows that what we are saying is true and we hope it will be an eye-opener for the government.”
Maguire said more COVID-19 data needs to be collected and shared by the county to help people make decisions.
“At least what they can do is encourage people to take more precautions when they are in public,” he said.
The Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness encourages Nova Scotia residents to obtain their data from regional and federal governments.
“Nova Scotia residents are reminded that the virus continues to have an impact in our province. They must continue to take steps to reduce their exposure and the risks of those around them by wearing a mask when in public, and by staying home when not wearing it,” a spokesperson for Health and Wellness at Email: “Not feeling well, get vaccinated when they qualify.”