Vaccine appointments should be available to ages 12 and up next week in Nova Scotia
Province reports 91 cases of COVID-19 Monday and changes how inpatient beds are handled
All Nova Scotians aged 12 or older should be able to book a COVID-19 vaccination by next week, the province said at a press conference Monday.
Nova Scotia has now expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines to those ages 30 to 34, and Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said everyone 12 or older should be able to book their appointments by next week.
Premier Iain Rankin and Strang held a COVID-19 briefing Monday. Dr. Brendan Carr, CEO of Nova Scotia's health authority, also gave an update during the press conference.
Ninety-five people with COVID-19 are in hospital, Carr said, including 29 who are in intensive care units (ICUs) or intermediate care across the province.
That breaks down to 22 in the central zone, three in northern zone, three in western zone, and one in the eastern zone.
Carr said Nova Scotia's total ICU capacity is about 120 spaces, but since there are many other patients who need ICU beds after surgeries or for other reasons, they have capacity for about 60 COVID-19 patients across the system.
The health authority can "surge" up to 245 active inpatient beds if needed, Carr said, and announced changes on Monday to make sure the capacity will be there.
As part of this plan, any inpatient, regardless of why they're being admitted, may be transferred to another hospital based on level of care needed and available beds. More surgeries and procedures will also be postponed.
Carr said this move is needed to make sure the right staff are being used where they're needed across the health system.
Nova Scotia reported 91 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the number of known active cases to 1,434.
Although overall case numbers are trending slowly downwards, Carr said hospitalizations are expected to keep increasing for the next week or so.
"What we're doing is working, but it's really hard work. It takes time and we're going to have to stick with this for a number of weeks to really get this back under control," Strang said.
Sixty-six of the new cases are in the central zone, 17 are in the eastern zone, five are in the northern zone and three are in the western zone.
Sydney area of concern
Rankin and Strang said they are still concerned to see increasing cases in the Sydney area, while Strang said it's too early to tell whether there is definitely community spread of the virus.
There are hot spots in the Bridgewater and Annapolis Valley, but the "greatest concern" is the Sydney area, Strang said. He added there have not been as many people getting tested as he would like to see in Sydney.
Strang urged people in Sydney to get tested, even if they don't have symptoms. He noted that since the case backlog has been resolved, asymptomatic people across the province can again get testing at pop-up sites or primary assessment centres.
Two more people who are patients in a non-COVID unit at the Halifax Infirmary site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre have tested positive for COVID-19 and have been transferred to the COVID-19 unit. All other patients in the unit have tested negative, and Nova Scotia Health is testing staff, including doctors, who have worked in the unit.
Carr said overall 12 patients and four staff have tested positive connected to the outbreak. There are 10 remaining patients on that unit who have not had the virus and extra precautions have been put in place.
Vaccine open to ages 12 and up next week
Nova Scotia currently offers COVID-19 vaccines to those ages 30 to 34, and Strang said everyone 12 years old and up should be able to book their appointments by next week.
Vaccine rollout in the province has ramped up significantly in the past few weeks, with 72,000 appointments booked for this week alone, Strang said.
If vaccine supply remains steady and stable, second doses will be administered sooner than expected, starting in late June or early July, Strang said.
As of Monday, about 40 per cent of Nova Scotians have one or more doses, but Strang said 75 per cent is the "magic number" to hit. Then, most restrictions that have been in place for more than a year can be rolled back, he said.
To reach that goal, Strang estimates about 85 per cent of eligible Nova Scotians have to get the vaccine to help protect the entire population.
He said so far, those over 65 are leading the way with "phenomenal" vaccine uptake of about 90 per cent, with those 55 and 60-plus not far behind.
"My challenge to those younger age groups is to meet that minimum 85 (per cent) target," Strang said.
"If you want to have to have a more open summer, if you want to socialize, if you want to go to concerts, if you want to travel, do what you can do to make that happen by getting vaccinated."
New England states offer vaccine
Nova Scotia and other eastern Canadian premiers are also looking into getting excess vaccine from the New England states.
Rankin said Monday he doesn't have specifics yet of what that could look like, but a joint letter has been sent to the governments of Canada and the United States to help facilitate this step.
The New England area has vaccinated 70 per cent of their population with at least one dose, Rankin said, and are willing to share their excess.
More vaccine could push Nova Scotia's timeline ahead Rankin said, adding that the step is important since vaccine amounts from the federal government have fluctuated.
According to a release, the letter also addresses work on reopening the international border.
Labs in the province conducted 7,536 tests on Sunday.
Cape Breton Regional Police ticketed a 51-year-old man on Sunday for failing to isolate, as required under the Health Protection Act.
The police received a complaint that man wasn't isolating after being told to by public health officials. When officers arrived, the man was outside his house, and they gave him a ticket with a fine of $2,422.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
- New Brunswick reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, including a third case at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton and several new possible exposure sites. The province now has 118 active cases.
- Newfoundland and Labrador reported confirmed 10 new cases Monday for a total of 93 active cases.
- P.E.I. reported one new case on Monday. The province has nine active cases.