Nova Scotia·Video

N.S. reports 67 new COVID cases but testing backlog means higher numbers likely coming

Nova Scotia is dealing with a backlog of tens of thousands of unprocessed COVID-19 tests, many of which the province's top doctor says are likely positive.

There are about 45,000 COVID-19 swabs waiting to be processed

Nova Scotians aged 40 to 54 can now book an appointment to receive an AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. (Bob Edme/The Associated Press)

Nova Scotia is dealing with a backlog of tens of thousands of unprocessed COVID-19 tests, many of which the province's top doctor says are likely positive.

"We need to be prepared for substantially higher case numbers over the next few days," said Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, at a briefing Friday afternoon.

Strang said there are 45,000 tests waiting in the queue at the province's microbiology laboratories. There is also a backlog in data entry, he said.

It means the province's testing strategy is temporarily changing so that primary assessment centres are open only to: 

  • Anyone with symptoms.
  • Anyone who has been notified that they are a close contact of a known case.
  • Anyone who has been at an exposure location.
  • Anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Asymptomatic testing for everyone else is still available at pop-up rapid testing sites.

589 active cases

The province reported 67 new cases Friday and has a total of 589 active cases, but Strang said the real number is likely much higher.

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There are 57 new cases in the central zone, three in the northern zone, four in the western zone and three in the eastern zone. The province said 22 people are in hospital, with five in the ICU.

Strang stressed the gravity of Nova Scotia's current outbreak at Friday's briefing. He said the situation is now more serious that at any other point during the pandemic.

Now is a critical time for people to stay home and follow all other public health restrictions, he said.

"We are seeing the stresses on many parts of our health-care system such as public health, the lab, and we're beginning to see impacts on our hospitals," Strang said.

He said additional service reductions will be coming to the health-care system as a "substantial increase" in hospitalizations is expected.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, at a COVID-19 briefing on Friday, April 30, 2021. (Communications Nova Scotia)

"We cannot vaccinate our way out of this immediate problem. The only quick and effective solution is public health restrictions and border measures that we put in place," he said.

Strang said he hopes the backlog in testing and data entry will be cleared over the weekend.

When asked by reporters, he would not venture to guess how many more positive results will be found among the 45,000 unprocessed swabs. While the numbers may be high, he said, they will represent behaviour that predates the current lockdown.

WATCH | COVID-19 briefing from Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang:

Given the tight restrictions that came into effect across the province this week, Strang said he is confident case numbers will drop sometime next week.

On Friday night, the health authority issued a half-dozen new potential COVID-19 exposure notifications.

AstraZeneca-Oxford opens to 40-plus

Strang and Premier Iain Rankin announced Wednesday that Nova Scotians aged 40 to 54 would be able to start booking the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine on Friday, as the province currently has a surplus of about 10,000 doses.

Appointments opened at 8:30 a.m. Friday and most were booked up within hours. Additional appointments could still be added. 

There are nearly 200,000 Nova Scotians between 40 and 54.

The AstraZeneca vaccine was already available to those aged 55 to 64, and those who are 55 and older are also eligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

Vaccine rollout on track

As of this week, more than 30 per cent of eligible Nova Scotians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 80 per cent of all Nova Scotians aged 70 and up have had at least one dose, and around 75 per cent of those 65 to 69.

Premier Iain Rankin and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang share an age-breakdown of active COVID-19 cases. The greatest number of cases are in the 16-30 age bracket. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Strang said it will be critical to see strong uptake in the younger age groups as doses become available to them. 

The province continues to project that vaccination appointments will be made available to everyone 16 and older before the end of June.

Atlantic Canada case numbers

  • Newfoundland and Labrador reported eight new cases Friday as well as three presumptive cases. There are 33 active cases and two people in hospital.
  • New Brunswick reported 15 new cases on Friday. There are 127 active cases. Four people are in hospital, including two in intensive care.
  • P.E.I. announced two new cases Friday for a total of 12 active cases. No one is currently hospitalized.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

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