7 COVID-19 deaths reported in Nova Scotia as most restrictions on vaccine passports lifted

Phase 1 of Nova Scotia’s pandemic reopening plan took effect Monday as the province announced seven new deaths related to COVID-19.

Proof of vaccination for discretionary activities such as dining out, gyms and sporting events is no longer required.

However, restrictions remain in place for high-risk places such as hospitals and long-term care homes.

Last week, Premier Tim Houston announced that the provincial vaccine proof mandate would be largely lifted on Monday. He said all restrictions, including mask mandates, would be lifted in Nova Scotia on March 21 “if everything stays on track.”

The Halifax Regional Municipality has also dropped its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for municipal employees, students, interns, volunteers and vendors.

The municipality said masking and distancing requirements for indoor public places and Halifax Transit will remain in place, but may change in accordance with public health guidelines.

Nova Scotia’s three-phase opening plan. (Government of Nova Scotia)

Last week, the province’s health authority said it will not allow healthcare workers who have refused vaccination to return to work when the province drops its requirement for proof of vaccination.

In early December, the province furloughed more than 1,000 public sector workers who refused to adhere to the vaccination policy. This included 323 Nova Scotia Health employees.

7 COVID-related deaths reported Monday

The seven deaths reported on Monday include:

  • A man in his thirties in the central zone.
  • A man in his sixties in the central area.
  • Two octogenarian women in the central zone.
  • A woman in her sixties in the North Zone.
  • A 70-year-old man in the northern zone.
  • An octogenarian in the northern zone.

The province noted that most deaths reported to its disease reporting system, Panorama, reflect “the virus of the past…not the situation today.” This is because information is added to the system after a death has been identified as COVID-related, which can take days or weeks to investigate and report.

On Monday, there were 45 people in designated COVID-19 units in hospitals, including 10 in intensive care. The age range of those hospitalized was 5 to 92, with a median age of 59.

Among those hospitalized:

  • 11 (24.4%) people received a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 20 (44.4%) were fully vaccinated (two doses).
  • 1 (2.2%) was partially vaccinated.
  • 13 (28.9%) were not vaccinated.

Less than 10% of Nova Scotia’s eligible population is unvaccinated. The province says 92.1% of Nova Scotians received their first dose and 86.7% received their second dose.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and death rates

To date, 81 Nova Scotians have died during the Omicron wave which began in December.

Unvaccinated Nova Scotians are about 5.5 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than someone who has received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. This is based on the average number of hospitalizations since the province began publishing the number of daily hospitalizations by vaccination status on Jan. 4.

Unvaccinated people are about 4.5 times more likely to die from COVID-19 during the Omicron wave than someone who received a booster dose, based on figures provided by the province and updated for the latest times on February 25.

New cases reported

Nova Scotia Health conducted 1,941 tests on February 25, 1,512 tests on February 26 and 1,449 tests on February 27.

An additional 243 new laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported on Monday, including 133 cases in the central zone, 24 cases in the eastern zone, 57 cases in the northern zone and 29 cases in the western zone.

There were approximately 1,967 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

The province noted that there will be an increase in new laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 being reported because people who test positive rapidly are required to undergo a confirmatory PCR test. Newly reported cases will show a greater proportion of all cases in the province.

Use the Screening Tool

The province reminded Nova Scotians on Monday to complete the report and support the online screening tool as soon as they book a PCR test or have received a positive rapid test result.

The screening tool assesses a person’s risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19, as well as their eligibility for medications that could reduce the risk of hospitalization.

Public Health said this is particularly important for people in their 60s or older, as they are considered to be at higher risk of serious illness.

Rule changes for travelers

Some of the rules for travelers arriving in Canada also changed on Monday. Travelers now have the option of taking a rapid COVID-19 antigen test, instead of a PCR test, the day before their flight.

Children under 12 traveling with fully immunized adults do not need to wait 14 days before returning to school, camp or daycare and do not have to self-quarantine while waiting for the their test result.

Fully vaccinated travelers arriving from any country who have been randomly selected for testing at the airport will not have to self-quarantine while awaiting their test result.

The federal government is also removing the advisory against non-essential travel for Canadians.

Health authority employees on sick leave

The Nova Scotia Department of Health reported that 305 employees were off work Monday because they tested positive for COVID-19, were awaiting COVID-19 test results, or were exposed to a member of their household who had tested positive for COVID-19:

  • West area: 70.
  • Central zone: 102.
  • North area: 59.
  • East area: 74.

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