Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer remains confident ahead of COVID-19 reopening

As Nova Scotians prepare for the removal of all COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, the province’s chief medical officer of health said he remains confident it is safe to do so.

Dr. Robert Strang said Nova Scotia’s high level of vaccination provides a layer of protection we’ve never had against the virus, which has killed more than six million people worldwide in the past two years. .

“We’re starting to see cases on the rise (in Nova Scotia), it’s not unexpected as we open up, but I think we have to trust that we have a very strong layer of protection against the vaccine, and recently infected people, which is really a solid layer of protection, especially against serious illnesses.

“And so we’re not as concerned about cases in the community, what we’re really focusing on is making sure that we minimize the number of people at risk of, you know, getting a serious illness. So we continue to monitor this carefully.

Masking “strongly” recommended

About 87% of Nova Scotians have received two doses of the vaccine and 62.9% over the age of 18 have received a booster.

Strang said he would like to see a higher vaccination rate between 18 and 50.

“We still have work to do to get these young adults, young middle-aged adults, getting their maximum protection for themselves and others by getting a booster dose,” said Strang, who has done a series media interviews on Thursday. the afternoon of Monday’s reopening.

“But that aside, we still have a very strong layer of protection, which I think allows us to lift these very restrictive measures, which have their own set of harms – financial impacts, mental health impacts, etc. (We) can make this transition now with adequate levels of security. »

But as he has pointed out in the past, Strang said just because restrictions are lifted doesn’t mean we have to carry on as if the pandemic is over.

He still strongly recommends masking up in public indoor spaces such as schools and being careful about our social interactions.

“We still have a good amount of virus around, so certainly for the next month or so – April to May – it is really important that the measures that we have counted (on) people to use – stay tuned. home if you’re sick, getting vaccinated, always choosing to wear a mask in indoor places when you’re with other people outside your household – those kinds of measures – it’s still going to be important for people to keep doing it even if it is not necessary to do so for the next number of weeks to come.

Dr Robert Strang takes questions from reporters during a COVID briefing at One Government Place on Wednesday, November 24, 2021. – Ryan Taplin

Watch out for hospitalizations

There have been dozens of COVID-19-related deaths in recent weeks and in the Health Ministry’s latest report from March 10, the number of people in hospital remained in the 50 range.

There has also been a sharp increase in cases and deaths in some parts of the world such as Asia linked to the BA2 subvariant.

Asked if it gave him pause before reopening, Strang said the recently reported deaths likely happened in late January or early February and did not reflect what was happening in the community at that time. .

He said hospital admissions had fallen recently, but said he would not be surprised to see another increase if the reopening led to an increase in cases.

“We’ll be watching this carefully, but our hospitalizations are certainly down significantly from where they were a month, six, eight weeks ago.”

As for the threat of new variants, he again underlined the protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines.

“It’s all about balance and we’re certainly watching carefully, but again the vaccines we have protect against this BA2, this virus is a bit more infectious than Omicron, but there’s no more risk to create a serious disease and it is certainly no less protected than the Omicron strain by the vaccine.

Provincial funding of $3.8 million will be used to renovate the Halifax Infirmary as part of the ongoing redevelopment and expansion of the QEII Health Sciences Centre.  - Photo of SaltWire network file
The level of hospitalization for COVID-19 has fallen recently, but it is possible that Monday’s reopening will lead to a spike in cases and increase admissions. The province reported last week that 50 people had been admitted with COVID-19. An update expected on Thursday has been postponed until tomorrow. – Eric Wynne / File

Protecting vulnerable people

Much of the reopening fear comes from immunocompromised people and those with children too young to be vaccinated.

Strang said society should continue to do everything possible to protect these vulnerable populations as we did before the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes getting as fully vaccinated as possible and continuing to mask up.

“That’s why we’re asking all Nova Scotians to make choices not just for themselves. Don’t just think about yourself, think about those around you. You may not even know someone in your family or social circle who is immunocompromised or who for some other reason is at increased risk. … Those who need more help from others rely on us.