For eight straight days, Nova Scotia has set record-high COVID-19 single-day case increases.
On Thursday, the province reported 689 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day case increase since the onset of the pandemic.
The previous record for the highest single-day case increase was on Wednesday, when 537 new infections were announced.
Public health says 498 of Thursday’s cases are in the province’s Central zone, 55 are in the Eastern zone, 79 cases are in the Northern zone, and 57 are in the Western zone.
As of Thursday, public health says there is an estimated 3,844 active cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
Fourteen people are currently in hospital, four of whom are in intensive care.
The province did not provide an update on recoveries on Thursday.
On Wednesday, 11 schools in the province were notified of an exposure at their school.
A full list of school exposures is available online.
Due to an increase in testing and positive cases, public health says it is experiencing some delays in follow-up and will try to contact anyone confirmed positive by the lab within 24 hours.
All cases will be asked to contact their close contacts. This may be the only contact a positive case has with public health.
Detailed follow-ups are being prioritized to support contact tracing in schools, long-term care, health-care facilities, correctional facilities, shelters and other group settings.
On Wednesday, Nova Scotia Health Authority’s labs completed 8,181 tests.
OUTBREAK DECLARED AT SHELBURNE NURSING HOME
Public health has declared an outbreak at Roseway Manor – a nursing home in Shelburne.
Two staff members have tested positive for the virus. Health officials say neither of the positive cases are in hospital or have had contact with residents.
All staff at the facility are fully vaccinated, and 98 per cent of residents are fully vaccinated and have had a booster shot.
NO NEW CASES AT DARTMOUTH GENERAL HOSPITAL
Public health says there are no new positive cases at the Dartmouth General Hospital, where fewer than five patients have tested positive for the virus.
Health officials say all patients are being closely monitored.
“Infection prevention and control measures are being put in place, and NSHA is currently testing all patients and staff identified as a close contact. NSHA will provide a further update when more information is available,” read a release from the province on Thursday.
UPDATE ON ST. MARTHA’S REGIONAL HOSPITAL
Health officials say no new cases of COVID-19 have been identified at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish, N.S.
Public health says there are still fewer than five positive cases connected to the hospital.
As a precaution, NSHA is testing identified close contacts, and other infection prevention and control measures are being put in place.
Testing will also be made available for all staff and doctors on site who want to get tested.
NO NEW CASES AT PARKSTONE ENHANCED CARE
There have been no new cases of COVID-19 identified at Parkstone Enhanced Care – a nursing home in Halifax.
To date, a total of two residents and one staff member at the facility have tested positive. No one is in hospital.
All staff and residents are fully vaccinated, and all eligible residents have had a booster shot, according to public health.
UDPATE ON OUTBREAK AT HALIFAX INFIRMARY
Public health says there are no new cases connected to the outbreak at the Halifax Infirmary side of the QEII Health Sciences Centre.
To date, there have been fewer than five patients test positive for the virus.
“All patients are being closely monitored and other infection prevention and control measures are being put in place,” wrote public health.
UPDATE ON PARKLAND ANTIGONISH
There are no new cases of COVID-19 at Parkland Antigonish – a seniors’ living community in Antigonish.
To date, three residents and two staff members have tested positive for the virus. No one is in hospital and all staff and residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
As of Thursday, 1,758,286 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
Of those, 793,489 Nova Scotians have received their second dose, and 105,019 eligible Nova Scotians have received a third dose.
CHANGES TO DAILY COVID-19 REPORTS
Nova Scotia says beginning Thursday, the province is changing how it reports daily COVID-19 data due to delays in data entry caused by the recent high number of infections.
For most of the pandemic, Nova Scotia has reported data from Panorama – public health’s disease information system.
Since Dec. 10, the province has shifted to reporting the number of positive lab test results to more accurately reflect the situation in the province, given the backlog in the Panorama data entry.
The province says, although this data is more accurate overall, it does contain a small number of duplicate results due to some people getting tested more than once.
“Starting today, duplicate results will be removed from reported case numbers. Each case will only be counted when the person first tests positive,” wrote the province in a release. “The data released Monday through Friday will include the number of positive cases after excluding duplicate lab results, the breakdown by zone, estimated active case count, and immunization data and testing data.”
On weekends and holidays, officials say the number of positive cases will be reported based on raw lab data, which may include a small number of duplicates, with a breakdown by zone.
“Following weekends and holidays, the number of cases will be updated with the duplicates removed. There will not be reports on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day,” wrote public health.
Also beginning Thursday, the COVID-19 dashboard will temporarily include the estimated number of active cases and some data will be removed.
“These reporting changes are expected to be temporary and last four to six weeks. The Province will then resume reporting Panorama data,” wrote public health.
COVID ALERT APP
Canada’s COVID-19 Alert app is available in Nova Scotia.
The app, which can be downloaded through the Apple App Store or Google Play, notifies users if they may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
LIST OF SYMPTOMS
Anyone who experiences a fever or new or worsening cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms, is encouraged to take an online test or call 811 to determine if they need to be tested for COVID-19:
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose/nasal congestion
Markets split on BoC decision as business survey, inflation loom – BNN
The Bank of Canada is getting a pair of key indicators this week ahead of a rate decision next Wednesday that’s virtually a coin toss, as far as markets are concerned.
First up on Monday, the central bank releases its quarterly Business Outlook Survey, which provides a snapshot of how approximately 100 corporate leaders are feeling about the economy and their own business fundamentals.
When the last survey was released in October, it showed the broadest gauge of sentiment was at the highest level in the survey’s history. That was despite worsening labour shortages and as more than half of respondents (57 per cent) said they expected labour costs to accelerate over the next year.
“[Monday’s] Business Outlook Survey might have been completed too early to catch Omicron uncertainties, so expect respondents to retain a healthy dose of optimism,” said CIBC World Markets Chief Economist Avery Shenfeld in a report to clients Friday.
“The survey could show a majority expecting inflation to run above the top end of the Bank of Canada’s one-three per cent inflation band. If not for Omicron, that would spell a rate hike in January, but the uncertainties surrounding how long this disruption will last should be enough to defer that decision.”
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada will release the consumer price index for December on Wednesday. Economists are expecting to see inflation rose 4.8 per cent year-over-year in the month; that would be the fastest rate of growth since 1991.
As of 8:30 a.m. Monday morning, market data shows investors see a 59 per cent chance of a rate hike when the Bank of Canada delivers its decision on Jan. 26.
House Price Index rose 26% in 2021, fastest pace on record – CBC News
The Canadian Real Estate Association’s House Price Index rose by 26.6 per cent in the 12 months up to December, the fastest annual pace of gain on record.
The group, which represents more than 100,000 realtors and tabulates sales data from homes that listed and sell via the Multiple Listings Service, said the supply of homes for sale at the end of the month hit an all-time low.
After pausing for a few weeks in the early days of the pandemic, Canada’s housing market has been on an absolute tear for the past two years, as feverish demand from buyers wishing to take advantage of rock-bottom interest rates has drastically outpaced the supply of homes to buy.
That imbalance is a major factor contributing to higher prices, as buyers have to pay more and more to outbid others because of the lack of alternatives.
Various experts are suggesting that parts of the country are showing signs of being in a speculative bubble, and CREA says the biggest reason for runaway price increases is that there aren’t enough homes being put up for sale.
“There are currently fewer properties listed for sale in Canada than at any point on record,” CREA’s chief economist Shaun Cathcart said. “So unfortunately, the housing affordability problem facing the country is likely to get worse before it gets better.”
High prices not denting demand
CREA says the average price of a Canadian home that sold on MLS in December went for $713,500. That’s actually down from the record high of more than $720,000 in November, but still well up on an annual basis.
High prices don’t seem to be slowing demand, however, as 2021 was the busiest year for home sales ever. Some 666,995 residential properties traded hands on MLS last year, smashing the previous annual record by 20 per cent.
TD Bank economist Rishi Sondhi said that there was a less than two-month supply of homes for sale during the month, which means at the current sales pace, all listings would be gone in less than two months. Under normal conditions, there’s a five-month supply of homes for sale, and Sondhi says that supply and demand imbalance is a major factor in eye-popping price gains.
“With interest-rate pull-forward behaviour keeping demand so strong, and supply struggling to keep up, it’s little wonder why prices are continuing their relentless upward march,” he said. “Buyers pulling forward demand ahead of looming interest rate hikes kept sales at unsustainable levels last month. How long this effect will last is uncertain, but it should eventually fade.”
COVID-19 antiviral: Canada authorizes Pfizer pill – CTV News
Health Canada has authorized the use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid.
The federal health agency says the prescription-only medication can be given to adults ages 18 and older to treat mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, if they have a confirmed positive viral test and are at a high risk of becoming seriously ill.
The authorization comes with specific instructions on scenarios in which the regime cannot be used, including to prevent COVID-19 infections or to treat patients who are already hospitalized due to severe COVID-19 cases.
The medication— two antiviral medicines co-packaged together— cannot be taken for longer than five days in a row, nor can it be given to teens or children.
More details about the authorization are being provided by Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma, in a technical briefing in Ottawa.
Pfizer submitted clinical data for the oral medication, on Dec. 1, 2021.
The government has a deal in place with the pharmaceutical giant securing access to an initial one million doses of the therapeutic drug.
Responding to recent calls from the provinces for a swift rollout of this medication in the face of an expected surge in Omicron hospitalizations, the federal government has vowed that delivery of the drug will happen in short order.
Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi will be holding a press conference to discuss the rollout of this treatment at 1:30 p.m. EST.
In November 2021, Pfizer released the results of their Phase 2/3 trials for the drug, stating that they had found the pills to significantly reduce hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients.
Pfizer said that in a randomized, double-blind study of more than 380 patients, there was an 89 per cent reduction in the risk of being hospitalized or dying of COVID-19 in patients that received Pfizer’s pill within three days of displaying COVID-19 symptoms, compared to the study group that received a placebo.
According to Pfizer, Paxlovid is designed to block the activity of an enzyme in SARS-CoV-2 that is essential for the virus to replicate itself, and also help to slow the breakdown of the pill’s ingredients in order to help combat the virus for longer.
“PAXLOVID stops the virus from multiplying. This can help your body to overcome the virus infection and may help you get better faster,” reads Health Canada’s authorization.
Paxlovid contains two medicines co-packaged together, a 150mg pink tablet of Nirmatrelvir and a 100mg white tablet of Ritonavir, which has been used in combination with other antiviral medications before.
The regime is meant to be taken consistently twice a day, for five days in a row. The agency has outlined on their website the detailed instructions for taking this medication, as well as a list of potential contraindications.
For example, Health Canada has issued warnings for patients with kidney or liver problems; patients with a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; patients who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or are planning to become pregnant; and patients who take a series of other medicines which may interact with Paxlovid.
Side effects can include an altered sense of taste, diarrhea, muscle pain, vomiting, high blood pressure, and headache. Though, given the limited use of this medication to date, the agency cautions that it is possible not all side effects are known at this time and advise speaking with a healthcare professional if other side “troublesome” effects arise.
The medication is what is called a “protease inhibitor antiviral therapy”, a type of medication that has largely been used before to treat HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.
Health Canada has also been reviewing an experimental pill from drugmaker Merck, called molnupiravir, since mid August. The federal government also has a contract to purchase 500,000 of Merck’s antiviral medication, with an option for 500,000 more pending regulatory approval.
In late December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for both Pfizer and Merck’s drugs.
With files from CTV News’ Alexandra Mae Jones and Sarah Turnbull
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