The year 2022 has been a deadly one for COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. The first month saw the highest number of COVID deaths to that point with 35. February then had 52 deaths and 56 deaths were reported in the province related to COVID-19 in March.
“The idea that the Omicron family of variants is less deadly and less severe is a misnomer,” said Susanne Gulliver, senior epidemiologist and research and operations manager with Dr. Wayne Gulliver and NewLab Clinical Research Inc. in St. John’s.
“We’ve seen it, they’re significantly more deadly because just the higher number of people being infected, and as a result deaths are at an all-time high.”
Gulliver says she believes it was a mistake for provinces to lift restrictions and get rid of certain COVID-19 measures so soon.
“We stopped contact tracing and making announcements of public exposure sites, we decided to limit access to PCR testing,” she said.
“The problem is that in the middle of a surge of cases we decided that we were going to stop doing the things that the public needed to make informed decisions and to protect themselves and others.”
Last month in Nova Scotia, the government made the decision to switch from reporting COVID-19 cases daily to weekly — a decision Liberal Leader Iain Rankin is calling to be reversed.
“I know there’s cases that are climbing and that’s why I’m asking the government to come and let people know,” said Rankin.
The Liberal leader is also calling for the province to reconsider returning to some restrictions, or if not, holding briefings to justify to the public why not.
“They did say if circumstances changed, we’d re-evaluate,” said Rankin.
“That’s where we’re at and that’s what we’re asking for.”
In the latest COVID-19 update released Thursday, the province reported 4,188 positive PCR tests. Rankin says more concerning than the numbers is the percentage of tests that are positive, which is around 30 per cent.
“We have the largest percentage case counts being testing positive that are PCRs than we ever had before so the least (the government) can do is be transparent,” said Rankin.
“Even though everyone is hearing people have contracted COVID, I don’t know that everyone realizes how serious it is now.”
Neither the premier nor the health minister was made available for an interview on Monday but in a statement, the Department of Health and Wellness writes that it is “seeing positive test numbers rise along with hospitalizations and cases in long-term care.”
“This is not unexpected,” it said. “We are counting on Nova Scotians to do their part to help control the spread without the need for restrictions.”
When it comes to reporting data, the province notes that “public reporting has always been based on the information Dr. (Robert) Strang and his team use” and that while it has evolved over time, Nova Scotians have access to all the information via a weekly epi report.
Gulliver says she also believes that weekly data is not enough to give the public a clear picture of what’s happening.
“If the government is putting the onus on the individuals to assess their risk and make choices then they need to provide people with the information to make those choices.”
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