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By the numbers: January was Nova Scotia’s deadliest month yet for COVID-19

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WATCH: Nova Scotia has now passed the peak of the Omicron wave, but hospitalizations are still high and the health-care system remains under pressure. – Jan 26, 2022

January 2022 marked Nova Scotia’s worst month yet for COVID-19-related fatalities.

A total of 35 people with COVID-19 died in the first month of the new year, narrowly surpassing the 32 deaths reported in May 2020, early on in the pandemic.

More than 18,300 new COVID-19 infections were reported last month, which is more cases than all of the other cases previously reported over the course of the pandemic.

The infections reported in January alone represent 1.8 per cent of Nova Scotia’s total population, or nearly one Nova Scotian out of every 50.

Read more: Nova Scotia reports 1 more COVID-19 death, active case count down

It’s important to note as well that Nova Scotia recently scaled back its COVID-19 testing program, so actual COVID-19 numbers are likely much higher than those reported.

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Global News took a look at the numbers from the previous waves of COVID-19 to see how the Omicron wave compares so far.

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Wave 1

Despite the toll Omicron has taken, Wave 1 continues to be the deadliest wave to date in Nova Scotia.

The province considers Wave 1 to have taken place between March 15, 2020 – when the first three presumptive cases of COVID-19 were reported – and Sept. 30, 2020.

A total of 1,088 infections were reported during this wave and hospitalizations peaked at 13 on April 26, 2020. ICU numbers peaked at five on May 15 of that year.

During that time, COVID-19 contributed to the death of 65 Nova Scotians: 28 in April 2020, 32 in May, three in June, one in July and one in August.

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Read more: Staffing issues, shared rooms led to deadly outbreak at N.S. long-term home: review

Considering the number of cases reported during this time, the 65 deaths represent a fatality rate of 5.9 per cent.

While it was the deadliest wave, most of the deaths – 53 – were concentrated in one area: the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax. For much of the first wave, the long-term care home was considered the epicentre of the virus in Nova Scotia.

An external review completed in September 2021 said shared rooms and staffing shortages were among the key factors that contributed to the outbreak.

An additional four long-term care residents with COVID-19 in other homes also died in the first wave.

Wave 2

Nova Scotia fared quite well during Wave 2 of the pandemic, which took place between Oct. 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021.

During that five-month period, there were 628 confirmed infections.

Cases began to tick up in the weeks leading up to the winter holidays, but were quickly brought under control after a round of heightened restrictions.

There was only one death during this period, on March 18, 2021, and hospitalizations peaked at just two people. ICU numbers also peaked at two people.

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Wave 3

Wave 3 was, at the time, considered to be the worst wave yet in Nova Scotia. The province considers that wave to have taken place between April 1, 2021, and July 31, 2021.

During that time, 4,922 new infections were reported, which was more than had been seen previously in the province, largely driven by the Delta variant.

Between April 21 and May 7, the province reported record-breaking numbers of cases every day, peaking at 227, before case counts began to drop over the following two weeks.

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Hospitalizations peaked at 103 on May 18, 2021 – higher than what has been seen so far in the Omicron wave – and ICU numbers peaked at 25.

During the five-month period, a total of 28 people died, representing a fatality rate of 0.56 per cent. The deaths included one person in long-term care.

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Despite the high case numbers, there was a glimmer of hope: Nova Scotia had begun rolling out its vaccination program, and most long-term care residents and other high-risk groups had been vaccinated.

As the wave continued, vaccine eligibility was expanded to more age groups.

Wave 4

Wave 4 happened between Aug. 1 and Dec. 7, 2021. During that time, 17 Nova Scotians died as a result of COVID-19, including four in long-term care.

A total of 2,562 Nova Scotians tested positive for the virus during the fourth wave, and hospitalizations peaked at 18 on Nov. 23. ICU numbers for that wave peaked at eight the following week.

While cases had been relatively stable over the summer, they began to climb in the fall before exploding in the winter, leading to what we now know as the fifth wave.

Omicron wave, beyond the numbers

Since the Omicron wave began on Dec. 8, Nova Scotia reported a total of 27,919 cases and 36 deaths, including three in long-term care. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 147 people have died.

While the fatality rate for the fifth wave, or the Omicron wave, remains low at 0.12 per cent, health officials warn the sheer number of people getting infected is cause for concern, as it ultimately leads to more hospitalizations and more deaths.

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Read more: Nova Scotia clarifies plan to have nursing students work in long-term care

While the hospitalization numbers have not yet eclipsed those seen in Wave 3, they still don’t give us a full picture of what’s going on within the health-care system. COVID-19 is spreading within hospitals at a rate not seen before during the pandemic, according to data.

As of Tuesday, there were 95 people hospitalized due to COVID-19. But on top of that, 135 people contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to the hospital.

As well, another 115 patients were identified as positive upon arrival at hospital but were admitted for another medical reason, or were admitted for COVID-19 but no longer require specialized care.

Read more: N.S. premier hopes to begin loosening COVID-19 restrictions in February

And while a cursory look at the numbers may tell us how many people have gotten infected, hospitalized and died, they don’t tell us how many people are suffering from the long-term effects of COVID-19 and how many people are mourning the loss of a loved one.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, recently said that Nova Scotia is likely past its peak of lab-confirmed cases and is within the peak of hospitalized cases during the Omicron wave.

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As Nova Scotia health officials continue to ask people to adhere to public health guidelines and get vaccinated and boosted, only time will tell how well Nova Scotia will fare in the weeks and months ahead.

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