As mask mandates end, Canada’s Atlantic provinces see an increase in Covid cases

In Canada’s Atlantic provinces, once a haven for the pandemic, there has been a resurgence of known coronavirus infections at a time when most provinces have completed mask mandates and scaled down data monitoring of virus transmission.

The four eastern provinces – Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island – were relatively protected, in part by their location, from the violent virus transmission that gripped the rest of Canada during previous waves. Part of the strategy was to restrict travelers outside the province in what became known as the Atlantic “bubble”.

The “bubble” has burst, but travel between provinces is less of a problem for public health experts than the effects of recently completed mandates.

“We’re starting to remove masks, which for Canada is a big deal,” said Tara Moriarty, an infectious disease researcher and professor at the University of Toronto.

However, measuring the impact of changes in public health restrictions is hampered by a lack of public data, as most provinces have reduced the frequency of their reporting.

“The consequences are really serious in terms of the number of infections because people think things are not that bad and they behave accordingly,” said Dr. Moriarty.

In Nova Scotia, a province of about one million people, positive coronavirus test results have been rising since March, although the numbers may be “stabilizing”, according to a report issued by its public health authority. In Canada as a whole, the daily average of new cases is 10,073, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Some experts in infectious diseases, including Dr. Lisa Barrett, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has recommended the province that the mandate for indoor masks remain in place, and it is unclear what the threshold would be for reviving some public health measures.

“It’s really hard for people, without data being reported more often, to remember that we’re in a pandemic,” said Dr. Barrett and added that the mask provided a useful visual signal.

Newfoundland and Labrador have also reduced their daily data reporting; the province recorded its highest number of Covid deaths in April.

Amy Hurford, expert in modeling infectious diseases at Memorial University in St. Louis. John’s, Newfoundland, has created its own dashboard.

“I think it fills a need where people can get a better sense of situational awareness, by synthesizing the information that is available from a variety of sources,” said Dr. Hurford.

Canada’s overall test positivity rate is 18 percent, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Despite an increase in hospitalization rates across some jurisdictions, the occupancy rate remains low, said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s senior public health officer, at a news conference Friday.

Boostershots also seem to have the plateau, months after the winter holiday frenzy of booking limited appointments. About 81 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, and just over 47 percent have also received a booster, according to government data.

“We have probably not made enough good communication from all angles, public health and other things. And so we try to do it one more time, and give it one more chance, ”said Dr. Tame.

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