Don’t Fret, The Upcoming Seasonal Increase in COVID-19 Cases is Expected

The Nova Scotia Civil Liberties Association (NSCLA) is passionate about the civil liberties of all Nova Scotians. The NSCLA is encouraged that the state of emergency has ended, and many of the restrictions on Nova Scotians have been lifted over the last month, including vaccine passports, mandatory masking, and gathering limits. That said, mandatory masking was reinstated for school children at the eleventh hour without any basis in science, and there are still many people, including health care workers, who remain out of work due to unscientific and harmful vaccine policies. These policies fly in the face of the overwhelming evidence around the vaccine’s ability to prevent transmission. Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, recently stated, “It's now clear that the primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine do not protect against an Omicron infection.”

Given that timely access to health care in Nova Scotia is a critical concern, these policies continue to be cause for alarm. They are contrary to the Nova Scotia Department of Health’s own directives based on the report titled Using the Population Health Approach, which acknowledges that the main determinant of health is income and social status. “Income and social status are more important than any other single factor that affects our health. Research shows that people with higher income and social status have greater control over their lives, especially stressful situations, and this is directly related to their health.”

As we approach the height of the respiratory illness season it is critically important for Nova Scotians to remember that an increase in COVID-19 activity is not simply a result of loosening restrictions, but a reflection of the seasonality this virus has demonstrated since the beginning. According to the Government of Canada’s FluWatch program, as demonstrated in the 2018-2019 season, respiratory illness peaks from November and into January and again in February, ending in May. The same trends are true for COVID-19. We had our first cases in Nova Scotia in March, 2020. They peaked in late April and then went on a downward trend through May. In 2021, we saw the same basic trend. Cases started to pick up in mid-April, peaking in early May and then went on a downward trend into early June.  This is all in spite of strong restrictions that were in place during those waves. We are already seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases in our communities across Canada. Based on the last two years of COVID-19, as well as decades of respiratory influenza, we anticipate a continued rise through April into May. 

The NSCLA is in full agreement with ending COVID-19 restrictions, however we remain cautious in celebrating and we implore Public Health not to use the natural ebb and flow of seasonal respiratory illness to reinstate restrictions. The timing of these decisions as we approach a predictable new wave of COVID-19 activity in our Province, that is unrelated to the loosening of restrictions, is a cause for concern. To date we have not seen any statements from Dr. Strang or Public Health acknowledging the approach of peak respiratory virus season. In fact, in the most recent weekly COVID-19 update, Dr. Strang says, “We continue to see the impact of the first and second phases of our reopening reflected in the increase in PCR positive tests. This is always our earliest indicator. We will be closely monitoring the impact on hospitalizations in the weeks ahead.”  The NSCLA is very concerned that restrictions could be implemented again as hospitalizations inevitably rise into April and May. Rather than this spike being properly attributed to seasonality, it may be blamed on the removal of restrictions, thus justifying their implementation once again. This recent statement is suggestive of this given the clear attribution of increased activity to the recent removal of restrictions. 

The NSCLA reminds all Nova Scotians that these elevated levels of respiratory illness in April and May are normal and will occur with or without Public Health measures. We urge our officials to allow the natural course of COVID-19 to play out without mandates and restrictions on the fundamental civil liberties of Nova Scotians that would not have otherwise been in place prior to 2020.