The friends and families of two more Nova Scotians are in mourning as the province reports two more deaths from COVID-19.
A woman in her 50s and a man in his 70s both died in their Halifax-area homes from complications related to the disease.
"These people are not cases or numbers, they are family, friends and neighbours," said Dr. Robert Strang at a Tuesday briefing. "To their loved ones, I offer my deepest condolences and prayers."
"To everyone watching today, I say this, the virus is deadly," continued the province's chief medical officer of health. "Two people have lost their lives, another 39 are in hospital and hundreds more are sick at home."
Overall, there have been 69 COVID-related deaths in Nova Scotia since the start of the pandemic.
The province reported 153 new cases Tuesday as the number of active cases shot up into four-digit territory with 1,060.
"One of the people who died was not even known to public health as a positive COVID-19 case, yet COVID-19 was found to be their cause of death after they succumbed," said Strang.
Both Strang and Premier Iain Rankin said the province has reached a critical point in its fight against the third wave, thought to mostly involve the very aggressive B.1.1.7 variant, which first emerged in the U.K.
"This is not the time that we can afford for anyone to be complacent," said Strang.
"The illness we are seeing in Nova Scotia from the variants can progress quickly, sometimes in as little as 12 hours," he added. "So please, if you need urgent medical attention, whether you know you have COVID or not, call 811 or 911 immediately. The disease may not give you time to wait."
Nova Scotia is covering the ambulance fees for anyone who needs emergency transportation to a hospital due to COVID-19.
"If you're feeling symptoms from COVID, and if you have difficulty breathing at home, please call an ambulance," urged Rankin.
"We will waive that fee. Do not struggle at home because you're worried about the cost. Get to the hospital."
Tuesday is the seventh day of a province-wide shutdown and both Strang and Rankin are pleading with Nova Scotians to follow the restrictions.
Strang said most are abiding by the rules, but he has a message for those who may be thinking of breaking them.
"Think about the families of the people who just died. Think about the fact that one of them died not even knowing that they had this deadly virus," he said. "Think about your own family and loved ones. Think about the people who may have to care for you or your loved ones in hospital, or sell you your groceries, or take care of your children."
"This is not a joke, it isn't an annoyance and it isn't a conspiracy. COVID is real, it's here and it can kill, and it's putting our health care system that we all rely on for one reason or another at risk."