News

1. COVID restrictions lifted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID briefing, Dec. 13, 2021. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

This item is written by Tim Bousquet.

The province of Nova Scotia is lifting COVID restrictions effective tomorrow — people who test positive for COVID will no longer be required to isolate and masking is no longer recommended.

Some restrictions in health care and long-term care facilities remain, but even those are being eased.

As well, the weekly COVID report will now become monthly, issued on the 15th of each month, and covering the previous month.

At a press conference yesterday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang was asked if the end of the isolation requirement will result in an increase in case numbers. “I don’t see how this will change things substantially,” responded Strang. “Even though it has been mandatory, we (sic) really has been left up to people. We have, you know, we haven’t been enforcing that — that’s very difficult to actually enforce that.”

“Even though we’ve had a legal mandatory requirement [to isolate] throughout the last two plus years, we’ve had very little way to enforce that,” continued Strang, “and we’ve relied on people to actually do the right thing. So I think I’m comfortable certainly where we are at with our epidemiology, that it’s appropriate to shift to a message, which is really if you have cold and flu symptoms, regardless of what virus it might be, you should be staying home and isolating until you’re feeling better, if at all possible. And if you do have to go out, that’s when it’s really important to wear a mask.

But without the isolation requirement, won’t that mean people who have COVID will go to work?

“I don’t believe that [isolation requirement] was really was keeping many people home,” reiterated Strang. “People who were able to and knew the right thing to do will continue to do that, I believe. I fully recognize that there are financial, workplace, other reasons that make it more difficult for people to stay home from work, especially if they have cold and flu symptoms. That’s a long standing issue well before COVID. And so we need to look at that collectively as the business sectors and across government, how we do a better job of supporting people to stay home. But that’s separate from making this shift from a legally mandated but not enforced to a much more practical approach, which is what we’ve done for years with influenza and everything, always recommending to people, if at all possible, stay home when you’re acutely ill with cold and flu symptoms.”

Strang said that given Nova Scotia’s high vaccination rate, which is reflected in lower rates of hospitalization and death, COVID is now just another respiratory disease that no longer needs the steeped up Public Health restrictions.

We have to live with COVID,” said Strang. “It’s not going away. Does that mean that there are going to be some people at increased risk and there will be some people that die from COVID? Yes. There are people that die every year from influenza — and I don’t I don’t mean at all to be dismissive of that, but that is a reality.”

Suzanne Rent adds:

Meanwhile, Andrew Nikiforuk at The Tyee has this article, Get Ready for the Forever Plague, in which he writes that complacency about COVID by public health officials has opened the door for longer-term illness and damage:

Officials have largely abandoned any coherent response, including masking, testing, tracing and even basic data collection.

So don’t expect “normal” to return to your hospital, your airport, your nation, your community or your life anytime soon.

Although many public health officials still dismiss COVID infections as inevitable and even beneficial, a growing body of science shows this fashionable dogma is dangerously wrongheaded, if not an outright form of malpractice.

Reinfections, and 2022 is surely the year of reinfections, just increase the damage from COVID, which can be profound: immune dysregulation, blood clots, nerve cell death, inflammation, lung damage, kidney failure and brain damage.

New science shows that Omicron and its variants are getting better at evading immune defences induced by vaccines or by natural infection. BA5, for example, is more transmissible than any previous variant.

As a consequence it is now possible to be reinfected with one of Omicron’s variants every two to three weeks.

The data also shows that each reinfection confers no immunity. A summer infection, for example, will not protect you against a fall infection. But each and every infection will damage your immune system regardless of how mild the symptoms.

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2. Halifax organization offers support, programming to Black, Indigenous, racialized entrepreneurs

Alfred Burgesson is the CEO of Tribe Network. Photo: Tribe Network

“A local organization is working to support Black, Indigenous, and racialized entrepreneurs by offering networking events and programs,” reports Matthew Byard.

Alfred Burgesson is the founder and CEO of Tribe Network, which held a series of networking sessions across Atlantic Canada this spring.

“We wanted those people that signed up to play a role in actually informing the design of our program. And so we did the roadshows to give them that opportunity,” Burgesson said.

Burgesson said they’re still in the process of sifting through the feedback from those networking events and hope to have a final report available online by mid-July. He said there will soon be courses on the network’s platform so people can access training at their own pace.

“This is one thing we heard from the roadshow: ‘We don’t want to just sign onto a zoom meeting once a week,’” Burgesson said about the feedback. “We want to be able to access the content at our own pace. If we can’t make the Zoom meeting on a Friday, we want to be able to access the content at 3am on Sunday.’”

Byard also interviewed Clinton Davis, an entrepreneur who took part on a panel at the network’s event in Moncton this spring. Since then, Davis said he’s had other entrepreneurs reach out for advice:

“My main message was never be afraid to go out there and do it, to be an entrepreneur. I talked about some of the challenges, some of the lessons I learned. But my main message was: if you think you want to be an entrepreneur, if you want to do it, do it. It’s not as scary as it sounds.”

“Two out of 10 businesses maybe fail. In most cases entrepreneurs might stop running a business, they might move onto other ventures, but even if the business fails it doesn’t mean it destroys the person.”

Click here to read Byard’s story. 

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3. Halifax Fire hosting public engagement sessions

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s logo is seen on a vehicle parked outside its Fire Prevention office in Dartmouth in July 2020. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“The Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (HRFE) held a public engagement session at the Halifax Central Library Monday afternoon, but only three participants showed up,” CBC reports.  

 The HRFE is holding another public engagement session in Sheet Harbour on Tuesday, and two more in Williamswood and Eastern Passage on Wednesday.  

“I really hope that people take the opportunity to come out and share their opinions and perspectives and tell us their stories about their communities and what we can do to help provide a better service,” said Scott Ramey, the HRFE assistant chief of operations, who led the session. 

The sessions are being held to get the public’s input before drafting a five-year strategic plan on how to best serve the municipality as its population continues to grow. 

The strategic plan will look at the way the HRFE can improve its response standards, fire prevention, community risk-reduction programs and communication with the community. The plan will also address the needs of its buildings, fleet and staff. 

Brendan Meagher, president of the Halifax Professional Firefighters Association, told CBC, “We need more firefighters on fire trucks.” 

Meagher says the current standard of getting 14 firefighters to a 2,000-square-foot home in 11 minutes doesn’t work for all the larger buildings on the peninsula and in Dartmouth, which need more manpower than Halifax Fire has now.  

Ramey told CBC he expects a draft of the strategic plan to be ready in three to six months.

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4. Sharks

A great white shark from Dalhousie University marine biology student Vanessa Schiliro’s shark-smart video.

Michael Tutton at The Canadian Press has this story about a study that found the population of endangered great white shark in Canadian waters is stable, but not growing. Tutton reports:

That runs counter to worries the ocean’s greatest predators are increasingly prowling the region — perceptions fuelled by a suspected attack last August on a woman in the waters off Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island and cellphone videos the same month depicting a shark chewing a seal carcass.

Shark-tracking apps have also become popular, as the Ocearch group has operated in the region for several seasons tagging animals and allowing the public to follow the creatures online as they migrate into the northwest Atlantic from July to November.

However, work by a consortium of leading great white shark experts studying the animal’s behaviour says sightings in Canada aren’t translating into increased detection by underwater acoustic networks that pick up signals from tagged animals.

The study, which was published last month in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, said, “There was no systematic increase in the proportion of the tagged population visiting Canadian waters, which has remained relatively constant during the years where an appreciable number of animals had been tagged (2016 onward).

Heather Bowlby, the lead researcher at the federal government’s Canadian Atlantic Shark Research Laboratory, and co-author of the study, said researchers found interesting details about the tagged sharks’ behaviour. The data found the sharks are diving to depths of about 50 feet in coastal locations in the summer months. And they seemed to dive to those depths regardless of water temperature. The tags also found many of the sharks that were coming to Canadian waters are from Cape Cod, and are much younger.

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Views

The science behind why people don’t return their shopping carts

Shopping cart at the parking lot in Walmart. Photo: Suzanne Rent

On Saturday at 7am I headed to the Superstore in Bayers Lake for my usual weekly grocery run. It’s really the only time that whole park is peaceful and I can get my grocery shopping done very quickly. Anyway, on the way out of the store, a woman in front of me was pushing her shopping cart, when she stopped and left the cart directly in front of the doors and beside two carts that other shoppers had not returned. So, three carts were left blocking that doorway. At that particular store, there are four cart corrals in the parking lot and one area in the front entrance where you can pick up and drop off your carts (at one point the staff was collecting carts here and sanitizing them before putting them back into that designated space. They stopped doing that weeks ago).

I tend to park close to the cart corral and return my cart after I put my shopping bags in the car. I got into that habit when my kid was young. It was simply easier to put the bags in the car, take the cart with my kid still in it to the corral, and then take her out of the cart and back to the car (that’s harder to do with more than one kid, of course). But Sunday morning as I watched that woman leave her cart in front of the door I wondered why people don’t return their carts to the corral or another designated space.

Now, I know people have very good reasons for not returning their carts to the corral. They have their kids with them, they have mobility issues, and so on. I am talking about the people who are able to return the carts, but aren’t willing, and instead just leave them wherever, all willy nilly, in the aisles, in the checkout area, in the doorways, up on curbs, and in the parking lots where they can roll away and hit people or cars.

Because I am always curious about why people do the things they do, later that morning, I tweeted out a question wondering why people don’t return their carts. And wow, people have lots of opinions about returning shopping carts.

Commentors shared all sorts of reasons why people might not return their carts: kids, mobility issues, or there simply weren’t any corrals to return the carts to. One woman shared a story about how another shopper in front of her in the checkout left a cart, directly in front of her, blocking her and the stroller with her child in it in the checkout aisle. She wrote: “I have a theory that these are also the people who pitch their Tim Horton’s cups out their car windows.”

Someone else shared a meme about the Shopping Cart Theory that states “the shopping cart is the ultimate litmus test for whether a person is capable of self-governing” and “there are no situations other than dire emergencies in which a person cannot return their cart.” (I don’t agree with that because of the above-mentioned legitimate reasons for not returning the cart to the corral.)

A few others told me there are YouTube channels like Cart Narcs dedicated to shaming people who don’t return their carts to the corral. Here’s one of Cart Narc’s videos from just a couple of days ago:

In April 2017, Krystal D’Costa with Scientific American wrote this story on why people don’t return their shopping carts, and she found there are five categories of cart users:

  1. Returners. These people always return their carts to the receptacle regardless of how far away they’ve parked or what the weather is like. They feel a sense of obligation and/or feel badly for the people responsible for collecting the carts.
  2. Never Returners. People who never return their carts. They believe it’s someone else’s job to get the carts or the supermarket’s responsibility, and show little regard for where the carts are left.
  3. Convenience Returners. People who will return their carts if they parked close to the receptacle, or if they see a cart attendant.
  4. Pressure Returners. People who will return their carts only if the cart attendant is present or if the adjacent car’s owner is present, which means they don’t have an easy avenue for abandoning their carts.
  5. Child-Driven Returners. These are people with children who view it as a game to return carts, often riding them back to the receptacle or pushing them into the stacked lines.

D’Costa wrote about a 2008 study published in Science that talked about injunctive norms and descriptive norms. Injunctive norms are what “drive our responses based on our perception of how others will interpret our actions.” Descriptive norms, meanwhile, are behaviours driven by contextual clues. In other words, people mimic what they see others doing.

And these behaviours apply to much more than what we do with our shopping carts. In that 2008 study, scientists wanted to see if violating one norm would lead people to violating other, unrelated norms. Here’s how that experiment unfolded:

In the first test, researchers targeted participants who parked their bicycles in two alleys. On the walls of the alleys were signs that indicated graffiti was not permitted. One alley had no graffiti, while the other did, despite the signs. Researchers attached a flyer to the handles of bicycles in both alleys so that the owners needed to physically remove the flyers. In the alley with graffiti on the wall, 69% threw the flyer on the ground or hung the flyer on another bicycle compared with 33% in the alley with no graffiti. The researchers reported that the anti-graffiti signs were readily visible and all entrants to the alleys glanced at the signs. The appearance of graffiti on the walls in defiance of the signs suggested that it was appropriate to break another norm: littering.

So, those Never-Returners of carts just may toss their Tim Horton cups out of car windows, too.

On my Twitter thread, Tim Bousquet said he returns his cart to the corral, but added the Superstore on Quinpool Road doesn’t have corrals in its parking lot. Furthermore, the store itself is designed in a way that doesn’t encourage people to go back to the store to return them (a number of people said that particular store had a poor layout in general). And really, shoppers shouldn’t have to go back to the store to return carts; they want to leave the store when they’re done shopping. Someone else suggested there be a place to put the carts near the checkout. Halifax Retales said the Sobeys store he frequents is poorly designed and doesn’t allow a place for customers to leave carts closer to the store.

I honestly didn’t even think about how the design would influence a shopper’s decision to return a cart, even though I am fascinated by the ways in which design influences our behaviour, including why people ignore warning signs or why trucks kept hitting the tolls at the MacKay Bridge. But it sounds like the Superstore on Quinpool needs to rework its store layout and put some cart corrals in the parking lot. I checked out that parking lot Sunday morning — I clearly need another hobby — and there were several carts just left out there.

One of several shopping carts sitting in the parking lot at the Quinpool Centre in Halifax. Photo: Suzanne Rent

I checked out other parking lots, too. This was at Walmart in Bayers Lake.

Photo: Suzanne Rent

In some cases, there were carts left near bus stops.

Shopping carts near a bus stop on Chain Lake Drive. Photo: Suzanne Rent
Shopping carts left near a bus shelter on Mumford Road. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The same morning I was wondering about shopping carts, John Gillis tweeted out this photo:

This seems like a clear case of how design might improve this space. The Sobeys store at Mumford is a good distance from the terminal. If you have a lot of groceries, you’re going to use a cart to take them closer to the bus stop. If there was a corral closer to the terminal would people put their carts there? And are these Non-Returners the same people who toss their cigarette butts on the ground? Gillis’s tweet actually inspired a discussion about how putting ashtrays in the area might stop smokers from tossing their butts on the ground.

My kid worked at a grocery store for about a year and part of her job was sanitizing and gathering carts in the entrance of the store (that store no longer does this). We had a discussion about all of this and she said people who leave their carts in random spots outside see the staff as lesser-than, so they don’t think about the work involved in gathering up the carts that are left anywhere. Maybe it’s why people who are “having a bad day” feel they can take it out on the cashiers. Somehow in their own minds they disconnect their own behaviour from the consequences suffered by another person. I always thought the job of the cart staff was to take the carts from the corral and return them to the store, not to go around collecting carts just left wherever by shoppers.

That article Krystal D’Costa wrote in Scientific American got so much response to the story they wrote a follow-up here with the reasons people don’t return their carts. 

In short, the Returners judged the Never-Returners’ character for not returning the carts. The Never-Returners defended not returning the carts, saying they were helping to create jobs. And grocery store staff had their say, too. Here are a couple of comments:

  • I return carts and usually take a few up with me that I find stray in parking spaces. First job was at a grocery store and getting carts isn’t an easy job.
  • Always return the cart! I spent many years in my youth working at grocery stores, so I know what a hard job doing a “cart run” can be! My routine now: park near a receptacle, especially in bad weather. Take a cart or two inside with me. Use one. When done, it goes back into the receptacle, or if I’m parked close to the door, I put it inside (or if my teens are with me. They can handle a walk!) Not hard, and can make a staff member’s day a *little* easier. And not ding cars!

Not returning our carts to the corral is not just about the carts. It’s how we behave in certain spaces, what our personal goals/needs are in that moment, what our expectations are of ourselves and others, and how our decisions are influenced on the design of a place. We see such behaviours play out in many other ways. Think of the people who won’t stack the trays at airport security in which you dump the contents of your purse or pockets. Or the people who stand up as soon as the plane lands and insist on being the first to exit. Or even why some people don’t use their turn signals when driving.

And more recently, think of how people responded to the arrows on the floor in grocery stores or how they reacted to having to wear masks in public spaces. The reactions varied widely. Masks and arrows, like shopping carts, are all items with a purpose, but all test us in different ways. How we use them (or not) might say something about our character, but it also says a lot about how we interact with and think of other people, and how we navigate a space and situations. And we all judge the ways in which others use these items. You could almost certainly create categories of mask users like Scientific American did with cart users: There are the Wearers, the Never-Wearers, the Convenience Wearers, the Pressure Wearers, and then the Half-Assed Wearers, who can’t seem to pull their mask up over their noses.

I wonder if the people who don’t pull their masks over their noses put their carts back? I probably don’t want the answer, but I’ll give the final word about shopping carts to D’Costa at Scientific American:

The world will likely not end because we aren’t returning our shopping carts — that would be an amazing butterfly effect — but it’s an example of a quality of life issue we can control. That guy who didn’t return his cart may not be a complete jerk. He may just be using the example set by others so he can get home a little more quickly. But if everyone does that, then we’re shifting the balance of what is acceptable, which may have greater ramifications to the social order. We have a greater influence over seemingly mundane situations than we realize.

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Noticed

Today is Day 2 of Spring Garden Road as a bus, bicycle, and pedestrian route. As of Monday, the street shut down to cars from 7am to 8pm. The closure of the street to cars is a pilot project. Here’s a video from Twitter of the car-free street from a cyclist’s point of view:

https://twitter.com/BenMacLeod/status/1543993308413837314

There are a lot of frustrations, though. Graeme Benjamin with Global Halifax filmed this video Monday morning of the confusion on the first day. Cops were on the street directing traffic.  Benjamin later spoke with business owners on Spring Garden who are worried about enforcement of the rule. Benjamin spoke with Kurt Bulger, one of the owners of Jennifer’s of Nova Scotia, who called it a “dog’s breakfast.”

“There’s so much visual clutter down here right now. I’ve been coming down here for 40 years and I have no idea what’s going on anymore.”

Sue Uteck, president of the Spring Garden Business Association, told Benjamin she’s worried about the signage.

“I think it is going to be very confusing as a tourist,” she said. “For this initial orientation period, we should have used construction signage … flashing at either end.”

Elora Wilkinson, project manager of the Spring Garden Road Project, told Benjamin that they can cancel the project at anytime, if they find it’s not effective.

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Government

City

Tuesday

No meetings

Wednesday

Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — if required

Province

House of Assembly Management Commission (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place) — MLA office rents, appointment of auditors, HAMC Regulation changes, adoption of inventory control matrix, 21-22 financials and CPI adjustment


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

No events

Wednesday

Weave with Sharon Kallis (Wednesday, 1pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — from the listing:

Sharon Kallis’ work “Straddling an Island: West Coast and East Coast Intertwined” is an interactive installation featured in the exhibition Plant Kingdom, open until July 10. On the specified days and times during the exhibition, Sharon Kallis will be online and at her home loom in Vancouver, BC. Visitors are invited to join Sharon virtually using the Gallery’s wall-mounted iPad and weave along on the parallel loom set up in the exhibition.

This is an opportunity to learn a few basics about the workings of the historical warp-weighted loom and work with a hand-spun nettle and linen warp and weft using fibres gathered from both coasts. The two cloths made from both coasts will be joined, and sewn into a future garment for the artist’s wardrobe.


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: MSC Manzanillo, container ship, arrives at anchorage from Sines, Portugal
13:00: Torm Thor, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Anegasaki, Japan
15:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Charlottetown
16:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
16:30: Torm Thor sails for sea
18:30: MSC Manzanillo sails for New York
19:30: Tomini Ghibli, bulker, sails from Pier 28 for sea

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

Someone in my Twitter thread on shopping carts asked what happened to the shopping baskets at grocery stores. Good question! For months, the Sobeys in Clayton Park took away the smaller carts, which I prefer. I once asked where the small carts went and an employee said the bigger carts help create the six-feet distance between customers. That may have been the reasoning behind taking the baskets, too. Also, fewer things for the staff to sanitize. The store eventually brought the small carts back, but I haven’t seen the baskets yet.


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Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. “Cart Talk” aside. I think there should be a federal inquiry or royal commission into the behavior of CMOH’s late in the pandemic. They are failing to serve the people they are supposed to be protecting and likely violating their hypocritic oaths to do no harm. Masking is effective, improved ventilation is effective, isolating when infectious is effective. They have the tools to reduce harm and they are systematically removing them and ignoring the best scientific advice of experts in both public health and immunology.

  2. I’m a “returner”. My first job in high school was at K Mart. At the end of my evening shift, after the store closed, it was my job to collect the stray carts and return them to the store. Doing that in Moncton, at minus 30 wind chill, when I was missing important party time, was no fun. “Returner” for life.

  3. During my career in events management I realized that people do not read signs – no matter the placement or the attractiveness of the sign. People would ask us for directions all the time, while standing beside the sign with the arrow pointing them in the right direction. This is going to be an issue on Spring Garden Road with buses visible on the road ahead, the signs will not even be noticed.

  4. I have been a Returner most of life (it’s taken me 50 years to learn to challenge rules), but over the last two years, got into the habit of leaving them just inside the out door because it was required — there was someone there disinfecting them. Since my husband does the bulk of the grocery shopping, I haven’t been out much, so this habit is lingering.

  5. Baskets came back for a short period at one of the Sobey’s stores I use but seem to be gone for good. I generally just fill my shopping bag if I’m only getting a few things.
    Small carts are often in short supply.

  6. I’ve also noticed that the baskets have been gone from most grocery stores since the pandemic started. I find this so frustrating. As someone who walks to the grocery store instead of taking a car, the basket is a good tool to know how much I’ll be able to carry home.

    I’m suspicious that it’s a business decision as people are more likely to buy more when they are forced to push around a cart.

    1. I also walk to the grocery store and used the small basket as a good guide of what I could carry on the return trip. Now that the baskets are gone, I only buy what I can carry in my two hands as I know, from past experience, that I will buy way more than I want to carry if I use a cart – even when shopping from my list. I must remember to ask the staff at my local grocery store if the small baskets will ever return, or if the lack of them is part of the new normal.