I’m here a day early from my usual spot in the rotation, filling in for Philip Moscovitch while he takes a brief post-vaccination rest. Now, in other pandemic-related news…
1. COVID-19 Update
In case you missed the headline: “We’re not anywhere close to being out of the woods.”
That’s what Dr. Robert Strang had to say at yesterday’s provincial COVID-19 briefing.
On Monday, the province announced 146 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of active cases in Nova Scotia to 942.
Not even a week into the province’s latest lockdown (though HRM has been shut down for close to two weeks now) Strang is urging Nova Scotians to adhere to public health guidelines as we ride out the third wave of the virus. New variants, he warns, are able to spread faster and symptoms can be more severe.
Over the weekend 37 people were ticketed in HRM for breaking gathering restrictions, and a rally on Citadel Hill saw people openly flouting them. According to Strang, the current numbers are a reflection of what happened two weeks ago, so we likely won’t see the impact of these infractions until two weeks from now.
Strang also reminded people that it takes about two weeks from the time of vaccination before immunity starts to develop in the body. This was in response to news that a couple had been hospitalized after going out to celebrate receiving their first vaccine dose.
He did say that he believes the majority of Nova Scotians are acting responsibly and we should start seeing numbers decline soon.
At the same briefing, Premier Iain Rankin was a bit more blunt in his message to the public.
“What is wrong with you?” He asked, referring to those ignoring gathering measures.
He went on to call these actions “selfish,” saying the province is vaccinating people as quickly as possible, but it’s still imperative we follow lockdown restrictions to limit and reduce current outbreaks.
As more cases keep coming in and more people are hospitalized, bed and ICU capacity are becoming a concern. Currently, there are 40 people in hospital, eight of whom are in intensive care. Tim Bousquet emailed Brendan Elliott at Nova Scotia Health to check in on current capacities:
Nova Scotia Health told Bousquet that the province is preparing to have 245 beds available for active inpatients, excluding those in critical care, if necessary. It’s precautionary at the moment.
There is still some good news on the pandemic front.
Strang says testing is no longer backlogged in the province, so results should start coming out within 48 hours again. And ambulance fees for all Covid-related calls are being waived after reports of Nova Scotians getting sick and choosing not to call an ambulance because of the price. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are now available for those aged 50-54 and it’s still expected that every Nova Scotian adult who wants a vaccine will get their first dose within six weeks. Should younger people continue to get vaccinated at the rate of those currently eligible to receive their doses, Strang expects we could start to see herd immunity some time in June, AKA, next month. So, assuming the vast majority of people remain socially responsible, we could see a more open summer in Nova Scotia this year.
For now, we’re still in the thick of things.
Check out Tim Bousquet’s update from yesterday for a breakdown on the demographics of current cases, news on testing, the latest on the vaccination rollout, schools (still closed), and potential exposure advisories for sites around the province.
Also, a couple days ago, Bousquet put together a handy compilation of potential COVID exposures from flights and bus routes. So if you’ve been on a plane or HRM transit recently, it might be worth a quick glance.
Here’s Bousquet’s provincial map of potential exposure sites:
2. Clients and staff of nursing homes were among first to be vaccinated, but one N.S. home still has COVID cases… and a troubling history
The decision to prioritize vaccinations by age means nearly all residents of nursing homes and residential care facilities (aka group homes) have been vaccinated. In this third wave of the pandemic, it is rare to find a resident who has COVID-19. And there have been only six reported cases among staff during this outbreak.
Two of those six staff members were at the Clarmar Residential Care facility in Dartmouth. One was reported on Tuesday, April 27, and the second on Thursday, April 28.
Then on Saturday, the Department of Health reported that two residents of Clarmar had tested positive, and those cases were connected to one of the staff members who had previously tested positive.
Clarmar is licensed for 24 beds and cares for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.
After the two Clamar employees tested positive last week, I asked the Department of Health if staff at the home had been vaccinated; Health Department spokesperson Dan Harrison emailed: “Staff and residents who wanted vaccinations received them. You will have to contact the facility for any further data.”
It’s possible the residents who tested positive did not consent to be vaccinated or had a phobia about needles; we don’t know because the administrator of the home has not responded to our repeated requests for comment.
But we do know that Clamar has a troubling history of regulatory non-compliance that has been documented in a series of provincial inspection reports. Are that history of non-compliance and the current cases of COVID connected? It’s impossible to make a direct causal relationship between the two, but it’s worth reviewing Clamar’s track record.
This track record includes 18 deficiencies reported by inspectors between 2017 and 2018 that the Dartmouth facility would have to address in order to keep its licence, a violently fatal attack between clients in which no charges were laid, and a review from 2020 in which an additional 16 required changes the facility would have to make to, once again, hold onto its license.
Check out Henderson’s full piece for the details on those required changes and the nursing home’s responses.
3. More trouble with the fishery
This weekend, Stephen Kimber wrote an editorial with the headline: “Brace for a(nother) summer of discontent in Nova Scotia’s fishing industry.”
In the article, Kimber outlines the controversies currently surrounding the fishing industry in Nova Scotia. There’s the federal government’s failure to define what makes a “moderate livelihood,” following the 1999 Marshall decision. But Kimber looks at other questions too, and how they could lead to another contentious summer for the industry:
Indigenous v non-Indigenous… Inshore v offshore… In season v out of season v year-round… Trap limits v catch limits… Conservation v marketing… Commercial viability v environment sustainability… And, oh yes, don’t forget climate change…
Here’s a concrete example of the controversy. On Monday, Erin Pottie reported for the CBC that a Mi’kmaw chief is now claiming that a recent DFO seizure of a lobster fisherman’s traps was unlawful. He believes the fisherman was fishing in accordance with his treaty rights. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans disagrees:
The seizure took place on April 30 — the first day of the Potlotek First Nation’s spring lobster season.
“This seizure is a failure of the government of Canada to accommodate our rights and a failure to uphold the honour of the Crown,” said Potlotek Chief Wilbert Marshall in a news release.
The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs said the moderate livelihood fisherman from the Potlotek First Nation had 37 traps seized by Fisheries officers.
DFO said the removal of gear in St. Peters Bay was part of routine inspections to ensure the individual was compliant with the Fisheries Act.
“Any fishing activity occurring outside of the Fisheries Act and associated regulations without an authorized licence or in contravention of a licence issued by the department is subject to enforcement action,” the department said in an emailed statement.
“Traps have been seized for a variety of reasons.”
The CBC also reported yesterday that the RCMP are investigating an incident in a Cape Breton fishing community where 40 lobster traps were cut from buoys, costing fishermen an estimated $10,000. For now, the police are writing it up as a case of “mischief,” with no connection to any dispute between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen.
4. King’s College review of Wayne Hankey could set precedent for future cases
The case of Wayne Hankey, the former King’s College professor currently facing two counts of sexual assault and one count of indecent assault during his time at the university, could have implications for court cases to come, writes Frances Willick for the CBC this morning.
Outside the courts, the university is currently undertaking its own internal investigation into the alleged incidents. The review is asking for any other potential victims from the past, or anyone with knowledge of past indiscretions on Hankey’s part, to come forward and speak with the investigator. Some of these people might want to keep their names private, but the university might not be able to guarantee that. Willick reports:
The terms of the review note that it will be carried out in a way that “will avoid impairment of the criminal law process” and will be confidential “to the extent permitted or required by applicable law.”
But both of those points warrant a closer look.
Vivian Rachlis, a Winnipeg-based lawyer who conducts independent investigations with the firm Rachlis Neville, said questions about confidentiality are top of mind for victims and witnesses who participate in such investigations.
“Nine out of 10 cases, the first thing they say to us is, ‘This is confidential, right?’ Or, ‘You’re not going to tell anyone about this, right?'”
Although investigators are careful to protect the identity of participants when writing reports, they are up front about the limits of confidentiality.
Rachlis said there are two scenarios in which a participant’s identity could be revealed. One is when the workplace or incident being investigated involves very few people, and someone may simply be able to figure out who is who in the report.
The other scenario is if the investigator or her notes are subpoenaed, in which case she could be required by law to disclose the names of participants.
Those witnesses or complainants themselves could be subpoenaed to testify if their identities were disclosed to the court.
Traditionally, these internal reviews would take place after criminal investigations, writes Willick. But King’s attempt to get ahead of things could make it difficult to maintain discretion for those who might want to add their testimony to the investigation.
The simple — albeit few — pleasures of life in lockdown
I get it. It’s been a long stretch. Even those of us doing our best to follow the latest batch of restrictions — the vast majority of Nova Scotians, near as I can tell — are feeling the fatigue this time around.
I’ve been trying to make the best of things this week, using another crop of newfound free time and inability to go out to my advantage. I realize restrictions are easier on me than they are on many others in the province.
I’m in a household of two, meaning I can bring in a bubble of two. Small as that circle might be, I understand how huge that small bit of variety is. There’s a difference when you’re not stuck in the same house with the exact same people non-stop, especially if some of those people are small children with endless energy and nowhere to put it.
I also have a yard, a fire pit for small, physically-distanced weenie roasts, and access to a park and rail-to-trail within a minute’s walk from my front door. On top of that, I’m not immunocompromised and I have the physical ability to live independently.
I know that’s not the case for everyone.
At the start of this pandemic, when there was so much uncertainty about the virus, I was living in a small apartment in downtown Halifax with three roommates. I was also working on the frontlines at a temporary homeless shelter, where I worked 12-hour shifts in a gymnasium with about 60 people, many of whom weren’t particularly interested in staying six feet apart or wearing masks. My days during that first lockdown consisted of isolating from my roommates by reading on my bed or video chatting with family, going to work, and occasionally biking the same route around the peninsula (never to the parks, which were still closed). During that time, I longed for some greenery, some human contact, some variety. I felt claustrophobic in all that cement, away from any open spaces, scared to get too close to anyone for fear I might spread something I got from work, or might take something into my shift and infect dozens of people.
These lockdowns really do affect everyone differently. And this is an objectively tough time on all of us, tougher on some than on others.
But with new, more spreadable and harmful variants about — and the possibility of herd immunity and mass vaccination closer than ever — it’s disheartening to see even a small number of people ignoring restrictions and risking everyone’s health. Instead of getting disproportionately angry and writing a diatribe against a small group of outliers, I thought I’d do something more constructive this morning.
In the spirit of not destroying the morale of the province, I figured I’d list some of the simple pleasures I’ve found in being shut down again. Maybe you can look at some of the simple pleasures you can take from this time too, even if they are outweighed by negatives.
So, lockdown, how do I survive thee? Let me count the ways:
- The weather’s warmer and I have more time to exercise. The parks are still open this time around. I’ve taken up tennis and actually stuck with it this time. I can finally put spin on the ball and keep a rally going for more than 3 hits! (strokes? passes? shots? I’m still new to the game). Plus I don’t have any excuses to miss my daily run.
- I’ve been able to get through a few library books that’ve been sitting on my shelf for the better part of a month. Check out No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. It’s a great work of contemporary fiction for the internet age — and you can read it in an afternoon. (Don’t worry, I’m not superior to anyone. I still scroll on my phone, but my attention span has recovered slightly).
- How has my attention span recovered, you ask? I’ve started watching full baseball games again! They don’t feel so long with so little to do in the outside world. A three and a half hour game just doesn’t drag as much as it used to. Instead, it feels like a great way to kill an evening at home. Plus, as I write this, the Jays are actually a winning team…even if they’re only one game over .500…
- My cousin and I — who’ve barely spoken since Christmas — have reconnected through online Risk games. Also, online Risk games take a fraction of the time it takes to play an actual game of Risk on a board. (I’ve also had the chance to catch up with most of my other family and friends on the phone).
- My bicycle is back in action — hosed down, dried off, degreased, re-greased, screws tightened and tires pumped. There’s still nothing I can do to make the seat comfortable, but at least it’s safe to ride again. I probably would’ve put off working on it for another month if not for the lockdown.
- My parents can’t drop in unannounced. It really is the little things in life. (I’ll still call on Mothers’ Day — I’m not a monster).
- There’s finally time to fix the rot around the house and plan our final attack on our grey squirrel home-invaders. I hope it’s our final attack, anyway.
- The deck, chess board, crib board, guitar, piano and kitchen have seen an increase in use this past week. My goals before the lockdown ends are, in order: have breakfast outside every day it doesn’t rain, beat my dad in online chess, beat my bubble buddy in crib, rebuild the callouses on my lefthand fingers, finally memorize that Chopin prelude I’ve been practicing since the world first shut down, and go a week without ordering takeout. The last two will be the hardest for me.
- Doing my taxes just felt like a good way to pass the time this year instead of a last minute, stress-inducing scramble.
I took to Twitter to see how other Nova Scotians are coping:
There are ways to get through this. Hell, we’ve done it twice already when the finish line was nowhere in sight. Now there’s a chance you’ll be able to have a big vaccination celebration party with all your friends and family within a few short months. But not yet. Patience is still key. We’ve still got a ways to go.
Yes, we’re still doing well relative to other areas of the country. Yesterday Ontario reported over 900 new cases — similar to the total number of known cases we have here now. And the Calgary Herald reported that Calgary city council is considering upping their fines on those who break public health guidelines. The city’s had — for lack of a better word — an epidemic of rule-breakers and Alberta had over 1,700 new cases announced yesterday. On Saturday there were over 2,000.
Here at home, we’ve seen how fast numbers can rise. Let’s not put all our money on vaccinations and herd immunity while outbreaks are on the rise.
Take some inspiration from others. Use your time at home to start developing habits you can carry with you into post-pandemic life. Take up that project you’ve been putting off. Reconnect with loved ones virtually and start looking (tentatively) at summer plans. And if you know someone who’s particularly isolated during all this, give them a call or drop off some food.
Do your best to ride out May and hopefully we can all get together in June.
Better times aren’t here yet, but they’re on the way. To spin a Game of Thrones phrase:
“Summer is coming…”
If someone you love isn’t responding to the pandemic the way you think they should be, please don’t let your response be shaming them for feeling that way.
Shame is a quick route to isolation (emotional) and that’s not the kind of distancing we’re after!
— Caora McKenna (@caora_mck) March 18, 2020
(This week, Caora McKenna followed up on this tweet from last year with an article on public shaming in The Coast.)
In my Morning File from last Wednesday, I wrote about the mob justice vibes that were all over social media following a few university parties and how I thought it was counterproductive.
You might’ve noticed my Views piece this morning was light on outrage and condemnation too.
I was happy to see the Coast’s city editor, Caora McKenna, write her own piece calling out the excessive public shaming that’s popped up on social media in Halifax this past month. She writes:
“To be cast outside physically: good for public health. To be cast out socially: dangerous to public health. The consequences of uncleanliness or illness leading to shunning, shaming and stigma are often greater than a single irresponsible barbeque or poor-taste Snapchat capture.”
Like I said last week, a little shaming online can be a good thing. It can hold power to account and force people to change their behaviours. But it can also fragment us, split us into groups and actually discourage people from wanting to work together to fight this virus. No matter what the issue, telling people they’re awful human beings who should be cast away from society isn’t exactly conducive to winning them over to your side.
McKenna’s article is a quick read, but it encapsulates what I’ve been thinking lately as I scroll through Reddit and Twitter. It’s worth checking out, if only as a reminder of the importance of solidarity during this current state of emergency, and how public shaming can only go so far:
“[W]orking together is hard. It requires a lot of work, to deal with the frustration and the emotion and decide to be inclusive and have trust in your community. In a place where there are fewer than six degrees of separation—like Nova Scotia—the stakes are even higher. The scale could tip at any moment. We’ve gone from 42 active cases to 598 active cases in two weeks. Life was good and now it’s not.
And while mobs call for the public flogging of a group of uni students or family from Ontario that’s not even here anymore—if the social media rumours are true—we’re also seeing the highest rate of testing in the country. Some are screaming from their phones, but many more are showing up at testing centres and participating in the process. That’s the secret ingredient.”
(Also, on a side note: McKenna quotes a Bible verse which she originally attributed to the character, Leviticus, instead of the book. It’s since been corrected, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the two page letter to the editor my grandmother surely would’ve sent if she were still around to read this article).
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — video meeting, with captioning on a text-only site
Regional Council / Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — contingency date; video meeting with captioning on a text-only site
North West planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — video meeting via YouTube
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference with Paul LaFleche, Deputy Minister of the Department of Transportation and Active Transit
House of Assembly management Commission (Tuesday, 1pm) — more info here
No public events.
Innovation! (Wednesday, 12pm) — The Office of Research Services will hold an information session on the Canada Foundation for Innovation – Innovation Fund (CFI IF) competition.
No public events
The NAOSH Symposium and a Celebration of OHS Professional Day (Wednesday, 1pm) — The Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) Nova Scotia Chapter presents this three-hour Zoom symposium, to discuss “Preventing serious injuries and fatalities through focus, systems, learning, and involvement.” Mark Fleming and Kevin Kelloway from Saint Mary’s will speak.
In the harbour
09:00: Kibaz, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
11:30: Glovertown Spirit, barge, sails from Cherubini dock for sea
13:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Pier 9 from Wilmington, North Carolina
13:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal
16:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for Bilboa, Spain
16:30: Goodwood, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
09:15: Navig8 Precision, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
10:00: NS Laguna, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Point Tupper
15:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove Quarry for sea
17:00: Tanja, bulker, sails from Port Hawkesbury Paper for sea
1 -In terms of inconsequential negatives to this current lockdown, my roommate taking up the piano for the first time in his life could prove to be the worst.
2 -This new lockdown has my web video intake back on the rise. There are two YouTube commercials I’d like to comment on:
- Dear Questrade marketing team: never stop including hip, passive-aggressive, subtly judgemental millennials to guilt me into using you to reach my financial goals. Some day I will cave. You’re so close!!
- Dear stupid natural soap company: stop telling me “You’re not a dish, you’re a man.”
First off, don’t tell me I’m not a dish. I’m six feet tall, I jog regularly, plus I have a steady income and nice eyes. So get out of here with that confidence-bashing trash.
Secondly, I’m no psychiatrist, but if you’re feeling insecure about your masculinity, switching soap brands will not help.
3 -Heard birdsong at 5 o’clock this morning! Keep comin’, summer…
4 -Sorry for another pandemic-heavy Morning File. I just write the hand I’m dealt.
Have a great Tuesday, everyone.