1. A year-long crisis
Yesterday, a woman in her 90s died from COVID-90 while at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. She was the second Nova Scotian to die from the disease. (I’ve tracked the progress of the disease, and the response to it, here.)
But more deaths are ahead of us. As I wrote in the daily update, if even just 1% of Nova Scotians become infected, that will mean that over 100 people will die from it. If 5% contract the disease, over 500 will die. And an infection rate of 1% or 5% is very optimistic — it depends on strict adherence to social distancing and the other practices recommended by health officials.
But how long will the restrictions be in place?
When exactly the public health measures would be lifted wasn’t immediately clear, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated at his daily briefing Thursday that efforts to keep case numbers down will take “months of continued, determined effort.”
“The initial peak — the top of the curve — may be in late spring, with the end of the first wave in the summer.”
The prime minister, citing Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr.Theresa Tam, said there would likely be “smaller outbreaks” for several months after that.
He said “this is the new normal” until a vaccine is developed.
[Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert] Strang said today that he expects the first spike of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia in about three weeks, in late April, but there will be a second wave in the fall, and then a third wave in early 2021. He said the second and third waves won’t be as bad as the first. But, he said, the current restrictions will likely be in place until June, and after that the restrictions will be tightened and loosened as needed. He could not predict exactly what that meant.
This won’t be easy. The federal government’s technical briefing released yesterday explains that:
Success is staying in the epidemic control scenario.
This means we are aiming for the lowest possible infection rate to minimize illness and death and to shorten the period of intense disease transmission in Canada
We recognize that even if we are successful, continued public health measures will be required over time to manage future waves, including:
• Physical distancing
• Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
• Restrictions on international and domestic travel
• Case detection and isolation
• Quarantine of contacts and incoming travellers
And the technical briefing provides this chart:
It’s too early to say exactly how this will unfold, but it looks like travel restrictions will be in place for a good long while. That means our tourism industry is kaput.
The restaurant industry will have a very difficult recovery. Even after restaurants can reopen, there will probably be social distancing restrictions in place; those close tables will have to be separated, reducing the potential clientele. And older people will be reluctant to dine out, as the disease will still be out in the world, even if less so; older people are a big chunk of revenue for a lot of restaurants.
So it won’t be that come mid-June we’re back to normal. People will continue to be out of work, businesses will fail completely, and restrictions will come back into our lives every few weeks or months.
That means we have to think about and plan for the long haul.
For the most part, the income replacement policies will come from the federal government — it has the printing presses and controls monetary policy. While policy is still being developed, the Trudeau government is going about this wrong. The strategies miss too many people completely, and there’s this weird obsession with means testing, such that even if you technically qualify for assistance, you’ll still have to fill out a million forms and provide documentation, which is a significant challenge for a lot of people. “Means testing” is “having your paperwork together testing.”
It’d be far better to just give everyone money, and tax it back from wealthier people. The most efficient system of means testing is the progressively indexed income tax. (An actual wealth tax would be helpful too, but we already have in place the income tax system, so that can immediately be used.)
Just give everyone money.
On the provincial front, the premier understandably has been responding to the immediate crisis. For the longer haul, however, we should adjust government policy in expectation of high unemployment and underemployment.
Consider universities. What happens in the fall, when it’s very likely that the international student contingent won’t be able to come to Nova Scotia because of continuing travel restrictions? And when local young people won’t be able to afford going to university because they have no job and their savings are exhausted?
We’re going to have get the economy going again, but that’s a long-term project. Not many people will be able to work for tips in a waterfront restaurant, or work for minimum wage servicing tourists. They might, however, be able to gain the knowledge, skills, and certifications needed to build a successful career several years down the road.
The pandemic should be the excuse to do what we should’ve been doing all along, which is providing the opportunity for people to build rewarding and socially useful lives. No one cares about a government deficit anymore — it would be irresponsible to not go into debt during the pandemic. We should therefore think big, and spend money in ways that will be most helpful for the future.
We need to spend money as it was spent during the Depression, with ambitious government programs that put money in people’s wallets and helped plan for better times.
So let’s make university and college free, and even provide a stipend so students can feed and house themselves while they study over the summer and next school year. It’s now obvious that we need more health care workers, and at least continuing care workers can be taught and certified while the pandemic is still with us. Lots of people — young people just starting out, or older workers who find their industry suddenly non-existent — can spend the next few years learning and training for any number of useful occupations.
It’ll be interesting to see how university works in the fall. Will classes be limited in size, with social distancing in place in the classroom? Perhaps there will be a hybrid system of online lectures with smaller once-a-week classes on campus attended by students split into, say, three rotating sections. I sure hope the universities are planning for this now.
The province could also vastly increase its support for musicians and other artists, providing grants for performances online right now, and paying for practicing and rehearsing for the live performances that will be held once we can start to gather in public again. (Dog knows we’ll need all the social gathering opportunities we can get.)
I’m sure there are other ways to think about bridging this coming year with an eye not just to meeting immediate needs but also looking towards the future. I’d love to hear your ideas.
2. Cermaq abandons plan for fish farms in Nova Scotia
“Cermaq Canada just announced the end of its Hello Nova Scotia tour and that it will not be proceeding with its proposed expansion to the east coast, letting all of the Lease Options awarded by the Nova Scotia government expire,” reports Linda Pannozzo:
The firm is part of Cermaq Global, formerly a Norwegian state-controlled salmon producer purchased by Mitsubishi Corporation in 2014 for $1.4 billion, with operations in Norway, Chile, and British Columbia.
The company was proposing a $500 million expansion to develop between 15 and 20 open-pen Atlantic salmon farm sites, four hatcheries and two processing plants and needs a minimum annual production of 20,000 metric tonnes of fish.
3. Eating disorders
“The executive director of Eating Disorders Nova Scotia says COVID-19 has more than doubled demand for services, and she’s concerned about an explosion of new cases when it’s over,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
“We’re looking across the country with the other non-profit groups that work in eating disorders and we are just very concerned with the fall out that’s going to happen six months from now,” Shaleen Jones said.
“That’s when we’ll have folks who didn’t struggle with an eating disorder who come out of it with an eating disorder because of the loss of control issues, the changes around food access, the increased levels of stress. It is really the perfect storm.”
Jones said since March, demand for her non-profit organization’s online support services has gone “through the roof.” She doesn’t see it slowing down any time soon.
4. Bus driver tests positive
A bus driver has tested positive for COVID-19, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority is warning that passengers may have been exposed:
NSHA Public Health is advising of a potential public exposure to COVID-19 on Halifax Transit buses:
• April 3 on Route 10; 5:56 PM to 1:04 AM
• April 4 on Route 62; 12:27 PM to 1:33 PM; 4:27 PM to 5:33 PM
• April 4 on Route 60; 1:33 PM to 4:27 PM; 5:33 PM to 8:20 PM
Public Health is directly contacting anyone known to be a close contact of the person who was confirmed to have COVID-19. While most people have been contacted, there could be some contacts that Public Health is not aware of.
It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on the named dates on these bus routes may develop symptoms up to, and including, April 18, 2020. People should self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
5. Carrie Low
Yesterday, Justice Ann Smith published a decision in the Carrie Low case.
On May 13, 2019, Ms. Carrie Low filed a public complaint (the “Complaint”) to the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner (the “Commissioner”). The Complaint expressed a number of concerns about the police handling of her May 19, 2018 report to the Halifax Regional Police (“HRP”) that she was the victim of a serious sexual assault. Form 5, the form provided to Ms. Low entitled, “Form 5 – Public Complaint – [Section 31(1)] Police Act Regulations” asked Ms. Low to provide the “Name(s) of Police Officer(s) being complained about.” Ms. Low wrote, “Cst. Novakovic and Cst. Jerrell Smith.”
The Complaint was signed by Ms. Low on May 13, 2019 and date-stamped “received” at the Officer of the Police Complaints Commissioner on May 13, 2019.
On May 21, 2019 the Commissioner wrote to Ms. Low advising that her complaint against Cst. Novakovic was filed beyond the six-month time limit for filing complaints against municipal police officers as Cst. Novakovic’s involvement “appears to be limited to May 2018. Given this, we are unable to process the complaint.” Ms. Low had been advised by the Commissioner’s office on May 14, 2019 that Cst. Jerell Smith was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) and not a member of the HRP.
On June 13, 2019 Ms. Low sent an email to the Commissioner asking that the Commissioner’s decision not to process the Complaint be reconsidered and reviewed on the basis that Ms. Low did not discover the “true nature of the negligence and lack of care” in her case until she received a copy of the HRP Policy on Investigating Sexual Assaults. This information was disclosed to Ms. Low as a result of her request for information pursuant to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 1993, c. 5, s.1and was attached to a letter to Ms. Low from FOIPOP Coordinator, Inspector Donald Moser, dated April 23, 2019. Ms. Low also stated in her email to the Commissioner that the six‑month time limit should only apply once there was “discoverability of negligence.”
The Commissioner responded to Ms. Low’s request to reconsider the Complaint by letter dated July 9, 2019. The Commissioner stated that the Complaint alleged that “the negligent actions occurred between May 2018 and March 2019.” The Commissioner noted that Cst. Novakovic’s involvement in Ms. Low’s case “appears to be limited to May 2018 and is outside of the six (6) months.” The Commissioner stated, “Both the RCMP and Nova Scotia Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner consider the date of the occurrence, or incident, giving rise to the complaint to be the starting date for the timeline. In your case that date is May 19, 2018 and the six (6) months starts then.” The Commissioner concluded her letter by stating, “As I have no authority to extend this six (6) months, your complaint against Cst. Novakovic cannot be processed.”
Justice Smith reviewed case law on the narrow issue of whether the police complaints commissioner should have considered Low’s complaint, and not on the substance of the complaint (i.e., the allegation that she was sexually assaulted by a cop), and then ruled:
The Commissioner’s July 9, 2019 decision refusing to reconsider her May 21, 2019 decision, and that decision as well, are set aside. The matter is remitted back to the Commissioner for determination after applying the doctrine of discoverability to the Complaint and processing the Complaint in light of this Court’s conclusions on reasonableness and procedural fairness.
1. Spring, Part 3
Stephen Archibald no longer messages me to alert me to new posts, but I have spies! so I learn about them anyway.
Really, I won’t complain. We need all the pretty pictures Stephen can give us.
I normally take stat holidays off, but I wanted to get some thoughts off my head this morning, and later I’ll be publishing at least two (maybe more) articles from contributing writers, and my own update on the pandemic, once the Nova Scotia numbers come in this morning.
This is Good Friday, however. I’m now a godless heathen, but I grew up in the Catholic tradition and some of that still resonates a bit, if oddly so. That means once I’m done my work this morning, I’ll plop down in front of the TV and watch Jesus Christ Superstar, with a chaser of Monty Python:
I was born on Easter Sunday. I’m told that Mom had a full day. She woke up and got the five older kids dressed in their finest, packed them off to Easter Sunday mass, then back home for the big Sunday breakfast (breakfast always after mass). After breakfast, she managed an Easter egg hunt for the kids, then started cooking Easter dinner, a ham and fixings. After dinner she washed the dishes (such was the division of labour, that a woman nine months pregnant still had to wash the dishes), then oh, off to the hospital to have a nine-pound, two-ounce baby boy by 9:02pm.
Mom did all the work; I just complained about it. So I’ve always called Mom on my birthday to thank her. This will be the first birthday she’s not there to call, and that’s sad.
But Mom timed her death perfectly. She wouldn’t have wanted to be cooped up in the hospice room with no chance of her children coming to say good-bye. So next week (my birthday rarely falls on Easter), I’ll finish my work, then make a martini and give her a toast.
No government meetings.
In the harbour
22:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
Always look on the bright side of life.