News

1. Graphed: COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, April 8, 2020

Thirty-two new people in Nova Scotia have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the province’s total to 342 people. Eleven people are currently hospitalized; 77 people have fully recovered, and one person has died.

Here’s a look at the numbers:

Read the full story here.

2. Daily COVID-19 update: The grim math of epidemiology

Dr. Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health, at the daily COVID-19 briefing, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia.

In Tim’s daily update on the COVID-19 crisis in Nova Scotia, Dr. Robert Strang announces the criteria for testing has changed.  Here are the new criteria:

A. Do you have a fever greater than 38° Celsius (or signs of a fever)?
B. Do you have a new cough or a cough that is getting worse?
C. Do you have a sore throat?
D. Do you have a runny nose?
E. Do you have a headache?

Tim also writes about some of the risk factors connected to social distancing measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That is, as Tim says, “there will be an increase in lives lost to domestic abuse, suicide, substance abuse, lack of physical activity, bad nutrition, the suspension of “nonessential” doctor visits (some of which discover illness that can lead to death), and more.”

So, Tim asks Strang about the increased mortality due to those restrictions. Strang responds:

No, we don’t have numbers like that in the province. Certainly on a national level people have raised that — how do we measure some of the health impacts of some of the restrictions, and you’re right that there are some challenges here.

But the restrictions that we have are absolutely necessary. I come back to the comment that I made yesterday. If we didn’t put these restrictions in place, we would have a huge spike in COVID-19 and it would be over with in a short-ish period of time. But that huge spike would cause hundreds of preventable deaths, not just directly from COVID but there would be lots of people that would die because the health care system would be overwhelmed and their heart attack, their chronic disease would not be managed by the health care system and there would be deaths occurring from that.

Recognizing that there are negative implications potentially from the measures we’re putting in place, that’s why we’re trying to sustain other parts of our health care system to help people out with those challenges as best we can. But it’s a necessary choice to avoid those very preventable hundreds of deaths that would occur if we didn’t put these measures in place.

Read the full story here.

3. With pride and purpose: COVID-19 Preston Response team galvanizes Canada’s largest Black community

LaMeia Reddick

Evelyn C. White talks with LaMeia Reddick, one of the young residents of North Preston who helped launch a COVID-19 testing site in the community. Reddick says the committee started to organize after the cancellation of the NBA season and the Black Summit in Halifax. Reddick says, “given the history of racism in the province and the cultural barriers that African Nova Scotians have always faced, we knew that we’d be an afterthought, if that.”

Reddick says the committee worked with the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the healthcare workers at the testing site are “completely” with the community.

They are grateful for the opportunity to engage in meaningful ways with African Nova Scotians often for the first time in their careers. They felt the same hurt that we did because of the premier’s comments. And because they know we are people of faith, the health care providers on the front lines are asking us to pray for them. What we are having, in the midst of a pandemic, is the transformational experience of adults working with young Blacks as if we have something valuable to contribute. We are receiving lots of praise from our elders. McNeil finally spoke his truth and everyone saw and heard it. That’s on him.

Read the full story here. 

4. Tourism is dead in its tracks: Where to from here?

Jennifer Henderson looks at the province’s tourism industry, which has dried up in the COVID-19 crisis. But she also takes a look at what it could be this year.

Henderson speaks with Ross Jefferson, president and CEO of Discover Halifax, who says there are 2,550 restaurants in HRM and 2,295 of those are closed right now. And of the 34,000 people who work in the city’s tourism industry, between 25,000 and 28,000 have lost their jobs. Says Jefferson:

Everything from a tourism perspective has dried up. The $1.3 billion has evaporated. The few who have been able to refocus on experiences here for people in this region are able in some cases to keep the doors open. But the vast majority are out-of-business. They are temporarily closed down, whether it is a hotel or restaurant.”

Discover Halifax does have a support local campaign for those places still open. And conferences and events are being rebooked.

But there is hope that the industry could benefit from more provincial and regional travel. Henderson speaks with Darlene Grant-Fiander, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia (TIANS):

With a late start to the traditional season, realigning investments by government, extending the season toward year round, ensuring public infrastructure is open, and ensuring we invest in local events throughout Nova Scotia will all be key to generating important tourism revenue and tax revenue for government.

Read the full story here.

5. Woman hit in crosswalk dies

A 68-year-old woman who was hit in a marked crosswalk on Portland Street in Dartmouth last week has died from her injuries.

From a police news release: 

At approximately 10:15 a.m. on March 31 police were called to a vehicle/pedestrian collision that had occurred in the 600 block of Portland Street. A vehicle turning from Eisner Boulevard to Portland Street struck a 68-year-old woman as she was crossing Portland Street in a marked crosswalk. She was taken to hospital where she succumbed to her injuries last evening.

A 65-year-old man from Cole Harbour has been charged for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

6. Woman charged in fires in south-end fires

A 64-year-old woman has been charged in connection with two fires in the same building on Victoria Road in Halifax. The first fire happened on the afternoon of March 10. The second fire was on the afternoon of April 5.

From the police news release:

Yesterday, investigators with the General Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation arrested a suspect in relation to both fires. A 64-year-old Halifax woman was charged with two counts of arson. She is scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court at a later date.


Views

1. There’s help for kids and parents struggling during COVID-19

The number of calls to Kids Help Phone has more than doubled during the Covid-19 crisis. Photo from Track My Fone.

One of the resources kids are using more during the COVID-19 crisis is Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868).

On Tuesday, I spoke with Kathy Hay, president and CEO, who says in 2019, before the COVID-19 crisis, they received 1.9 million calls from kids and youth up to 26 years of age. When social distancing measures began, that number doubled in a week. Since then, the number has doubled again. “The need is huge,” Hay says.

But the texts weren’t coming just from kids and youth. Hay says calls from those in their 30s, 40s, and 50s are up 10%.

This week, Kids Help Phone announced it was partnering with Crisis Text Line so that any Canadian, of any age, who is working on the frontlines or as an essential worker can text if they want to talk.  You can text SHARE to 741741.

Across the country, Hay says, kids are asking COVID-19-related questions like, “Will I get sick?” “What if my parents get sick?” “Who will take care of me if my parents get sick?”

Kids do worry about their parents as much as they worry about themselves.

Hay says in Nova Scotia, 30% to 50% of the calls from kids are questions related to COVID-19. Other issues kids are talking about include anxiety and stress, relationship issues, depression, isolation, and abuse.

Hay adds they are still getting the calls from those who are in crisis, struggling with depression, or at risk of suicide. These crisis represent about 20% of their calls. The COVID-19 crisis has amplified those issues for many. For those who call and text and are in crisis, the wait time is 40 seconds. It’s less than five minutes for other calls.

Hay says Kids Help Phone started planning its response to COVID-19 back in February. The staff researchers and librarians were doing ongoing research on the contagion, getting information to answer questions from kids. Staff and counsellors are updated every day. About two months ago, Hay says they started to work on a plan to have phone counselors work from home.

That way we wouldn’t have to shut down and we’d have business continuity.

Like many workers who are now doing their jobs from home, Hay says the phone counsellors may also have to balance parenting with work, finding a private and quiet space where they can take calls. Hay says she reminds staff to practice self-care, too.

It’s not that they’re not used to that. It’s that the world is in crisis, so that impacts our people.

Hay says any Canadian who needs help should reach out.

No issue is small enough or big enough. These are incredible times. You can’t do this alone. Parents should know they don’t have to parent alone in this.

Experts says parents who need help during Covid-19, should reach out to other parents or text resources like Crisis Text Line. Photo: Manthan Gupta/Unsplash

I see a lot of parents on my own social media talking about the challenges they’re facing now, trying to balance working from home or the stress of having lost their jobs with keeping their kids occupied and up-to-date on school assignments now coming their way.

A few parents I know shared this article, The Parents Are Not All  Right, from Chloe I. Clooney at Medium. 

Clooney talks about her own struggles to balance life at her home and how she’s hearing the same from other parents:

What’s amazing to me is how consistent this struggle is among every parent I talk to. The texts and social media posts bouncing around my circle all echo each other. We feel like we’re failing at both. Our kids don’t just need us — they need more of us. Our kids are acting out, abandoning the routines they already had, dropping naps, sleeping less, doing less — except for jumping on top of their parents, which is happening much more. We’re letting them watch far greater amounts of screen time than we ever thought we’d tolerate. Forget homeschooling success — most of us are struggling to get our kids to do the basics that would have accounted for a Saturday-morning routine before this pandemic.

Kiran Pure is a psychologist in Dartmouth who works with kids and parents. She says she’s hearing some of the same issues during her sessions, all of which now are taking place through telehealth (on the phone or through Zoom meetings), although she says not every client wants to have sessions over the phone or online (Pure says about 40 per cent of clients didn’t want to take virtual counselling).

Pure says she did her research on COVID-19 so she’d know how to answer the questions from the kids. Turns out, they were okay.

I’m impressed with the fact a lot of kids know about COVID-19.

Pure says what kids are worried about most are their parents and grandparents. She says the kids she works with are keeping in touch with grandparents through video chats and making and sending them cards and letters. Some of the kids have grandparents who live overseas, including in Italy.

Kids are most worried because they are cut off from friends and school right now.

That is the biggest concern for them now. Many kids feel lonely or socially isolated.

Pure says it’s a bit easier for teenagers because they are more sophisticated with technology and can keep in touch with their friends online. But she says it’s the kids between the ages of seven and 11 who struggle the most because those kids should really limit their access to technology and social media. These are the kids, too, who are used to running around at recess, walking home with their friends, or playing games in their neighbourhoods.

Pure says she suggests parents arrange online play dates for those kids. Playing Lego or even having lunch together through video chats. Pure says she usually recommends very limited screen time for kids in this age range, but knows these are different times for families.

I say do what you normally do, but be a little more relaxed, as long as it’s social connection.

Pure says the parents she’s working with fall into one of three categories: those who are working from home; those working in essential services; and those who have been laid off. All of those scenarios present a different set of worries for the kids of those workers. Kids of essential workers worry about their parents’ safety. Kids of laid off workers worry about the finances at home.

I see that group of parents really struggle because their whole future is questionable in their minds.

And kids of those parents working from home struggle with finding a routine. She says parents now are trying to be strong for their children.

I can see through the telehealth how parents look diminished.

Pure says when she works with parents, she tries to tell them we are all in the same situation and suggests they work on factors they can control. She says those little things parents can control include going for a walk, making breakfast, making a bit of a plan for the day, try to have a routine, and don’t stay in your pajamas all day.

You don’t want to get into that downward spiral.

She suggests parents create an online network of parents they can connect with every couple of days and focus on your physical and mental health. Still, she also recommends parents stay informed, but also control how much social media and TV news they take in. If you’re feeling anxious, turn it off.

Pure says while there are lots of resources and activities online for parents to use to entertain their kids, parents shouldn’t worry about doing extras right now. She says the pressure is even greater for those parents whose children may need extra help with school work. Not all kids can work independently and parents don’t always understand the expectations from teachers.

Some people can handle it, but for others it’s too much. You may not be able to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. Don’t let Pinterest tell you what kind of mom you’re going to be. These are not normal times. Don’t try for perfection.

I genuinely believe everyone is doing the best they can.

Post-secondary students in Nova Scotia can try Good2Talk Nova Scotia —  free, confidential support just for them. Service is available 24/7/365. Text GOOD2TALKNS to 686868 or call 1-833-292-3698.

2.  The Southern Ontario Basic Income Experience

There’s been lots of talk in recent weeks about universal basic income (I wrote about it a few times, including here). And Dolores Campbell at The Cape Breton Spectator is talking about Guaranteed Annual Income, too.

Today at 1 p.m. AST, Tamarak Institute is hosting a webinar on the findings from Southern Ontario’s basic income pilot project that was cut short. Here’s a description of the event:

Last month, a new report titled, “Southern Ontario’s Basic Income Experience”, was released by researchers at McMaster and Ryerson University, in partnership with the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and with the support of Hamilton Community Foundation.

Dr. Wayne Lewchuk, lead of the McMaster University research team, will join Laura Cattari of the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction for a webinar to discuss this groundbreaking research paper and its fascinating findings. The panelists will also discuss how the research may help guide our current public policy discussions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Follow the link here to sign up to attend the online event.

I hope there are more discussions around basic income and living wages after the COVID-19 crisis is over. We are certainly seeing now how some of the most essential workers like staff at grocery stores are also the lowest paid. We’re also seeing people who are self-employed lose all their income. Programs like a basic income and living wage could address these issues even when there isn’t a crisis.


Noticed

Freedom Kitchen and Closet is handing out these cookies to clients and vulnerable and isolated residents in Sackville and Bedford.

On a bright note, Freedom Kitchen and Closet, the group in Lower Sackville that feeds youth and homeless people in the community from a van parked at the Sackville Public Library, is getting into the baking game to spread some sweets to those who are home in the community. (I wrote about them a few weeks ago and their efforts to keep feeding vulnerable people in the community during COVID-19).

Rainie Murphy, co-chair of Freedom Kitchen, and the small team she’s working with now, paired up with Crystal Simmons at Sweeter Things Bakery in Middle Sackville to make thousands of cookies to hand out. Murphy says the Freedom Kitchen team is seeing how hard social distancing is for the most vulnerable people in the community, so she thought the team could do something nice for everyone. Murphy says Sweeter Things was working on a cake for them, but she pitched the idea of making 1,000 cookies to hand out to clients and others, including single parents and people with disabilities. Simmons said she’d bake 6,000 instead.

I am on the front lines and I see more that what some people are seeing. Now we can give them a bit of hope in this.

Cobb’s Bakery in Bedford is supplying the dry ingredients for the cookies and Simmons at Sweeter Things has four people working on them now. One of the Freedom Kitchen volunteers is packaging and wrapping the cookies for delivery. Freedom Kitchen will start handing them out starting Monday.

Murphy says they have plans to hand the cookies out to seniors in nursing homes in Sackville and Bedford who can’t have visitors right now. She says anyone can message them at the Freedom Kitchen Facebook page to nominate someone who could use a cookie pick-me-up. Says Murphy:

We’re not going to stop there. I would love to see this start in other provinces.


Government

City

All scheduled subcommittee meetings are cancelled. Halifax council will have a virtual meeting today at 1pm.

Province

No public meetings, virtual or otherwise.


In the harbour

12:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
12:30: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
16:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
17:30: Skogafoss sails for Portland
18:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
22:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


Footnotes

Writing Morning File each week is the only way I can keep track of what day it is. Even then, it’s a bit blurry. Let’s call today Blursday (I can’t take credit for that; I saw it on Twitter).

Suzanne Rent

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

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    1. “Whenever I hear the word culture I reach for my gun.” –Beria

      I feel the same whenever I hear conservatives (or Conservatives) talk in favour of a UBI.

      1. Your loss. Segal has a long and distinguished reputation for advocating for people surviving/ living on the margins. I assume you listened, I heard him live on Sunday Edition when it was first broadcast.