News

1. Graphed: COVID-19 in Nova Scotia

There are 20 new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. That’s a total of 173 cases in the province. Here’s a look at the graphs of the cases and testing.

Read the full article here. 

2. Hateful slurs disrupt online gatherings

Stacey Gomez. Image from New Brunswick Media Co-Op.

El Jones writes about the increase in racist and sexist attacks as radicalized and marginalized groups move their events online. Jones talks with activists like Robyn Maynard, the author of Policing Black Lives, who was part of an online press conference on Saturday organized to publicize the hunger strike by people held in immigration detention in Laval. That conference had to be restarted after the call was overtaken by racist and sexist slurs. Says Maynard:

I was moderating a press conference organized by Solidarity Across Borders about #HungerStrikeLaval that featured Abdoul, an African migrant detainee and asylum seeker on hunger strike due to the high risks of exposure to COVID-19 in the detention centre, demanding immediate release. Medical and legal experts from across the country were also in the conference.

Unfortunately, our conference, organized over Zoom, had to be delayed because it had been infiltrated by people sending racist and sexist messaging through the platform in an attempt to disrupt the conference.

Jones looks at the organizing tactics of racist groups, surveillance and policing, and the concerns academics have as classes move online.

Read the full article here.

3. Co-parenting through the pandemic

Lawyer Christine Doucet. Photo: MDW Law

Philip Moscovitch reports on the challenges parents who share custody of children face during COVID-19. Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Strang said the children in co-parenting arrangements should stay at one home, reducing the travelling between two residences. But it’s not so easy if there are court orders in place. Moscovitch talks with Maureen Nielson and her ex-husband Jeffrey about their situation. Each have new partners with children of their own, so there’s a lot of contact with many people. Says Maureen:

The kids could just stay in one house, but that would mean not seeing the other parent. I think the benchmark is what do we feel comfortable with, what’s reasonable to expect of other people, and what’s safe.

Family lawyer Christine Doucet says she and her partners at MDW Law says they realized in a few days the pandemic would cause issues with co-parenting arrangements. Writes Doucet on her blog:

Common sense must prevail. There will be times when the circumstances require parents to change existing parenting schedules or arrangements in order to best meet their children’s needs during the pandemic. For example, a parent may be in self-isolation as a result of exposure or recent travel without the children and may offer to reschedule or trade upcoming parenting time. Parents faced with layoffs or additional work demands (in the healthcare sector, for example) may have either more or less time available for parenting. With childcare unavailable, they will be forced to be flexible in their arrangements with the other parent.

The full story is here.

4. Drive-thrus and social distancing

Starbucks. Photo: Craig D. / Yelp

Yvette d’Entremont talks with Diana Morrissey, the manager of the Starbucks on Lacewood Drive, about her concerns about drive-thrus and what that means for the safety of staff and customers, even though her store has many safety measures in place.

People really think that the drive-thru thing is a safe piece of social distancing, and it’s recognizing that it’s really not if you’re not paying attention.

You’re not working, your kids are at home, you’re refusing to see your friends, but you’re possibly undoing yourself by doing this.

Thinking about all the drive-thrus of all kinds just in HRM alone, no matter how hard everyone is trying, no matter how right we’re doing things, the capacity for community spread in this kind of setup is there.

Read the full story here.

5. Crowded beaches underscore the lack of local access

Even when there’s not a pandemic, Crystal Crescent Beach can get crowded. Photo: TripAdvisor.

Moira Donovan looks at how our access to beaches might change when social distancing measures are finally lifted and we can get outside more often.

But while these measures are necessary to protect public health, some are asking whether the images of crowded beaches — and the government restrictions that followed — are also highlighting the ways in which Canada’s Ocean Playground is not living up to its name.

“Right now, not being able to go for a nice walk by the ocean is a reasonable sacrifice to make,” said Tony Charles, a professor in Saint Mary’s University’s School of Environment. “The question in the long run is, What does it teach us about how we’d like the province to operate?”

Donovan points out that 90% of 13,300 kilometers of coastline are privately owned. That means there are too many people accessing too few spaces. But there are people working to change that, like Chris Trider, who’s worked as a provincial planner for more than 20 years, including on coastal access and protection. One of the projects Trider was working on was the Cole Harbour-Lawrencetown Coastal Heritage Park System where there is limited access to the Lawrencetown headlands and some of the beach structures are deteriorating.

There wasn’t enough [infrastructure] to start with, and now there’s been a deterioration of what was provided, and then there were a large number of components that were never completed.

Read the full article here. 

6. Nova Scotia woman shares story of having COVID-19

Graeme Benjamin at Global talks with Emily Dwyer, one of the first Nova Scotians to test positive for COVID-19. Dwyer is 26 and healthy, but tells Benjamin she “never felt this way in my life.”

I didn’t think it was COVID until the cough began because I also didn’t have a fever, which was one of the most surprising things about my symptoms. Once I had the cough with the body aches, that’s when I knew something is wrong here.

I slept at least 12 hours every night and then I would nap every day. That’s just so outside of my character.

Dwyer is now fully recovered and shared her story on social media.

7. Driver charged after pedestrian hit

The driver who hit a pedestrian on Portland Street in Dartmouth yesterday was charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian. 

According to a police report, the 65-year-old driver hit the 68-year-old woman who was in a marked crosswalk.

8. Yes, panic baking is a thing

The last time I baked was these cookies for Christmas. But I’m set to do more baking. Photo: Suzanne Rent

During my own shopping excursions, I purchased some ingredients to bake. So far, I have plans to make butter tarts and maybe some banana bread with the dozens of bananas I have in the freezer. Okay, I also took shortcuts and bought Pillsbury cookie dough. It’s not just me who’s baking, though. John Demont at the Chronicle Herald writes about all the baking going on, including his own:

Locked-down New Yorkers, I read, have taken to kneading dough and churning out cookies and scones because “for those who can still get the ingredients, baking provides a combination of distraction, comfort and — especially with bread recipes, which can take days to complete — something to look forward to.”

I suppose that was partially true for me. But other things were on my mind last week when I resolved to “start baking bread again,” the word “again” raising eyebrows in our self-isolated household.

Tradition: I claim to come from a “long line of bakers” based on the existence of one long-ago relative who, it is my understanding, owned a bakery in Glace Bay.

Paranoia: In a moment of COVID-induced fear I envisioned empty bread shelves in the grocery stores, as the supply lines broke down, rendering my world grilled cheese-less.

The Globe and Mail reports on flour mills in Canada that are under pressure to produce more flour as home bakers get busy. (I did notice there was almost no flour left in the baking section at the grocery store last week).

Hannah Thomsay at Healthy Debate looks at why we bake in times of crisis.

Perhaps most simply, baking just makes us feel better: in a 2017 study of more than 450 people, “mood repair” was the most common self-reported reason that people baked. 

Ann Futterman Collier, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Northern Arizona University and lead author of the abovementioned study, says that engaging in “maker” activities, like baking, woodworking, or knitting, can be important for psychological well-being. And that this may be even more important during times of intense stress.

Participating in activities that you’re really engaged in “gives you a vacation from thinking about the bad things happening in the world,” says Collier. “[Afterwards] you have a sense of feeling renewed and restored because you had a reprieve from your problems and stress for a little while.”


Views

1. Separating the science from the scams: Timothy Caulfield wades through the misinformation about COVID-19

Timothy Caulfield.

There’s a lot of health misinformation out there about COVID-19. I usually see a lot of wellness scams and misinformation around health on my Facebook and Twitter (mostly on Facebook). Words like detox and cleanse make me cringe. But there are a lot more scams and misinformation out there now with COVID-19.

On Tuesday, I interviewed Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy, a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Public Health and Research Director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta.

He’s the author of two national bestsellers: The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness; and Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash.

His most recent book is Relax, Dammit: A User’s Guide in the Age of Anxiety.

Caufield is the host and co-producer of the documentary TV show, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which aired on Netflix (I watched it last year, but it’s not on there anymore and he tells me about that in our interview.)

Caulfield and a team of researchers at the University of Alberta received $381,708 from Alberta Innovates to research all the misinformation out there around COVID-19.

In our chat, we talk about why people buy into health scams, including those purporting to treat COVID-19, what information we really need to listen to, and how is research is looking so far

You can follow Caulfield on Twitter or Instagram.

(P.S.:  The interview is about 17 minutes in length).

2. COVID-19 and the spaces where we work

The last time I was in my bank was on March 9. I usually do most of my banking online or just deposit freelance cheques at the ATM. But this time I actually had to go in to see a teller. The bank, the Clayton Park branch of the RBC, had been renovated late last year and during that time, banking was done in a shipping container redesigned as a small banking office.

In the new design, several of the tellers now stand at desks with computers. There were still a few tellers behind counters for those customers who wanted more privacy (don’t all banking transactions deserve privacy?) When a teller was ready to serve the next customer, they’d head over to the lineup and escort the next customer back to their desk. It was a very friendly process, almost too friendly. I asked the teller what customers thought of the new layout and process. He said most thought it was okay, but older customers didn’t like it much.

I know banks make big money, but the tellers don’t and like grocery store staff they’re the ones on the frontlines and at risk of exposure to COVID-19. Still, banking is an essential service and some customers will want to go into the bank rather than do their banking online. I haven’t been into the branch since all the social distancing measures have been put in place, but I contacted RBC to see how their banking processes had changed at my branch and elsewhere. That new layout simply isn’t going to cut it in our new normal where we have to stay six feet apart. In an email, RBC spokesperson Lori Smith writes:

We are following guidance from public health authorities, government officials and feedback from employees to ensure we keep our workplaces clean and safe with appropriate social distancing. To protect our employees and our clients, we have temporarily closed some branches, reduced hours in those that are remaining open, and all employees who can, have been equipped to work from home. We have also introduced measures to control branch traffic including pre-screening procedures at the door and limiting the number of clients allowed in the branch at any given time. Again, for the protection of our employees and clients, we are asking clients to stay home and stay safe, and only come to the branch for urgent services that must be completed in-person. The RBC Mobile App and online banking are safe, easy and available 24/7.

Plexiglass screens have been sourced, manufactured, and are in the process of being distributed to those branches across Canada that are remaining open. We have also provided those branches with social distancing floor decals. In addition, we are providing employees in those branches with gloves and hand sanitizer and have implemented deep cleaning in all open units and ATMs.

The RBC design, while new for that branch, isn’t really new at all. Open-plan offices have been around for a while. The pros for the concept have been that they increase collaboration and productivity. Now with COVID-19, they just seem like the worst places to work. I haven’t worked in an open-plan office in almost two years. Most of us lowly staff had work spaces or cubicles while executives had offices with doors and windows. I haven’t been sick, not even with a trifling cold, since I last worked in one of those offices and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. When I last worked at one of those offices Monday to Friday, I’d get sick with a cold at least twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. Now, I am simply around fewer people and fewer germs. There was also never a place to hide from whispering, gossipy colleagues who usually gathered near my space. I found that chatter highly annoying and a big distraction from my work.

Could COVID-19 change our work spaces? Photo: Unsplash

Could COVID-19 mean the end of the open-plan office or at least change the way we work? Already in Halifax, we’ve seen concerns from staff at the CIBC call centre when one employee tested positive for COVID-19, but the bosses still required staff to work in that space. An employee at a TD call centre in Halifax tested positive for COVID-19 and one worker there says at least 100 staff are still in that office.

Blair Kamin with the Chicago Tribune writes:

A growing number of building owners and developers, including the owners of such prominent Chicago properties as the Merchandise Mart, already have latched onto the concept of office spaces that promote employee wellness with such features as internal stairs that encourage employees to walk from floor to floor instead of taking the elevator.

More companies can be expected to follow, experts say, not only because job seekers will be attracted to such work environments but also because existing employees will demand them.

Companies also could wind up allowing more employees to telecommute if the present predicament demonstrates that remote work doesn’t hurt productivity.

That’s another thing: As more people work from home because of COVID-19, we’re really going to see who can work from home long term, and it won’t just be the managers. This will be a good thing and get more cars off the road. I know it’s not for everyone, but I work from home often and find I’m more productive and less stressed. I do miss the social aspect of working in an office, though. Before COVID-19 changed how we worked, I spent a few days a week in an office (not an open-plan office) with some other folks, who are quite entertaining. I like them quite a bit. Still, I think if you spend most of your work day in front of a computer, you can work from home. You save time on the commute and you don’t have to dress up! I’ve been wearing my jammies for the last couple of days.

COVID-19 is really showing us how poorly a lot of workers are treated. That includes the spaces they work in. Maybe one good thing that will all come out of it is that employers show more concern about the health of their workers and will design better spaces for them to work. Human resources are living and breathing resources, after all.


Noticed

Throughout my days working at home,  I need to take breaks from anything related to COVID-19. Fortunately, I can always find something entertaining online. Yesterday, the Museum of Natural History was answering questions about bees. This morning on Twitter, they posted a video of a lamb drinking milk.

The Nova Scotia Archives is also sharing excellent photos and other resources online and through its Facebook page. They shared their transcription tool that allows the public to transcribe some of the thousands of documents they have in storage.

Yesterday, they posted the McAlpine’s Halifax City Directories from 1869-1927.

I’m finding these resources are much needed and interesting brain breaks during the day. It would be interesting to see what other online resources people are using to get away from the news.


Government

Halifax Regional Council: “virtual meeting”,  April 2, 2020, 1pm.  Agenda here.


In the harbour

07:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
11:00: Atlantic Kestrel, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
11:00: Ef Ava sails for Portland
12:45: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Irving Oil
18:30: Bylgia, anchor handling vessel, arrives at Pier 9 from Den Helder, Netherlands


Footnotes

I’ve been having the wackiest dreams lately (El Jones mentioned this, too). Earlier this week, I had a dream I was a Girl Guide selling cookies in Beaver Bank. In the dream I wasn’t a 12-year-old Girl Guide, like I was when I was actually 12, but a 49-year-old Girl Guide. In another dream, I was on a cruise, but spent the entire vacation doing laundry.

Like many others, my sleep patterns are off. I’m either sleeping too much or waking up in the middle of the night just thinking and overthinking, and then in need of a nap around dinnertime. I guess those dreams are entertaining, right?

A white woman with chin length auburn hair and blue eyes, wearing a bright blue sweater

Suzanne Rent

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

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