News

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.

1. COVID and the class of 2020-ish

Dr. Brenda Merritt. Photo submitted.

Jennifer Henderson reports on the situation of graduating health sciences students, who not only lost their spring convocations, but also their mandatory 10-12 weeks of “hands-on” experience they usually complete in hospitals and clinics. Student nurses, physiotherapists, X-ray and ultrasound technologists, respiratory therapists, and audiologists are all affected.

In mid-March, all clinical placements under Dalhousie’s Faculty of Health were cancelled, so teachers, students, and regulators are being creative and flexible in their solutions. Says Dr. Brenda Merritt, Dean of the Faculty of Health at Dal:

Our occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech language and audiology students would typically be out in the field in the spring, and then they would finish their term with on-site courses. So we have taken those on-site courses and put them online. We have pushed those forward so we can free up space for whenever things open up again — whether it’s summer or early fall — so they’re ready to go and they can finish.

Henderson looks at how some students are setting up to write online exams at home, with precautions to make sure they aren’t cheating. And Henderson finds out what lab instruction and hands-on training will look like in the fall. That could mean more video conferencing and conducting virtual patient consultations.

Read the full story here.

2. Another COVID-19 case at Halifax Transit’s Burnside transit garage

The Burnside Transit Garage. Photo: Flickr / Wilson Hum

Zane Woodford reports on the latest case of COVID-19 at Halifax Transit’s bus garage in Burnside. Ken Wilson, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508, says he learned of the case in an email sent to staff on Sunday evening. In that email, David Reage, Halifax Transit director, wrote, “the individual who tested positive has not been in the Burnside Transit Centre since April 30. Since that time, all workspaces with which the individual was in contact, have already undergone cleanings as part of Halifax Transit’s enhanced protocol.”

This case is believed to be the third in the Halifax Transit garage. The first case of COVID-19 here was confirmed in late March.

Yesterday, the province announced 14 new known cases of COVID-19 and one death at Northwood.

Read the full story here.

3. Source: Halifax police held back response to mass murderer

The killer’s replica police car. Photo: RCMP

Tim Bousquet reports on information received from a source who purports to be with the Halifax Regional Police. The source says HRP received information from the RCMP that the killer GW was headed to Halifax on the morning of April 19 in a mock police cruiser, but the HRP denied a request from the Emergency Response Team asking that other members be called in.

The Examiner sent some of the details from the informant to HRP chief Dan Kinsella. HRP public information officer Cst. John McLeod responded:

As this is an ongoing investigation led by the RCMP it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the specifics of it. Please contact them directly for information in relation to this incident.

Read the full story here.

4. Don’t wait til you’re on a ventilator: making wills and directives

La Melancolia, by Domenico Fetti (1618)

Philip Moscovitch talks with lawyers about how COVID-19 is getting more Nova Scotians creating wills.

According to Jennifer Schofield, a partner in the law firm Kennedy Schofield Lawyers, in Head of St. Margaret’s Bay, the bulk of her work lately has been wills, estate planning, and personal directives. In normal times, Schofield says clients get wills done early in the year.

One, they have new years’ resolutions and two, people are travelling south and think, ‘Oh I’d better get my will done or redone.’ Then that slows down. But that hasn’t happened with COVID.

Martha Paynter, who is a client of Halifax lawyer Barbara Darby, says she and her husband have never got around to getting a will done. But she says the process was easy.

It’s really incredibly straightforward to do a will. Barbara’s been our lawyer for a decade at least. She sent us some paperwork to fill out, we filled it out, she had some followup questions and that was it. We have a simple family and it was simple decision-making about where things should go should we perish.

Darby says coronavirus has more people thinking about death and what that could mean for their children.

I don’t think their concerns will be different, but I think we would acknowledge they are in a riskier workplace now. For people with small children, one of the main things on their mind is who is going to care for the children if I’m not here or if both of us aren’t here. And sometimes they have a very good idea in mind for the person who can provide care for their child, but that person may not be very good with money. So maybe you want to split the roles and appoint two different people: The one who will be the excellent parent figure and the one who will manage the money. Because they are different skills, different capacities.

Read the full story here.

5. A parade for Zac

Zac Connolly with his parents Angela and Chris and new pug puppy, Joy. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Yvette d’Entremont learns how residents in Lower Sackville came together and organized a parade on Monday for Zac Connolly, an 11-year-old with cancer.

Zac was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that develops from immature nerve cells when he was a toddler. He was cancer free for eight years, but his parents, Angela and Chris, were recently told he relapsed.

His family posted “Zac’s Life List” but restrictions from COVID-19 made fulfilling some of those wishes tricky.

Paige Mackey, whose son Jake is friends with Zac, organized Monday’s parade.

With COVID-19 it’s impossible to get everybody together like that so I figured the easiest way where he could see everybody all at one time would be to do a vehicle parade where we can all say hi and see him.

Vehicles line up at the Sackville Sports Stadium preparing for Zac’s parade. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

The parade got quite the turnout as cars lined up in the parking lot at the Sackville Sports Stadium. Says Mackey:

It’s so overwhelming to see how amazing this community is to get together like this, even people that don’t even know Zac want to reach out and be there. It’s amazing to see the support and love of this whole community. It definitely brings tears to my eyes. Constantly.

Read the full story here.


Views

1. Addressing the roots of hunger

Square Roots, a non-profit that works to reduce food waste and food insecurity, is really living up to its motto, Everyone Needs to Eat. The group, which started in 2016 by Enactus Saint Mary’s, a student leadership organization, has community programs in Lower Sackville, Fairview/Clayton Park, downtown Dartmouth, and Bedford. Once a month, customers can buy bundles of produce for $10 or $5 per bundle. The produce is “seconds” brought in from Henny Penny Farm Market and Elmridge Farm in Annapolis Valley. But when the COVID-1o crisis hit in mid-March, the team at Square Roots decided to suspend all paid delivery of produce bundles.

But Jason Craig, the community manager for Square Roots in Sackville, said people were in need more than ever and others were asking how they could help. So, the Square Roots team reorganized and started to give out bundles for free. Since then, Square Roots programs have given out more than 30,000 lbs of free produce through weekly or biweekly deliveries or pickup services.

“The need for fresh produce has never been greater and we’re providing a solution for it,” says Hannah Tibbet, who is the program manager of the bundle program.

Tibbet says they started to looking for more funding and donations to help offset the costs. And they have lots of volunteer delivery drivers to help make sure the bundles get to those who need them.

Tibbet says the only challenge Square Roots is having is finding people to set up programs in other communities.

“There is a huge need right now,” Tibbet says. “As long as we have the finances and the labour, we’ll keep doing this.

Donations to Square Roots in Fairview/Clayton Park. Photo: Square Roots

Yvonne Noel is the community manager of the Square Roots program in Fairview and Clayton Park. She just started volunteering with Square Roots in September, taking over from another woman who ran the program previously. She says the volume of produce the Fairview/Clayton Park group has given away increases every week. To date, that group alone has given out 10,000 lbs of produce to families in the area, but Noel says they are now delivering across the HRM. “I am shocked at the growth,” says Noel. “People are coming out of nowhere for a bundle.”

The Fairview/Clayton Park group has received donations of bread and potatoes, too. Noel says she’s meeting with a local church about getting donations of milk. “We’ve been really, really lucky,” Noel says.

Besides the bundles they pack each week, Noel says they set aside about 25 boxes for other service providers in the area. Each bundle includes a mix of seconds of veggies like potatoes, apples, onions, carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, turnip, and parsnip. “It’s not the pretty stuff, but it tastes great and it’s local,” Noel says.

Some of the produce waiting to be bundled and delivered to those in need. Photo: Square Roots Fairview/Clayton Park

Noel says they now have a volunteer who speaks Arabic to help serve the families in Fairview and Clayton Park who are newcomers to the city.

Noel says the program helps supports farmers, too, whose produce may otherwise rot in the field. “We have a great need in all our community and it’s bigger than we realize,” Noel says. “But Square Roots is not just for people in need. It’s for everyone who wants to support local.”

Square Roots is not the only organization delivering bundles to those in need. Every Sunday, Patricia Bishop at Taproot Farms in Port Williams puts together food boxes for those in need. Each bundle includes a 10-lb bag of potatoes, carrots, onions, and lots of apples, and maybe some parsnips, and strawberries. Bishop says if she has extra pea shoots, she’ll add those, too. Bishop says she puts in extra apples for the kids she knows aren’t in school where they would usually take part in in-school food programs.

Taproot Farms in Port Williams delivers food boxes like this one to people in need. Anyone who needs a box, or those who know someone who needs a box, can simply message Taproot on Facebook with a civic address and a food box will be dropped off. Photo: Taproot Farms

Bishop has been making up these boxes since late March. That’s when the farm really started to ramp up its online ordering system after farmers’ markets in the areas started to shut down. Bishop, who started Taproots in 2003 with her husband, Josh Oulton, says each year she reads poverty reports and understands the food insecurity issues in the Annapolis Valley. She knows there were people who were struggling to get by even before the COVID-19 crisis and some people are more isolated and struggling to pay bills more than ever. Doing up more boxes to donate to those in need just became part of the new way of doing business. “We’ve been doing it every week and people just keep sending us civic addresses,” Bishop says. “The response means people are in need, which I already knew.”

The process to get a food box is pretty simple. On its Facebook page, Bishop says they tell anyone who is need — or anyone who knows someone in need — can send along their civic address, and they will receive a food box, no questions asked, on their doorstep. They deliver anywhere from 20 boxes to 104 for a week (the 104 was during Easter weekend). Bishop says she wanted to keep the program simple and direct. “I know they need it because they asked for it,” Bishop says. “There’s not much to think about.”

The food box program quickly gathered steam. Bishop’s sister, father, niece, and son help put together the boxes. Bishop says she has volunteers around the community who drop off boxes to homes in Port Williams, Canning, Wolfville, New Minas, and Kentville. More recently, Taproot has been getting donations of bread, soap, tomatoes, and yogurt-covered peanuts to add to the boxes. And they’ve been receiving donations of money to the farm to help offset the costs of the program. Each box costs about $10 to $13 to put together. People can donate money through the purchases of Taproot bucks online. But Bishop says money is not a barrier for them and they’ll keep doing the program as long as there is need. “It speaks to the need and the values Josh and I have about reducing hunger and wanting people to have access to good food,” Bishop says.

Bishop says she’s inspired by how people came together, donating money or their time to make deliveries, and how neighbours are watching out for each other by making  sure they get a food box. “It’s so heartwarming,” Bishop says. “It’s honest, helpful, and beautiful.”


Noticed

The other day, I found this job posting on Facebook. Northwood is hiring for its pandemic relief team at its Halifax site. Notice the wages? $16.33/hr to $16.67/hr. These are low wages for this work even without a pandemic.

A reminder: According to Living Wage Canada, a living wage in Halifax is $19.17/hr.

To date at Northwood, 32 residents have died from COVID-19. Of the province’s 309 active cases of COVID-19, 204 are residents at Northwood and 67 of the active cases are Northwood employees.

So, for many workers at Northwood, their skills, their health, and their lives aren’t worth a living wage. This is crucial and hard work.

I check Indeed.com every once in a while and Northwood always has job postings, including for positions as registered nurses, summer students, and housekeeping.

Here’s another posting for a home care worker with Northwood. The wage is $18.15/hr.

Oh, they’re also looking for a labour relations manager, too. The salary is $80,000 to $85,000 a year.

On its career page, Northwood says it’s looking for “more heroes,” including those from other sectors, like daycares and hotels, who might have transferable skills that would work in long-term care.

At the bottom of its career page, you’ll see that Northwood has been voted one of Atlantic Canada’s top employers and one of Nova Scotia’s top employers for 2019. I don’t buy into these lists of top employers, but paying staff at least a living wage should be part of the judging criteria.

Being called a hero to work on the frontlines of COVID-19 for less than a living wage is like asking creative workers such as artists, writers, musicians, and photographers to work for exposure. Except in this case, workers at Northwood are at real risk of being exposed to a deadly virus. And for that, many of them are earning just enough to just get by.

I love Northwood’s motto of “Live More.” Maybe they should include “Pay More,” too.


Government

No meetings.


In the harbour

07:00: IT Intrepid, cable layer, arrives at Pier 9 from Cristóbal, Panama
10:00: MOL Maxim, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
15:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from Norfolk

Wednesday (times very tentative)
00:30: MOL Maxim, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
05:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:30: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik
14:00: Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
17:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails for New York
17:00: Selfoss sails for Portland


Footnotes

I ate a box of Whoppers last night. I also did some Pilates and arm exercises. This is called “balance.”

Suzanne Rent

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

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