1. There were 33 COVID deaths in August in Nova Scotia
This item is written by Tim Bousquet.
Thirty-three people in Nova Scotia died from COVID in the month of August, and the July death count has been revised upwards from nine to 22.
The monthly COVID epidemiologic summaries are released on the 15th of the following month, and such revisions in death counts are common, reflecting the lag time on determining cause of death. We can expect that August’s 33 figure will also be increased with release of the September report in October.
In total, through the entire pandemic, 522 Nova Scotians have died from COVID. This includes 410 deaths since Dec. 8, 2021, which are considered Omicron deaths.
“Wave 6” is now said to have occurred from March 1, 2022 to June 30, 2022, and a newly categorized “Wave 7” is defined as July 1, 2022 to the present.
From March 1 to August 31, 263 people died from COVID, and 1,315 people were hospitalized because of the disease. Their ages are captured in this table:
The following table shows the age-adjusted hospitalization and death rates by vaccine status, also for March 1, 2022 to August 31, 2022. There are 30 more hospitalizations in this chart than in the previous table because, remarkably, it is not known how old some of those hospitalized were.
“Person-years” means the number of people over a set period of time. So, if you study 100 people over one year, there are 100 person-years, and if you study 10 people over 10 years, there are also 100 person years. In this case, the people are being studied over six months (March 1 – August 31).
The “crude rate” is the number of people who were hospitalized or died in each category, per 100,000 in each vaccination status.
“Age-adjusted” recognizes that Nova Scotia’s population skews elderly and is better vaccinated than other jurisdictions in Canada, so to make meaningful comparisons, the data reflect what the rate would be if Nova Scotia reflected the “standard” Canadian age and vaccination distribution.
Also, for the March 1, 2022 to August 31, 2022 period, there were 77,323 positive PCR tests.
Yesterday, the release of the August monthly report coincided with the weekly COVID update, for the week of September 6-12.
That report adds 15 newly reported deaths. As explained above, some of those deaths likely occurred in August, and some COVID deaths that occurred from September 6-12 won’t be reported until October. But as the death count is reported weekly, this is the count every week since January:
Additionally, for the same reporting period (Sept. 6-12), 39 people were hospitalized because of COVID.
Nova Scotia Health reports the following hospitalization status for yesterday:
• in hospital for COVID: 45 (eight of whom are in ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID: 145
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission to hospital: 87
These figures do not include any (if any) children hospitalized at the IWK.
Also, during the reporting week, there were 1,133 lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases, up from 986 the previous week (which had a three-day weekend). This isn’t a great metric because many people can’t get or don’t bother to get a PCR test. Given that caveat, the following graph shows the new case count since January. The gap reflects a change in testing protocols that makes weekly comparisons meaningless.
2. Human Rights Commission and Board of Inquiry at odds over jurisdiction
A Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Board of Inquiry says it has no jurisdiction to hear the case of a Halifax Regional Police officer with PTSD. The Human Rights Commission itself disagrees, and now the matter is going to court, Zane Woodford reports.
Det. Const. Deborah Carleton was one of three HRP officers to launch human rights complaints related to PTSD diagnoses after she was denied out-of-province treatment. Along with constables Kevin Johnson and Mark Long, Carleton argued her employer was treating her on-the-job injury differently than it would treat a physical injury.
Carleton’s human rights hearing was “derailed,” Woodford writes, by a Supreme Court of Canada decision. The court ruled in another case that issues of disability accommodation should be taken up by an arbitrator, and not a human rights commission.
Jurisdictional issues may seem dry to some, but they have far-reaching real-world consequences. In his story Woodford delves into the potential ramifications both for Carleton, and more broadly.
3. The catastrophe of falling house prices
I challenge you to read this piece by CBC business reporter Peter Armstrong and not conclude that we live in a completely pathological economic system.
There’s been the odd dip, but house prices have trended up, up, up, up for decades now. People who own houses get richer as a result – when they sell them, anyway — and people who want to buy a house find it increasingly unaffordable.
House prices have dropped — all the way back to early 2021 levels, Armstrong reports, and that “has helped drive the largest decline of household wealth this country has ever seen.”
Please read that paragraph again. Remember, house prices now are where they were just over a year ago.
Has this made a difference to me, a person who owns a home? No. I actually have no idea what our place is worth, other than that it’s more than when we bought it. But if I were a person who looked at the increasing value of my property and then decided I needed to borrow a shit-ton of money based on that value, and then interest rates went up, I would be in trouble. And that’s where a lot of Canadians find themselves now. From Armstrong’s story:
As home values skyrocketed over the past decades, Canadian homeowners felt richer. They borrowed more and spent more, using their ever-rising home values as a sort of ATM.
As values fall off and interest rates rise, homeowners are less likely to borrow and spend.
Those interest rates will also slow the economy in another way, says [BMO senior economist Robert] Kavcic.
“If your mortgage payment is gone up $500 a month, or $1000 a month, that is immediately biting into discretionary spending that you could otherwise be spending elsewhere in the economy,” he told CBC News.
Kavcic also notes lower house prices are a “drag” on economic growth because of a decline in “spending on building materials, spending on furniture, all that kind of stuff.”
Commodified real estate is just an absurd foundation for an economy.
4. Don’t expect banning plastic straws to do much of anything
We love performative action, don’t we? Plastic waste is a huge problem, so we’ll ban plastic straws. That’ll show the old Pacific garbage patch! We’re getting serious now!
Well, about that. A study published earlier this month, in Scientific Reports, shows that almost all of the plastic in that North Pacific garbage patch comes from one industry: fishing.
The paper notes that the plastic garbage found during beach cleanups and the like generally originates in coastal areas. In other words, plastic is not migrating down rivers, being dumped into the ocean, and making its way to the garbage patch. Soft plastics and plastic waste generating on shore tends to accumulate along the coast, at the mouths of rivers, or it sinks to the bottom of the ocean, the study finds. As for the garbage patch, here’s what they conclude:
A large fraction of the plastic mass accumulating in these offshore waters is carried by a few objects made in the vast majority of floating nets and ropes, several meters in size. Smaller hard plastic objects also represent a substantial amount of accumulated floating plastic mass3. These hard plastics carry valuable information on their use and origin, allowing a better understanding of the origin and source of emissions as well as the transport and fate of persistent floating plastic marine debris. Our new results indicate that a significant fraction of these hard plastics may also be coming from fishing vessels. Adding to the mass of floating nets and ropes, this suggests that between 75 and 86% of the floating plastic mass (> 5 cm) in the NPGP [North Pacific garbage patch] could be considered ALDFG [abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear]. With our results, we show that five countries mostly contributed to the formation of the NPGP, with most identified emissions originating from Japan, China, South Korea, the USA and Taiwan. These five countries were not recognised as major contributors to land-based emissions of plastics into the ocean but instead, they were identified as major fishing nations in the North Pacific Ocean. This conclusion comes from the analysis of hard plastic debris found in the NPGP but it is likely also applicable to nets and ropes for which the origin is harder to determine. Our findings further highlight that fisheries play an important role in the solutions to the ocean plastic pollution problem.
Fishing gear has also been in the news this week, with the lobster fishery being put on the influential Seafood Watch red list of seafood to avoid. Meanwhile, most of Atlantic Canada’s lobster fisheries are certified as sustainable by the also influential Marine Stewardship Council. This isn’t really a contradiction, though, since the two groups are using different criteria.
In the Chronicle Herald, Barb Dean-Simmons talks to people in the lobster industry who, of course, dispute that they should be on a red list because of ghost gear entangling right whales, and who talk about the importance of the lobster industry for jobs and the economy.
A few years ago I interviewed Ross Arsenault, the co-founder of a company designing lobster fishing gear that keeps ropes coiled and then releases them, rather than having vertical lines in the water. He said:
Between here and Maine, just in this little pocket of ocean, there’s three and a half million vertical lines… That’s an obstacle course for underwater marine mammals.
Dean-Simmons speaks with Heather Mulock of the Coldwater Lobster Association, representing people who fish for lobster in Southwestern Nova Scotia:
Since 2018, she said, lobster fishers around the Maritimes have been testing out all kinds of new gear in an effort to protect the whales.
“We’ve done ropeless gear, weak link rope, braided rope, hollow sleeve . . . pretty much anything that’s available on the market,” she said.
There’s even talk of a buoy system that would allow a marker buoy to be deflated and submerged, and re-inflated by remote control when it’s time for a lobster boat to find and retrieve the pots.
They may have been testing the gear, but they don’t love it, Mulock told me a couple of years ago when I spoke to her. She called one particular model of ropeless gear from a California company a “worst-case scenario.”
This is clearly a complicated issue. Banning straws isn’t going to fix it.
1. Freelancers and the grind of the personal brand
When I began what would turn into my career as a freelance writer, I heard constantly that making a living was no longer possible. Or about to get a whole lot harder. Rates were stagnant, media outlets were consolidating, and an important source of income — reselling stories — was drying up. A writer used to be able to sell a piece to, say the Chronicle Herald, then resell it at a lower rate to any other paper across the country. Sure, your fee for the Herald piece might not be that high, but you made up for it by selling the thing, tweaking if necessary, to the Regina Leader-Post, the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, or whatever.
Then the newspaper chains started buying stories and sharing them across their network. After a few lawsuits (including a class action which I was part of) they codified the practice in contracts. Even worse, a lot of media outlets started buying all rights to everything for all time.
I was fortunate in a couple of ways. Early on, I started hanging around people who had been freelancing for decades, knew all the angles, and instilled an ethic of professionalism. I also developed good relationships with editors, tried to set decent boundaries, and turned down work if the conditions were just too crappy.
In some ways, the doom and gloom was misplaced. Yes, the old media world was changing, and yes, for many outlets rates have been stagnant or worse, but we’ve also seen a huge explosion in the places and ways we can publish our writing. Sure, there are corporate magazines that have terrible practices like not paying for 60 days, but it’s easier than ever to not write for them.
I also remember the dawn of the age of the personal brand, which, of course, social media has exacerbated. Occasionally, I read stories on how to get the most out of your content, and whatnot, and sure, maybe I could raise my profile, or make more money, or something, but it all just sounds so exhausting. Yeah, I can write an article, and then post it to Medium or something, or start a Substack, and then somehow integrate it into a podcast, and create a social media posting schedule to promote it, and develop eye-catching graphics. But when would I do anything else? Maybe I should just sign up for one of those AI services that auto-generates blog posts for you. (Ha ha. No.)
In some corners of the freelance world, the demands of keeping up appearances and selling yourself are much more intense than in others. Take food writing, for instance. I’ve mentioned food writer Alicia Kennedy before, because she is opinionated, thoughtful, and knowledgeable, and is also a really good writer, with an eye to looking beyond the obvious to social issues and concerns. Yet, as a food writer, she finds herself having to feed the machine.
Kennedy writes about this in the latest edition of her weekly newsletter, in an installment called “On selling a lifestyle.” (The newsletter itself is simply called From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy, which is very simple. I like it.)
Kennedy compares the need to feed the machine with an ouroboros — a snake eating its own tail. She writes:
Something is happening to the food writers: We’re losing our minds. This job requires knowledge of not just food and cooking, plus whatever one’s niche is that makes them desirable on the market, but also to be a photographer (not new) and now a videographer—perhaps with three cameras in various positions in order to ensure a cinematic result, when we go on to act as editors. Oh, and we should maybe know how to host a podcast and edit audio, for good measure.
We are food stylists and recipe developers and restaurant recommenders. We are everything, because there’s no other choice. “Being a freelancer means you’re also an entrepreneur, which means you’re every department of your company,” says Abigail Koffler, whose newsletter This Needs Hot Sauce comes out biweekly. I am loath to think of myself as an entrepreneur. Yet here I am.
Kennedy writes about becoming “increasingly confused” with respect to what benefit she or anyone else derives from her social media presence.
It’s been kind of a standing joke in my family for years that I’ll find a way to monetize whatever is going on in my life, or with my family. Going to serve as stewards for a week on an island? Make a radio documentary about it! Quit being vegetarian? Another radio doc coming up! Baseball weekends, making fermented foods, an interest in bonsai — they’ve all been fodder for stories I’ve written. About 15 years ago, one of my kids figuratively threw up his hands in despair, telling me he just wanted to live his life and did not want to be interviewed about it.
Fortunately, I’ve never cared much about Instagram, so I tend to only post pics of pets, walks in the woods, and the occasional travel photo. But if I were younger — or, let’s be honest, a woman, or in a field like food writing that has greater aesthetic demands — the pressure would be much higher. Here’s Kennedy again:
A question I’ve been grappling with is whether to show a life is to sell a lifestyle. Many food people are on Instagram actually making money (I am not one of them); they’re shilling pots and making deals with KitchenAid. Supposedly, brand deals are now the only way to survive. My own spice collaboration has yielded much appreciated surprise checks this year, I will say, and it will also be the extent of my product hawking. I don’t want to be a marketer.
I’ve settled into an aesthetic groove with my photos that I’m quite proud of, until someone mentions to me that they like them for being tossed off or imperfect, and then I feel embarrassed. It’s hard to deviate from what is understood as “good” food imagery.
I am not a food writer, but I am someone who somewhat regularly writes about food. I’ve published a book on fermented foods and drinks, I give talks about fermentation, I appear on the radio and take calls from people with their fermentation questions. Sometimes when I’m baking, or making fermented green beans, or preparing kimchi or whatever, I feel the pressure to document it. Share the process. Bring people along. Maybe sell a book or two in the process. But I also don’t live or die by this stuff, as I would if food writing were my entire identity, or, you know, brand. Kennedy writes:
I started to feel like I’d gotten lost in all of it, like I couldn’t sense myself in the weeds of all the aesthetic input, when I was embarrassed by videos of a dinner I’d made for friends because the lighting in what was our dining room was atrocious. I had already thought about moving the table to the living room, but what made it feel necessary to me was that serving in that room looked bad. (There also isn’t enough airflow.) Could people believe my food tastes good, that they should cook my recipes and read my essays, if it didn’t look good?
One of the key lessons I learned early on as a freelancer was to set boundaries. In our always-on world, that’s become harder and harder to do. Sometimes that’s OK. The other day Suzanne Rent pointed to a story I wrote for Unravel, in which I talk to Willow Raven about her job as a self-employed sex worker using OnlyFans. Raven said she doesn’t mind working evenings and weekends sometimes, because she is working for herself. But I also got the sense she had boundaries, and knew she couldn’t overdo that, because it would not be sustainable. (She also pointed out that the flexibility in her schedule meant she could take time out in the middle of the day to do things like be interviewed by me.)
Raven published a piece on her blog the other day encouraging people to stop joking about starting an OnlyFans, because it is disrespectful to sex workers like herself, and perpetuates the stereotype that sex work can’t be real work. She writes:
Getting into the adult industry in any capacity isn’t just some quick and easy cash grab that anyone could do. It’s hard work – it requires a lot of discipline, creativity, ingenuity, tech skills, marketing savvy, and mental fortitude. It’s yet another way that sex work gets looked down on, and never taken seriously as “a real job”.
Despite doing this job full-time for nearly a year, I still get asked what “my real job is” or if I’d ever get “a real job” again. By which they usually mean an office job. But why is sex work not viewed as a viable option? In fact, I recently had someone tell me that I clearly was learning all kinds of great skills “that could be put to better use in other industries.”
But I’ve worked in other industries; I’ve done retail, I’ve done events, I’ve done fundraising, I’ve done communications. Nothing has ever meant as much to me as sex work. Nothing has ever made me feel as excited to get out of bed and do my job like sex work. I’ve also never put so much of myself and individual effort into a job before.
The Queen’s funeral is on Monday, and there have been many public expressions of grief. Someone has set up a Twitter account called GrieveWatch, “Monitoring, assessing and promoting appropriate displays of patriotic grieving.” Because you wouldn’t for instance, want to tidy up a community garden, since that might be disrespectful to the Queen.
Fire Door Safety Week has also been postponed:
In light of the devastating news of the passing of our Queen, we’ll be postponing Fire Door Safety Week and all associated events, with a future date to be decided. We ask that any planned communications supporting the campaign are also postponed until we release a new date.
But does fire take a break, even with the passing of a monarch?
Apparently the Cockapoo Owners Club (UK) has also suspended posting on its Facebook page, out of respect. I say apparently, because all I’ve seen is a screenshot, and the group is private. Cockapoo, huh?
Anyway, lingerie sellers are also in official mourning:
And so are the British Kebab Awards:
Some of the images GrieveWatch shares are funny not for the expressions of mourning themselves, but for the juxtapositions: A closed self-checkout with the image of the Queen on the touch-screen. A message of condolence beside a defibrillator. Or a bug in the corner of a TV screen during the broadcast of a documentary about sex work:
GrieveWatch also has a go at various public figures with highly posed photos taken while signing books of condolence or whatnot. In response to a Welsh MP who posted photos of himself signing not one but four books of condolence, GrieveWatch writes: “Sorry to see the paparazzi have been following you around and intruding on your grief like this. ????”
This is all great fun. But there is also a serious side to it, as we’ve seen with arrests of people for, for instance, shouting at Prince Andrew, or holding up signs questioning the monarchy.
Maybe the Queen was a great supporter of the British Kebab Awards. Maybe the lingerie shop owners are truly grieving. Regardless, I am glad to see a few people pointing out the somewhat ludicrous side to all this.
Oh, and don’t forget about garbage collection being cancelled, out of respect for the Queen.
Acting Masterclass (Friday, 1pm, Studio 2, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — with Shahin Sayadi
PhD Defence, Process engineering and Applied Science (Friday, 1:30pm, online) — Weixi Shu will defend “Fate and Transport of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) in Soils Receiving Land Applied Alkaline Treated Biosolids in Nova Scotia”
Mount Saint Vincent
Sister Dorothy Moore: A Life of Courage, Determination and Love (Saturday, 12pm, Park Lane Cinemas, Spring Garden Road) — premier screening of documentary directed by Mary Jane Harkin from MSVU, as part of the Atlantic International Film Festival. From the listing:
Through a host of candid interviews and personal photographs, the film shares the remarkable story of Mi’kmaw Elder Sister Dorothy Moore, OC, ONS, who has spent a lifetime advocating for her People.
Throughout her life, Sister Dorothy Moore has been a language and cultural Mi’kmaw warrior. As she states in the documentary, “I’m striving to preserve our language. And our language is who we are. If we lose our language, we are losing our culture because it is through our language, we are expressing who we are, and that’s our culture.”
A recipient of the Order of Nova Scotia and member of the Order of Canada, Sister Dorothy has also been a member of the Board of Governors at MSVU and is a deeply cherished advisor to the university on Indigenous matters. She is also celebrated on the Women’s Wall of Honour at MSVU.
Tickets can be purchased in advance here. It will also be available to stream online starting September 15. You can pre-order online access here.
In the harbour
05:45: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,756 passengers, arrives at Pier 31 from Charlottetown, on a 10-day cruise from Quebec City to New York
06:45: Arcadia, cruise ship with up to 1,904 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on a 30-day roundtrip cruise out of Southampton, England
07:45: MSC Fabienne, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
08:30: Silver Whisper, cruise ship with up to 466 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Sydney, on a 26-day cruise from Reykjavik, Iceland to New York
08:30: NYK Deneb, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
09:00: Norwegian Breakaway, cruise ship with up to 4,819 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
10:00: Hyundai Faith, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
15:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
15:30: Caribbean Princess sails for Bar Harbor
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:30: Silver Whisper sails for New York
19:30: Norwegian Breakaway sails for New York
Cruise ships this weekend
Saturday: Roald Amundsen (up to 600 passengers, having sailed the Northwest Passage); Mein Schiff 1 (up to 2.894 passengers)
Sunday: Norwegian Pearl (up to 2,873 passengers); Pearl Mist (up to 216 passengers)
Monday: Nieuw Statendam (up to 3,214 passengers)
No arrivals or departures
- Back home after going to Toronto and catching three Jays games in two days. Will probably write about baseball next week.
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Thanks for the piece “The Catastrophe of Falling house prices”. This could have been alongside a sister-piece-The Catastrophic Effects of a Dearth of Affordable Housing.One side of the coin has negative equity being a burden on those who clearly overpaid for their home. (A prefab in northern N.S.of the 1940’s vintage that sold in 2018 for $77,000.00 again sold in 2022 for $176,000.00; no upgrades in the interim.) Those who paid the latter price (as those who paid the former price did)will see that the first 5 years of their mortgage payments go primarily to interest payments to the bank.Upon renewal, there’ll be higher mortgage rates,a small reduction in principal and a huge increase in monthly payments. (the delayed, unwanted news).The other side of the coin is the tenant who pays, in the same period of time, $1200 to $1400 per month for an apt. No equity at the end of the five years of renting, but,hopefully, a more affordable market in which to consider a buy.They have stayed out of the over-heated market, and have delayed home ownership for better times.
Our failure to educate this largely under-40 group as to what to watch for and what they need to know and understand has caused them to make rash, maybe necessary, decisions without them knowing much or anything about: negative equity; impacts of inflation; impacts of supply chain issues; what pre-payment privileges they have within their mortgage and why they are imp. to take advantage of; what rights they have, at least on paper, as tenants; how much of their mortgage payment actually goes toward reducing the principal-especially in its first five years,etc.For the prospective, younger home buyer there is no available and affordable housing to be had in most of Nova Scotia.That’s the “catastrophe”! For the renter?- the news is not much better. So if the banks have no response, and the developers have no response- other than -“let the market decide”, who should have a response- a plan?
“We love performative action, don’t we?”
We surely do. But although banning plastic straws wouldn’t be my first environmental policy choice, it’s still not a terrible thing to do. Every little bit helps and all that. It’s just, we really need to get more serious, and onto the big bits. Time’s ticking.
The cruise ships in Halifax today with over 10,000 passengers.
Good day to not be downtown.
Branding along with social media, so inextricably linked, truly are the work of Satan.
Now that the Queen is gone the Windsors can truly concentrate on selling the royal brand without any pretense to public service or fealty to a revered 96 year old anachronism.