1. A lot of old people are dying from COVID
Yesterday, Nova Scotia announced 25 new COVID deaths recorded during the most recent reporting period, Feb. 7-13.
Twenty-four of those 25 deaths occurred before the reporting period, that is, before Feb. 7, and “just” one death occurred in the reporting period, but, of course, there likely were many more deaths in the reporting period that won’t be reported until future reports.
In total, through the pandemic, 778 Nova Scotians have died from COVID, 293 of whom have died since July 1, 2022.
The monthly (January) Epidemiologic Summary was also released yesterday, one day late. It shows that the 11 deaths reported for December has been revised upward to 25. Additionally, the January report shows that 27 people died from COVID in January, a figure that almost certainly be revised upwards in future reports.
The graph above shows the number and seven-day moving average of COVID deaths, 1 July 2022 to 31 January 2023. Note that newly recorded COVID deaths date back as far as July, although most were in December.
With the caveat that more deaths during that period will be reported in the future, on average 38 people have died each month over the seven months, or slightly more than one per day.
Of the 27 people reported to have died from COVID in January, 96% (26) were aged 70 years and older and 41% (11) were people residing in a long-term care facility.
The table above shows the hospitalization and death rates by age group, July 1, 2022 to 31 January 2023. Notably, over those seven months, no one under 50 died from COVID.
Also, during the Feb. 7-13 reporting period, 16 people were hospitalized because of COVID.
Nova Scotia Health provided the COVID hospitalization status as of yesterday (not including the IWK):
• in hospital for COVID: 24 (four of whom are in the ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID: 96
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission to hospital: 78
The table above shows the age-adjusted hospitalization and death rates by vaccine status, July 1, 2022 to 31 January 2023.
People aged 70+ are 26 times more likely to have been hospitalized compared to people aged 18-49, and 28 times more likely to die compared to people aged 50-69. And, people who were unvaccinated or had not completed their primary series were hospitalized and died at two times the rate as those who received a booster within 168 days.
The short of it, very roughly speaking, is that on average, one or two old people are dying from COVID every day, and the number is increasing. Roughly half of them lived in nursing homes, and roughly half are under-vaccinated.
“We” collectively have decided that is an acceptable price to pay, or at least one not requiring any concrete government action.
I had this exchange with Health Minister Michelle Thompson yesterday:
Bousquet: Minister… on the COVID front, the the monthly epidemiologic report did not come out yesterday was supposed to come out on the 15th. Last week there were 27 new or additional COVID deaths announced. Are those two things connected? And are you concerned that COVID is accelerating?
Thompson: So I’d have to get back to you. I don’t have any of those details in front of me. I’m sorry, but we can get back to you with the statement around what’s happening. I don’t have the data to it.
Bousquet: I appreciate that. But 27 deaths announced last week was the highest since, I don’t know, last March or something. Should we be concerned on this front, and why aren’t we hearing more from government?
Thompson: So I don’t have the numbers in front of me about about the deaths that were reported last week. But I don’t believe that all of those deaths were reported in that one week period. Right. They are from previous weeks. In terms of COVID, we do monitor that as we do with other respiratory illnesses. And certainly as an example, we saw a spike in influenza in December. Right. And we monitor that closely. We have to continue to live with COVID. It is going to circulate into perpetuity, I suspect, [and] I believe that we are going to live with COVID for a long time. And the tools that we have immunization is very, very important. And we continue to offer immunization through pharmacies. We need to look at those public health measures that are based on our own individual risk, or risk of the people that live around us. So this is us continuing to transition, living with the virus that we didn’t know existed three years ago. And I can I would fully expect that there will be times, as there are with other respiratory illnesses that we do see peaks.
I heard that as a shrug.
I agree that the virus is probably with us forever. And given that only old people are dying, and people under 50 aren’t (in general) terribly affected by COVID, it doesn’t make any sense to have the kind of lockdowns that we endured before vaccines were available.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything.
Since a lot of people are dying in nursing homes, and a lot of the must vulnerable old people are still getting infected with the virus in hospital, the government could make a significant investment in upgrading ventilations systems in those facilities specifically, but also in other public buildings like schools.
And while three years seems to be the outer limit of public adherence to wide use of masks, it’s still reasonable to strongly encourage people to wear masks in indoor environments where old people are — on the bus, in grocery stores, and so forth.
2. Wastewater testing at airports
“Airports are a hotspot for the entry and spread of new SARS-CoV-2 variants (and other pathogens), and testing the wastewater from airports and planes is proving to be a useful surveillance tool,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
A group of Canadian researchers at the forefront of improving wastewater surveillance in planes and airports are also investigating the addition of surface testing (swabbing) in airports and on airplane surfaces.
“Wastewater’s fascinating. It’s one of the most important surveillance tools arising out of the pandemic globally,” Dr. Doug Manuel said in a recent interview. “It’s moving so fast, and we have more and more of what we call use cases or examples of where it can fit.”
A spokesperson for Halifax Stanfield International Airport said there’s currently no wastewater testing happening at that airport.
But there is wastewater testing taking place at several Canadian airports.
d’Entremont’s article is detailed, and shows how airport testing could be a good early detection for the spread of new variants.
I’ve been following the existing testing done at HRM’s three largest sewage plants (Halifax, Dartmouth, and Bedford), but besides at the onset of Omicon, I haven’t noticed any discernible correlation between the results of the wastewater testing and subsequent hospitalizations and deaths.
That’s probably because the data are messy. There’s a lot of COVID out there in the community, but most people don’t even test anymore, while people who are hospitalized and die are concentrated in just a few facilities — nursing homes and hospitals. Meanwhile, most of the wastewater comes from commercial facilities, whose operations can fluctuate.
Which is to say that airport testing might provide information helpful for the specific purpose of tracking new variants, but otherwise sewage testing hasn’t been very helpful.
“When Const. Susan Conrad became the first woman to join the K-9 unit, Halifax Regional Police publicly celebrated her promotion,” reports Zane Woodford:
“She’s been a valued member of Halifax Regional Police for almost 13 years, serving in Patrol and Community Relations & Crime Prevention,” the police posted on Facebook in June 2020.
“People need to know if their desire is to be a certain type of police officer, or work in a certain area, that that opportunity is there for them and this is a great example to show that it can be attained if it’s something you’re willing to work for,” [Police Chief Dan] Kinsella said.
But internally, Conrad’s colleagues were organizing against her.
In a judicial review filing in Nova Scotia Supreme Court this week, Conrad’s lawyer alleges she had “longstanding complaints of deliberate, workplace, human rights discrimination and harassment.”
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) says the province’s public school system is under “unprecedented strain” and they’re recommending better pay for substitute teachers to address it.
In an op-ed sent via email late Thursday, the union’s president Ryan Lutes said a teaching shortage that’s been brewing for nearly a decade has been exacerbated by “a perfect storm” of population growth and a pandemic.
All of this while students’ needs have become more complex and rising inflation further impacts already marginalized communities.
The op-ed echoes many of the concerns raised by teachers and the NSTU during a legislative committee meeting in November (reported here) where committee members heard the province’s public schools were “in crisis.”.
In Thursday’s submission, Lutes continued:
Every day I’m hearing from teachers who are telling me that their working conditions, and their students’ learning conditions, are not sustainable. The struggle to meet the growing needs of students with less and less support is taking an enormous emotional toll on many teachers who have dedicated their entire professional lives to educating our children.
A chronic shortage of qualified substitutes, Lutes said, means teachers are frequently supervising multiple classrooms, making it increasingly difficult to prepare “those rich learning experiences that leave an indelible impression on students.”
The union also expressed concern about vulnerable children and those in crisis not getting access to necessary support in a timely manner due to guidance counselors and resource teachers being frequently “pulled away” from their primary focus.
“While I’m encouraged by many of the initiatives the province has launched in recent months to support student learning, new programs coming from government need to be accompanied with proper staffing and human resources, otherwise, those initiatives will not achieve the desired outcome,” Lutes continued.
Noting that Nova Scotia’s substitute teachers are among the lowest paid in Canada and that many young teachers are pursuing different career paths, the union is asking for an increase in substitute teacher pay.
5. Halifax Hawks say they aren’t responsible for McNutt
The Halifax Hawks have filed a defence in response to a lawsuit against the organization related to sexual predator Michael McNutt.
A Halifax man who says he was a victim of serial sexual abuser Michael McNutt is suing the Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey Association.
In June 2020, McNutt pleaded guilty to 35 charges related to the sexual abuse of 34 boys from 1971 to 1987. The boys ranged in age from 10 to 15. They were abused in cars, in hotel rooms, in McNutt’s apartment, in hockey arenas, at parks. In August 2020, McNutt, then 67 years old, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on those charges.
It has always seemed probable that McNutt’s crimes extended beyond those 34 victims, and beyond the years outlined in the conviction. A police investigative report obtained by the Halifax Examiner in 2017 was looking at the possible abuse by McNutt of boys as young as eight years old.
The man who has filed suit against the Halifax Hawks Minor Hockey Association says that he was a player for the Halifax Hawks in 1990, and McNutt was his coach.
And, as alleged, the Halifax Hawks “was responsible for the actions of McNutt while he was a coach.”
The Hawks’ defence was filed with the court on Feb. 9 by lawyer Melanie Comstock, who is a partner with McInnes Cooper.
In the defence, Comstock writes that the Hawks have “insufficient knowledge” of the man’s allegations “to make an admission or a denial.” Moreover, “the Halifax Hawks were incorporated … on Jan. 9, 1990, and was not a legal amalgamation,” seemingly suggesting that the current Hawks organization has no legal obligation to the Hawks organization of 1990, although Comstock doesn’t explicitly say that.
And while the Hawks say they have no knowledge of what McNutt did or didn’t do as a coach, they weren’t responsible in any case, as the Hawks “acted in a reasonable and prudent manner in carrying out their responsibilities.”
The defence includes language I haven’t previously seen used in a case involving sexual abuse.
… the Halifax Hawks say that if the Plaintiff did, in fact, suffer any injury, loss or damage, whether as alleged or otherwise (which is not admitted), such claims for damages is remote and the Plaintiff has failed to mitigate his loss.
In this legal context, “remote” means that the connection from the harms done to the Plaintiff to Hawks is so far removed in time and direct cause-and-effect that it doesn’t meet the standard for a finding in the Plaintiff’s favour.
“Failed to mitigate his loss” implies that the Plaintiff could have taken some action or actions over the years to lessen the impacts of McNutt’s actions. This is a remarkable, and to my ears, insulting argument. In effect, Comstock is blaming the victim.
We don’t know what the Plaintiff has done over the years to deal with the trauma of being sexually abused as a boy. I haven’t spoken with this man, but I have spoken with other victims of McNutt, and they’ve told me of years of counselling and other actions taken to deal with their trauma.
Moreover, victims of sexual abuse respond in a variety of ways. There is not one “correct” way to deal with that trauma, and the fact of the abuse makes the path to recovery difficult. Some victims are incapable of having meaningful interpersonal relationships, some have become involved in the criminal justice system, others fall into substance abuse. At least one of McNutt’s victims appears to have been a victim of death by suicide. To imply that this plaintiff should have taken some prescribed course of action is to, at best, not understand the dynamics of a victim of abuse, and at worst, to say he deserves the pain and suffering he’s experienced since the abuse.
A court date has not yet been set for the matter.
6. Mike Savage is going on about a stadium again
Consider all the money, time, and opportunity has been spent on the unsuccessful pursuit of a football stadium in Halifax: $2.4 million in public money went to design 25,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park as part of the aborted Commonwealth Games bid, the another half a million dollars was spent to study building a 10-14,000 seat stadium at Shannon Park, and then still another million dollars to study building a 20,000-seat stadium at Shannon Park. Then, after that whole Amazon fiasco, the city chased still another stadium proposal for Shannon Park, delaying the most reasonable use of the land — residential housing — for another few years.
Throughout, Mayor Mike Savage has been the biggest stadium cheerleader.
Despite an enormous amount of public money fruitlessly spent on pursuing a stadium, Savage is still at it, reports Huddle:
“I don’t think there’s any likelihood of a big stadium outside of the core of the city – I just don’t see that in the cards. It’s been talked about for a long time but it doesn’t seem like the money is there,” Savage said in an interview with Acadia Broadcasting’s Blake Priddle.
However, the mayor said there “may be other options” in the city’s core for a multi-use stadium that could accommodate a CFL team.
One is to hold CFL games at St. Mary’s University. However, the most promising, according to Savage, is the venue for the city’s professional soccer team: the Wanderers Grounds.
“We’re not there yet, but I know that there are people who are looking at whether we could turn the Wanderers Grounds into a place that we could hold 15,000 people,” Savage said.
And who’s going to pay for that?
Savage doesn’t think it would be a challenge to find someone in the community willing to pony up to buy a CFL franchise. However, buying a franchise and building a stadium probably comes with too steep a price.
However, funding for a multipurpose stadium would need to come not just from the city, but the province and the private sector. Both have been reluctant to pledge financial support in the past.
Translation: You and me are. Savage wants to use still more public money to pursue yet another stadium proposal that like all the stadium proposals before it, will most likely go down in flames.
7. Icarus report
This Feb. 9 incident doesn’t sound good:
An Air Canada Airbus BD-500-1A11 (C-GUPK/ACA676) from Montréal/Pierre Elliott Trudeau, QC (CYUL) to St. John’s, NL (CYYT) on approach for Runway 29 was told to conduct an overshoot at 1NM final due to an Air Canada Boeing 767-375 (C-FTCA/ACA7210) from Halifax/Stanfield, NS (CYHZ) to St. John’s, NL (CYYT) still being on the runway.
One nautical mile for a plane flying at, say, 150 miles per hour, is about 40 seconds out.
Yes, the system worked as it should, and now readers will tell me that it’s safer to fly than it is to take a shower. But I’ve never had a 767 nearly hit me in the shower.
I’m getting on an airplane tomorrow.
8. The wrong insider
Yesterday at the post-cabinet scrum with reporters, much was made of a development John Wesley Chisholm has proposed in Musquodoboit Harbour. And that has worked its way into a CBC article reported by Haley Ryan:
Questions are being raised about the provincial government’s decision to fast-track a development led by a former Tory candidate.
John Lohr, the minister of municipal affairs and housing, approved a parcel of land in Musquodoboit Harbour as a special planning area last month on Jan.17, following a recommendation from the province’s housing task force.
The site is one of 10 planning areas in the Halifax region where the province has decided to speed up development in order to help address the housing crisis.
John Wesley Chisholm, a TV producer and two-time candidate for the PC Party of Nova Scotia, is leading the $60- to 70-million project, which he said will include 120 homes in a new neighbourhood behind the local Railway Museum. He added that 24 of the units will be affordable.
I think other reporters have this all wrong.
Chisholm doesn’t have any pull with the PCs — he lost a couple of elections as their candidate in a solid NDP riding, but otherwise has no obvious close connections with the party’s old guard.
I haven’t spoken with Chisholm about the Musquodoboit proposal, but I wonder why he would bother getting into the development business — it’s a giant hassle for someone who’s not already in the biz, and he has a successful unrelated business going that would probably be a better use of his time. But that’s up to him; he’s free to do whatever.
Here’s what I think probably happened: Chisholm decided to get involved with this Musquodoboit proposal, and started down the complicated bureaucratic process of approvals and planning. And that’s when David Hendsbee, the regional councillor for the area, got involved.
Now Hendsbee has pull with the PCs. He’s a longtime party stalwart, having served as both a staffer to a PC minister, and as an elected PC MLA himself. Hendsbee told Chisholm to contact the housing task force. Then, it makes more sense that Hendsbee, and not Chisholm, got Lohr’s ear, and that’s how Chisholm’s parcel got named a special planning area.
Health care accord
“The great federal-provincial health care battle ended, to quote the poet, not with a bang but a whimper,” writes Richard Starr:
The provincial premiers ratified the articles of surrender on Monday, settling not for a half, or even a quarter-loaf, of the billions in new funding they had been demanding.
It was a political defeat for the premiers, whose feckless two-year crusade featured a demand for an immediate $28 billion boost in the Canada Health Transfer, plus an increase from three to five per cent in the annual escalator, in perpetuity. The Trudeau Liberals responded with zero increase in the CHT, a five per cent escalator expiring in five years and $2.5 billion per year in bilateral deals.
That combination produced the oft-cited $46 billion in federal “new money” over ten years, a stark contrast with the $300 billion in new cash that the federal government would have put into health care over a decade if provincial demands had been met.
The premiers’ failure to get what they were asking for is no surprise, given their ineffectual campaign and the damaging optics of arguing about money amidst a crumbling health system. But the scale of their setback is shocking and bodes poorly for the future of universal health care in this country.
And while the premiers look inept, the federal government looks duplicitous. By settling for what amounts to 15 cents on the dollar the premiers are giving the Trudeau Liberals a pass on a health care record that, rhetoric aside, is most notable for fiscal restraint and broken or watered-down promises.
Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall) — agenda
Housewives, Breadwinners, and Students: Gendered Elements of the War on Tuberculosis at the Nova Scotia Sanatorium, 1904-1969 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1107, Marion McCain Building, and online) — Courtney Mrazek from Saint Mary’s University will talk
Mount Saint Vincent
Changing Military Culture Through True Stories (Friday, 4:30pm, McCain 105/106) — Kelly S. Thompson will talk, in the Transforming Military Cultures Network’s first annual symposium, Feb. 17-20, titled Military Culture Change Beyond the Checkbox
A Feminist Conversation on Military Culture Change (Saturday, 4:15pm, McCain 105/106) — Cynthia Enloe will give the public keynote
In the harbour
04:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for Tampa, Florida
06:00: X-Press Machu Picchu, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
20:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
I’m going to take next week off, and try to recharge a bit. The Examiner remains in the very capable hands of the rest of the crew. See you on the flip side.