News

1. Unvaccinated HRM staff back to work Monday

Halifax City Hall is seen from the corner of Barrington and Duke streets on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Four months ago, Halifax Regional Municipality put out a news release announcing all HRM workers had to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 15; those who chose to go without the jab would “face employment consequences” (a phrase so vague, it could only be found in a news release).

It’s still unclear how many of the fewer-than-150 workers still unvaccinated by the December deadline were ever actually laid off or fired — the municipality says they’ll have those numbers for the Examiner today — but yesterday HRM put out another news release announcing the unvaccinated will be back to work Monday.

The announcement came a day after provincial COVID briefing wherein Premier Tim Houston said Nova Scotia will be lifting all remaining pandemic restrictions on March 21.

Zane Woodford has the full story.

P.S. if you’d like to book an appointment to get vaccinated, click here.

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2. COVID Update

Photo: Jeremy Bezanger / Unsplash

If all goes well, we won’t have these daily updates in two weeks’ time (though we’ll still get a weekly dose of pandemic news from the province). It’ll be nice, I have to say.

We’re not there yet though. Here are the latest numbers from Thursday.

First off, no new deaths were reported in Nova Scotia yesterday, though 350 people are in hospital who either now have COVID or once did have COVID — 46 of them were admitted because of COVID symptoms and 12 are in ICU.

There’s a new hospital outbreak at Inverness Consolidated; so far fewer than 5 patients have tested positive. That’s in addition to existing outbreaks at four other hospitals around the province as of Thursday.

As for new COVID cases, the province reported 187 yesterday.

Here’s where pop-up testing is scheduled for today:

  • Halifax Central Library, 11am-6pm
  • Chester Basin Fire Dept, 11am-3pm
  • Metegan Fire Hall, 11am-3pm
  • Bras D’or Yacht Club (Baddeck), 11am-3pm

Also, a reminder that next week, Nova Scotians won’t have to show proof of vaccination for “non-essential, discretionary events and activities.” If you speak actual English, you might be unfamiliar with the term, “non-essential, discretionary event and/or activity.” It means starting Monday Nova Scotians will be able to play sports, hit the gym, eat out or barhop without having to first show proof they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the first of three phases that will end, as mentioned in the blurb above, with the lifting of all COVID restrictions in Nova Scotia on March 21.

Other restrictions will continue.

New Brunswick will be lifting COVID restrictions sooner. On Thursday, that province’s government put out a news release stating all COVID restrictions will be lifted there on March 14.

In the release, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, said public health will remain on high alert when it comes to COVID. She urges New Brunswickers to do the same.

“While we are at a point where we can lift the enforced measures, people still need to take their own protective measures, especially if they are at higher risk due to age, being immunocompromised or not being vaccinated,” she’s quoted saying.

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3. Rock that rolls will never die: Spryfield landmark up for heritage protection

The earliest identified depiction of the Rocking Stone, as painted by Sir George Back, British royal naval officer, Arctic explorer, and painter. — HRM/Back, 1836

“The Rocking Stone of Spryfield has long been regarded as an object of interest,” wrote Reverend David Honeyman in 1882. Honeyman, the first curator of what is now the Nova Scotia Museum, had just visited the massive granite boulder for the first time and “was astonished at its imposing appearance.”

It was what he experienced after climbing the rock that really astonished him though:

“Having reached its top by a ladder, which is placed against it for the convenience of visitors, I enjoyed a strange rock in this wonderful cradle. My conductor and companion, Simon D. Macdonald, F.G.S., seeing me seated at the top, went to the end of a lever, also placed in position, and commenced operations. The mass began to move, the motion increased and the rocking commenced, and was continued until I was satisfied.”

People in the 19th century sure knew how to describe things, didn’t they?

The “rocking” phenomenon — the result of a glacier depositing the massive boulder upon a flat granite outcrop — is now a thing of the past. The stone, estimated to be at least 162 tons, has been immobile since the early 1960s, though community efforts in the 1990s to restore the rock to its former glory were somewhat successful and some locals say it still moves).

Whatever its “rocking” status, Halifax regional council’s heritage committee is now recommending the municipality add the Spryfield Rocking Stone to its registry of heritage sites. It was protected in the 1970s, but lost that status in 1981 when the province created the Heritage Property Act.

Zane Woodford covered the virtual heritage council meeting where a staff report on the Rocking Stone was presented. The article explains the history of the rock, why the heritage committee will be recommending council vote to protect it, and what heritage status could mean for the site.

I’ve never been, but it’s a popular spot. According to the staff report, a British King and Prime Minister have visited. Clara Dennis photographed it. So did Stephen Archibald, whose 2019 blog post about the site came almost 200 years after the Acadian Recorder printed the first known mention of the Rocking Stone in 1823.

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4. Local filmmaker looks at “food deserts” in rural and urban communities across N.S.

Finding fresh produce can be a challenge in food deserts in Nova Scotia. Photo: Ian Wilson/Deserted

You’ve likely heard of food insecurity. The Canadian government defines it as “the inability to acquire or consume an adequate diet quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.” Nova Scotia has the highest share of severe food insecurity in Canada: 4.6% of households in the province experience it. (The national rate is 3.0%).

But what’s behind those stats and that abstract definition? Suzanne Rent spoke with a local documentary filmmaker who wants to start that discussion in Nova Scotia.

Ian Wilson of Dartmouth is the director and narrator behind Deserted, a documentary sponsored by the Lunenburg Doc Fest and its seniors program. All applicants in the Doc Fest program were given a topic to cover for their film. Wilson and his crew were asked to focus on food insecurity. After some reflection, Wilson said the team decided they wanted to investigate food deserts in Nova Scotia. From Rent’s article:

“It affects both rural and urban communities. It affects older folks and it certainly affects those with lower incomes, but it affects urban and rural folks in different ways as well,” Wilson said in an interview with the Examiner. “And we also wanted to follow some of the people who are impacted by living in a food desert. Kind of following their stories where we could, and see what solutions what they had.”

The documentary looks at food deserts in communities including Middle Musquodoboit, Upper Big Tracadie, Millbrook, Dean Settlement, and outside of Bridgewater. In some of the these communities, the drive to get groceries can be anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes. And many of the people living in these areas may not have cars. The rural communities don’t have public transit, and while there may be some community transit options, those cost money, too. In some cases, residents carpool or ask neighbours to pick up grocery items for them.

The film airs March 19 on Eastlink, but you can also watch right now on YouTube.

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5. Snow’s on the way

The “after sidewalk clearing” photo, from the city’s snow clearing guidelines page at halifax.ca

If you haven’t heard there’s a snowfall warning in effect for much of mainland Nova Scotia tonight, congratulations: you and your friends are great conversationalists.

I checked Environment Canada’s report this morning. The counties listed below are expected to get 15-20 cm.

  • Digby
  • Halifax
  • Lunenburg
  • Queens
  • Shelburne
  • Yarmouth

It’s supposed to get heavier later on so take your time on the drive home today.

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Views

1. Making a list, checking it twice

Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

A couple years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I went to the Brown Hound on Agricola for a lunchtime Guinness with a friend.

It was eerily quiet for a pub on March 17. Chairs were stacked on every other table to keep customers distanced, not that it was necessary; there was a lone older man on one side of the room and couple on the other. You had to go out of your way to rub elbows with anyone that day. We sat down at one of the many empty tables while the staff, who’d outnumbered the patrons before we walked in, got us our pints. We threw them back, paid up, and fled that depressing scene as quickly as possible.

That was the last time I walked into a business without first strapping a piece of cloth across my face. Now, if all goes well, I’ll be allowed to walk into the Brown Hound without a mask — almost two years to the day since that grim Paddy’s Day visit.

From what I’ve seen, there’s been a mixed reaction to the news that the province will be lifting all COVID restrictions on March 21.

Many Nova Scotians — the elderly and immunocompromised, for example — remain especially vulnerable to the virus. Speaking with CBC’s Information Morning Thursday, Dr. Strang addressed concerns over COVID spikes in Denmark and Israel after restrictions lifted — those are different places and Nova Scotia has high vaccination numbers, he said. Parents are concerned about the end of mask mandates in schools, considering the lower vaccination rates among children and the time they’ll have to take off from work should a child come home sick.

On the other hand, it’s no secret that people are tired of this pandemic.

A multi-week national embarrassment in the country’s capital showcased a lot of that fatigue and frustration (as well as some racism and intimidation) in the worst possible way. But just because you don’t feel the need to shut down and disturb a city’s downtown core, or tread on the freedoms of the people living there, it doesn’t mean you’re not exhausted with this pandemic.

I mean, vaccines started rolling out early last year and it looked like summer 2021 might be back to business as usual. Then we locked down in the spring. This fall we were getting ready for communal holiday season, full of gatherings and homecomings. Then Omicron hit and the we had to deal with the most rampant COVID wave we’ve faced to date. It started not even three months ago. Students and administration at St. FX were publicly shamed through December and January — Canada’s national newspaper gave the story a full folio spread — for the role a Dec. 3 X-ring ceremony played in worsening the outbreak. Remember the memes?

One of many memes to come out of the COVID-spreading X-ring ceremony in December. Photo: reddit.com

We’re only just recovering from that wave of the pandemic, and now we’re lifting all restrictions. Behaviour that was only recently worthy of public derision will soon be legally and socially (for the most part, I think) acceptable.

It’s all a bit confusing.

Wary or excited, though, the first phase of eased restrictions will come into effect next week.

As an exercise, let’s put politics, uncertainty, and worry aside for a moment and believe things will work out. People will remain responsible and vigilant in preventing the spread COVID, which remains a threat despite the changing restrictions. Numbers will remain manageable and vaccinations will continue to mitigate and prevent the harms of COVID. Let’s indulge and think of what there is to look forward to after two years of emergency health measures.

At the start of the pandemic, Kelly McCarthy at ABC News spoke with a clinical psychologist about dealing with the loss of normal life in the pandemic. The psychologist encouraged people to make a list and write down all the things they wanted to do once life got back to normal. She suggested things like “the first restaurant they will eat at and park they will visit once normalcy returns.”

That article was somehow written on March 27, 2020 — were we really already tired of being trapped indoors at that point? — and since that time, normalcy has yet to return, but I’ve had the chance to visit parks and restaurants, so they’re not on my list. Some items on lists posted on Twitter at the time of McCarthy’s article include things like petting strangers’ dogs, hugging grandparents, being in class with friends, etc.

I started to think of my own list this week.

I know the pandemic’s not over. I’ll continue to wear a mask if I feel a little under the weather, or I’m indoors with people at risk. I’ll be courteous and respectful to those who still want to see masks and physical distancing in place.

I’m relatively lucky. I’m healthy, with few relations or friends in vulnerable conditions. I know others don’t have the luxury to get back to normal guilt-free.

I also have some big things I’m looking forward to, but it’s the little things I’m really excited about.

Not having to fumble for my mask when I go anywhere. It’s a miracle I haven’t wet my pants in this pandemic, the number of times I’ve had to dart into a bathroom only to have to desperately pat myself down for a mask so I can go indoors. 

Being able to pop in on friends or invite them over without worrying about gathering limits or the individual anxieties (or lack thereof) people have around COVID.

Walking into a restaurant without feeling like I’m trying to board a plane or cross an international border.

Being able to stop into places to check them out. Killing 15 minutes in the library reading, browsing a local shop, or waiting for a bus in a cafe just aren’t worth the hassle right now.

Crowds. Just crowds.

As I list these things, I realize I don’t really have a list to look forward to. It’s more of a feeling.

Life in the pandemic has come to feel like living in a series of boxes or compartments. You’re in one box, say your apartment, then you unpackage yourself, hit the street, and repackage yourself in another box, say the office, a restaurant, the grocery store.

We’ve had some big losses these past two years. People have lost loved ones, homes, and jobs, for example. But we’ve also lost something on a more abstract level: a lot of the fluidity and spontaneity of life have been missing.

I’m ready for life to feel a little messy again. To go out into the world in the morning and not come home ‘til late at night. To join tables at the restaurant, mix with different groups of friends and meet strangers, to walk downtown without wondering what businesses will let me use the bathroom or whether my phone has enough juice to display my proof of vaccination.

I’ll keep with the restrictions if things change and that’s what’s needed. I’m not going to occupy Province House because it turns out taking off our masks actually isn’t the best idea right now. But I hope it is a good idea. I think we’re all ready for it. I’m not looking for normalcy. I just want to feel a part of the world again.

Even if we lift restrictions without a hitch, it’s important to remember this pandemic isn’t over. I’ll end with a quote from Dr. Strang’s Information Morning interview:

[J]ust because we’re lifting restrictions and mandates, people need to know that Public Health is going to continue to monitor carefully the situation that we have. We have to be able to keep a handle on this so we can respond as necessary.

There are certainly people in our community, whether because of age or underlying health conditions, that are at much greater risk for severe disease. That’s not unique to COVID. That’s the same every year because of influenza.

I hope we’ve learned, and the message I’m pushing is that let’s be much more respectful about respiratory viruses in general moving forward … The choices we make around, whether we wear a mask, how many people we socialize with, do I get a COVID rapid test before I go visit somebody who’s immune compromised or elderly? All of those things, we need to be much more aware of what we’re doing and how those actions are going to impact somebody else around us who’s at much greater risk than we might be.

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Noticed

Photo: Twitter

A pillar of the Kentville community passed away this week.

Ian Mosher, who spent nearly 40 years as a player and coach for the Kentville Wildcats, died of ALS on Tuesday. He was 63.

George Myrer wrote a piece on Mosher’s passing for Saltwire yesterday. Here’s an excerpt, recapping Mosher’s storied career.

“Mosher was a member of the Wildcats in their inaugural season in 1977.  He also delivered the biggest hit in franchise history when he drove in the winning run as the Wildcats captured the 1985 Canadian senior baseball championship on their home field in Kentville.  He was named the championship game’s most valuable player.

In 1990, Mosher was selected as the  MVP of the Nova Scotia senior league.  

Mosher was always a gamer and that was never more evident when at the age of 57 he stepped up one weekend during a road to trip to play the Sydney Sooners and caught all three games.”  

If I can still get into a catcher’s squat by 30, for ten minutes, I’ll be a happy man. It truly is awe-inspiring he was able to catch 27 innings at that age. Or any age.

I know a lot of Examiner readers won’t be familiar with the local baseball scene, but Mosher was such an integral part of it – and my own development as a baseball player – that I wanted to mention him here. The pandemic has done a number on the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League, which was already having troubles with parity (Dartmouth’s been unbeatable for years) and finding new players. Mosher’s death feels like the end of an era for Nova Scotia baseball. For the Wildcats, it’s a huge loss, as the team relied on him heavily to stay organized. Considering the NSSBL has only five teams, it could be devastating to the league, as well as heartbreaking.

On a personal note, Mosher used to run baseball camps out of Kentville multiple times a summer. I attended a number of them as a kid. A drill he put me through — teaching me how to block pitches in the dirt — inspired me never to become a catcher. But he was great with kids. A loud, outgoing personality, he knew how to make baseball fun. And he never ran out of enthusiasm. You could really feel that he just wanted to play and talk baseball all day. I believed he would’ve caught four games in a weekend if he could’ve. He loved the game that much.

Local sports rely on guys like Mosher to organize teams, inspire youth, and ensure the game is passed on as part of the community. If you played community sports of any kind, you’ve likely met an Ian Mosher. They’re what keep community sports alive and they’re worth celebrating. There are Ian Moshers in small towns all over Canada.

Though in reality, there was only one Ian Mosher. He was one of a kind. Baseball in this province won’t be the same without him.

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Government

City

Budget Committee – Contingency Date (Friday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Electric Vehicle 101 (Friday, 12pm) — virtual information session with Brendan Piper from Next Ride: what exactly is an EV; the costs of owning an EV; rebates; are EVs truly environmental friendly or is it just greenwashing; all about charging and future trends


In the harbour

Halifax
06:30: Oceanex Avalon, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from St. John’s
08:30: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
09:30: MSC Qingdao, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
10:00: SLNC Severn, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
10:45: Selfoss, container ship,sails from Pier 42 for Portland
11:00: CMA CGM T. Roosevelt, container ship (140,000 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
13:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:00: CMA CGM T. Roosevelt sails for New York

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Footnotes

Pray for peace.


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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. Nice item on Ian Mosher and his commitment to baseball in this province. Senior league baseball seems much under-appreciated. I used to enjoy watching Dartmouth Dry games at Beazley field with a couple of dozen others. But it would be a lot more fun for players and the handful of fans if a few hundred more showed up to enjoy such high calibre ball.

  2. Although I am on the wary, rule-following side of the masks issue and felt like the behaviour of much of the convoy was beyond a reasonable protest, I was struck that after three weeks of maskless / mask protesting, cavorting crowds in Ottawa there wasn’t much of an outbreak reported, at least that I saw (I am open to be wrong on this!). I am sure many of the protestors were fully vaccinated, no matter how ‘freedom loving’, but still surprised that there wasn’t much of a blip reported.

    I wonder how many Canadians noticed this? I mean, I guess the protest was effective in this way — the message is a side effect more so than the conscious statements of the groups.

  3. Given the exemplary job NS Public Health has done over the last couple of years I am hopeful they know what they are doing now but I am a bit apprehensive about the total removal of restrictions. And, I know I haven’t had it as bad as many with respect to COVID-19 restrictions but what is with making them seem as if it was just short of a nuclear winter? Tired of it? How about 400 years of being discriminated against because of your colour – every day? How about living in a country controlled by people and a police force whose initial purpose was to eradicate your kind and who continue to oppress you, deny you drinking water, deny your treaty rights, incarcerate you to this day? If I were black or indigenous or disabled or a woman, I’d be tired of relentless discrimination but after two years, no, I’m not tired of wearing a mask or showing proof of vaccination.

    1. From a friend who spent a lengthy time in strict medical isolation among strangers in a strange country: “You think THIS is isolation? You don’t know isolation.”
      Every time I think things are bad, it comes to mind that they could be worse, in so many ways.