Twenty-seven more people have died from COVID.

We’ve become inured to these numbers, in part because the province plays a little number game: ‘well, these aren’t new deaths, they happened a while ago.’

Maybe it takes a while to determine a cause of death, so reporting lags. Maybe some people at the medical examiner’s office were off for the holidays, and they’re only now catching up with the caseload. So, you know, there were only two “new” cases — two deaths from last week, so don’t worry.

This is disingenuous. People are dying. A lot of people are dying.

And while the most recent report says ‘just’ two people died last week, future reports will show that a lot more than two people died last week, but at the time of those future reports, the additional deaths from last week will be ‘old deaths,’ so no biggie, don’t worry.

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It’s almost like watching a pea getting shuffled from under one cup to the next, and if you can’t follow along, the fault is yours, not that man with the cape misdirecting you.

It used to be that 27 people dying from COVID was a really big fucking deal. The premier and Dr. Strang would call a press conference, and both would open by giving condolences to the families and loved ones of the deceased, then try to reassure the rest of us that Public Health was working diligently and encourage us to take necessary precautions to protect the vulnerable around us.

What was Premier Tim Houston’s and Strang’s response to the yesterday’s news that 27 more people have died from COVID? Utter silence. Neither has so much as acknowledged the large death toll, nor have they expressed sympathy for the families of those lost, nor reiterated the simple precautions we could take.

I had this exchange about COVID deaths with Strang in November:

Bousquet: Going back to COVID, it’s been long three years… at the beginning of the pandemic, COVID expressed itself most terribly at Northwood and 50 or so seniors died, and there was widespread public anguish and concern about that. We’re now at a stage, post-vaccine, post everything else, when we’re having basically a Northwood every month of about 50 seniors dying from COVID. And it seems like no one cares. Can you speak to that? I mean, is it now just that we expect that 50 people, 50 old people will die every month and, oh, well, that’s the way it goes, let’s get on with life. Or should there be a different conversation happening? 

Strang: So, you raise a really interesting and important question. I know I care. And my colleagues, Dr. Lynk and everybody in the health care system, certainly care. The challenge is, is that, you know, the very frail elderly are very vulnerable to respiratory viruses. We had — and this is not to diminish those deaths — but we had numbers of people, probably on average, it’s estimated at least 4,000 Canadians die every flu season. There was never much attention on that, pre-COVID. So, it’s a reality, and an objective in public health for COVID and moving forward for all these respiratory viruses, we’re working as hard as we can to decrease severe illness and death. 

For COVID, for the pandemic, we used very strong, specific measures that we would never contemplate, never, ever thought we would need and would never have got the acceptance from Nova Scotians Canadians to use for an annual flu season. That was very different — those tools we used for in a pandemic where we had a totally new virus, lots of unknowns and very little immunity. So, now we’re in a space where we have COVID, flu, RSV, other viruses, which are serious issues, especially for the very young and very old, that we need to — I would argue we didn’t take serious enough pre-COVID. What we need to do is take them more seriously collectively. And today is a good example. It’s not about necessarily — because to actually control those viruses to the point where seniors aren’t at risk, we’d have to shut our society down every respiratory season. That is not possible or feasible.

So we need to find a balance. And part of that balance is everybody being more respectful, if I could use that word, of respiratory viruses and they themselves not may be at risk of severe disease, but all their actions have an impact on how much at risk their grandmother is, their very young, young niece might be. So, we all need to step up and say, I need to do things for others in my community. And part of that is this multi-layered approach, which indicates that we have to take respiratory viruses more respectfully and seriously. 

Well, grandma’s gonna die from something. No need to wear a mask in the grocery store she shops at.

In any event, here are the latest COVID numbers:

Twenty-seven deaths from COVID were recorded during the most recent reporting period, Jan. 31- Feb. 6; 25 of those 27 deaths occurred before the reporting period — that is, before Jan. 31. The reporting of COVID deaths lags, and so there most likely were more deaths after Jan. 31, which we’ll learn about in future reports.

So far in the pandemic, 753 Nova Scotians have died from COVID, 641 of whom are considered Omicron deaths (since Dec. 8, 2021).

The age and vaccination status of the most recent COVID deaths won’t be known until Mar. 15, but in general, 90%+ of the deceased are 70 years old or older, and unvaccinated people are dying at about three times the rate of vaccinated people.

Additionally, during the same Jan. 31-Feb. 6 reporting period, 37 people were hospitalized because of COVID.

Nova Scotia Health reported the following COVID hospitalization status, as of yesterday (not including the IWK):
• in hospital for COVID: 30 (four of whom are in the ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID: 115
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission: 93

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2. Atlantic Loop

The Atlantic Loop. Graphic: Emera

“If the proposed Atlantic Loop project got off the ground and delivered power to our electrical grid, just how much renewable energy could Hydro-Québec supply Nova Scotia Power and its customers?” asks Jennifer Henderson:

Years into discussions involving Ottawa, the provinces, power companies, and First Nations, that’s still an open question. There’s a perception that Hydro-Québec has unlimited supplies of renewable energy cascading through its power dams, which could be transported to the Maritimes via 800 kilometres of new overhead power lines, and possibly, a subsea cable under the St. Lawrence River. 

But that perception has been tested recently. Last weekend, during a two-day blast of Arctic air, the utility hit new peaks for energy consumption which triggered power outages in many parts of Quebec. Sound familiar? 

Henderson goes on to detail the existing electrical capacity in Quebec, plans for expansion of the hydroelectric generation complex, and contracts with utilities in Ontario and New England, all of which show it’s questionable, at best, that enough green energy could be provided to the Atlantic Loop to replace the power generated at Nova Scotia’s coal plants.

Click here to read “Can Hydro-Québec supply enough green energy to make the Atlantic Loop work? Maybe not.”

Meanwhile, the Utility and Review Board has ordered Nova Scotia Power to provide a report on the power outages during the cold snap of Feb. 3-5; that report is due by Feb. 21.

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3. Feds respond to Banfield suit

A white woman with dark blonde hair and a white jacket
Lisa Banfield testifies at the Mass Casualty Commission on Friday, July 15, 2022. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

“The federal government is defending Lisa Banfield’s lawsuit, arguing it was ‘lawful, reasonable and just; for the RCMP to investigate how the Nova Scotia mass shooter acquired his guns and ammunition,” reports Zane Woodford:

As first reported by the Halifax Examiner, Banfield filed a notice of action against the federal and provincial governments in October 2022.

… Banfield alleged those charges were designed to distract from the RCMP’s failures.

“Throughout its investigation, the RCMP employed a trauma-informed approach with all the witnesses involved, be they victims, members of the public or potential suspects,” [federal Department of Justice lawyers Patricia MacPhee and Ami Assignon] wrote.

Click here to read “Federal government defends Lisa Banfield lawsuit, denying ‘baseless investigation.'”

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4. Student housing

A six-storey grey building with four white three-storey fronts.
Alignvest Student Housing REIT has purchased the See-More residences in Halifax. Credit: Alignvest Student Housing REIT

Alignvest Student Housing REIT has acquired a purpose-built student accommodation property on Seymour Street in Halifax from Montreal-based student and rental housing developer Werkliv,” reports Steve McLean for the Real Estate News Exchange.

The See-More complex consists “491 beds in 141 fully furnished units, including studios, three-, four- and five-bedroom suites, which provides a variety of configurations for tenants. It opened in September and is 100 per cent leased for the 2022/23 academic year.”

McLean doesn’t report the sales price, and that price has not yet been reported by Nova Scotia’s property office.

“Alignvest’s investors include ultra-high-net-worth individuals, family offices, portfolio managers, and wealth management and investment advisors,” writes McLean. The company is private, so the identity of those investors is not available via its required government filings.

Alignvest either builds or buys student housing projects very close to universities. This is the REITs first project in Atlantic Canada, but it promises more.

Its managing partner Sanjil Shah said that “the rent-controlled student housing sector benefits from an annual turnover rate of close to 50 per cent, which allows it to raise rents in line with market values on a consistent basis.”

Translation: Alignvest is going to hike up rents big time.

The company reports an annual 10.4% profit, all of it from university students.

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5. Dal students protest racist student

A photo of the sign for Dalhousie University. which features the Dalhousie logo, and the tagline "founded in 1818" on a white stone sign made to resemble a building with a dome.
A photo of the sign for Dalhousie University. Photo: contributed

“Dozens of law students at Dalhousie University walked out of class on Thursday in an act of solidarity with peers who have voiced experiences of ongoing racist comments from a classmate,” reports Megan King for Global.

I’m told the classmate has been making racist and sexist comments all year and it all came to a head yesterday when he derisively laughed at some Black students.

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6. Pedestrian hit by bus

Halifax police have issued this release this morning:

At approximately 7:15 a.m. police responded to a vehicle pedestrian collision at the intersection of Joseph Howe Drive and the on ramp to Highway 102. A Halifax Transit bus driver was making a right-hand turn onto Highway 102 and struck a pedestrian. The woman was walking on Joseph Howe Drive in a marked crosswalk.

The pedestrian was treated at the scene for non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the bus was issued a summary offence ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

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A book cover showing a river between two brown landscapes.

Halifax native Matthieu Aikins, who lives in Kabul, Afghanistan, has written his first book, The Naked Don’t Fear the Water.

Jessica Goudeau reviews the book for the New York Times:

Since the first allied attack on the Taliban in October 2001 began what many consider the longest war in U.S. history, few foreign journalists have written about Afghanistan with the depth and doggedness of the Kabul-based Canadian journalist Matthieu Aikins. His first book, “The Naked Don’t Fear the Water: An Underground Journey With Afghan Refugees,” follows his friend and longtime translator Omar (who, like most of the Afghans portrayed in the book, uses a pseudonym) as he flees economic uncertainty and political instability to find a new life in Europe. The journey took place in 2016 — but after Kabul fell to the Taliban last year and the U.S. withdrawal forced tens of thousands of Afghans to flee the country, the book feels prescient. Aikins poignantly frames the question many of us have been wrestling with since the chaotic events of 2021: “What does it mean to be free in our world? The refugee is freedom’s negative image; she illustrates the story of progress that we tell ourselves.”

It has become a cliché to state that a book is “urgent” or “necessary” when it touches on a critical humanitarian issue; almost any book about Afghan migrants would be important right now. But this book is exceptionally well done. That’s primarily due to Aikins’s painstaking, unflinching portrayals. In refusing to make saints or sinners of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances, Aikins crafts an expansive, immersive work that reads like the most gripping novel but is all the more compelling because the events are both true and ongoing.

At the heart of the book is Aikins’s relationship with Omar, who worked closely with him for years as a translator in some of the most volatile situations in Afghanistan. In leaving his country, Omar is driven by his love for a woman named Laila, whose Shia father — his landlord — will not consider a marriage proposal from his Sunni tenant unless he can vastly improve his prospects. When Omar’s plan to emigrate to the United States through the Special Immigrant Visa program is dashed, he is faced with what Aikins calls “the smuggler’s road to Europe, a long and dangerous journey across the mountains and sea.” When Omar leaves, Aikins goes with him to document the crossing.

Read the full review here.

Matt discussed the book, immigration, and his own story here:

YouTube video

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Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am, City Hall and online) — agenda


No meetings

On campus


Abortion Rights after the Fall of Roe vs Wade (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building, and online) — Joanna Erdman will talk

Thinking Outside the Career Box: The Journey to your Unique Creative Voice (Friday, 2:30pm, Studio 2, Dal Arts Centre) — theatre masterclass with Annie Valentina

Cuba, Africa, and Apartheid’s End: Africa’s Children Return! (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building, and online) — Isaac Saney will talk

Not Now, Not Yet. Build Your Own Lockdown (Thursday, 7:30pm, David Mac Murray Theatre, Dal Arts Centre) — a Devised Theatre Production until Feb. 11

In the harbour

06:00: Hyundai Force, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk, Virginia
08:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
06:45: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
12:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
13:00: Kamarina, tug, moves from Pier 27 to Bedford Basin anchorage
21:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s

Cape Breton
03:30: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Nova Scotia Power Coal Dock (Point Tupper) from Puerto Bolivar, Colombia
16:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin sails for sea


I spent much of my time this week in the library, reading old government reports and microfilmed newspapers. I really enjoy this work, but it will take months to come to fruition. I’m not going to give any spoilers, but through the course of the research I sometimes stumble upon unrelated stories, and so I have it in my head to start writing about some of those stories.

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. It’s disappointing that Strang made no acknowledgement of Long Covid. This is worrying considering it’s now public knowledge that, for example, Epstein Barr virus (infectious mononucleosis) can lead to multiple sclerosis, and other viruses have been implicated in causing long term health conditions. Even if most people don’t develop Long Covid, or can recover in a year or two, (and we actually won’t know if this is the case until a few years of repeated infections have passed) we are squandering an opportunity to limit possible devastating effects on young people who are being repeatedly infected by SARS-CoV-2. Until we know that full recovery is pretty much 100% as it is with seasonal flu or the common cold, we should be taking every precaution to protect all age groups.

  2. “Well, grandma’s gonna die from something. No need to wear a mask in the grocery store she shops at.”

    I would like to see fewer comments like this in the morning files. If your goal is to paraphrase, I think you are being unfair to Dr. Strang and inaccurate in your summation. If, however, you are attempting to give a jab to another mealy-mouthed public-facing government puppet, I’d rather you left it for Twitter, or Mastodon, or whatever other platform requires you to inject your perspective to gain an audience.

    Granted, it is a morning file and not a story, so an injection of personality is likely encouraged. My vote, however, is for slightly less. I find it distasteful, for what it’s worth.

  3. There’s something about the Dalhousie Law School rumblings of discontent that are reminiscent of similar problems at the Dentistry School when a group of misogynistic male students, studying dentistry (and I believe in their graduation year) were harassing female students and posting lewd,hateful things on social media. One student at the law school spoke out clearly saying something to the effect that the university’s response of “we’ll look into it” was inadequate and dismissive- my words. What’s up with the administration at Dal?

  4. Sadly .. the ” mainstream media ” downplays the real covid picture in N S everyday & JEBOYD is correct

  5. As one in my 70s I appreciate your coverage of Covid deaths and the utter silence from Houston and Strang. I think Strang is essentially correct in his November comments about respect and a “layered” approach to living with the Covid reality. However, silence communicate neither respect nor advocacy for the “layers” of vaccination, testing, appropriate masking and respect for the people in your circle who are vulnerable.

  6. “unvaccinated people are dying at about three times the rate of vaccinated people”

    This statistic gets thrown around a lot, but differs quite a lot between jurisdictions, even though it is the same virus and the same vaccines in many cases. What does unvaccinated mean? Is everyone who dies tested for covid at the same rate? Is there any distinction between “died of/with” and is it applied differently based on vaccination status?

    Statistics mean absolutely nothing if the methodology is not known.

      1. Yes, so there is an opportunity for institutional bias in assigning a cause of death. The child covid vaccination rate says everything that needs to be said about public trust in our institutions.

    1. I think we should save the word “unvaccinated” for those who have had no Covid shots, whether that is because they are anti-vax or not yet eligible. For those, like myself, who are behind, may I suggest the term “undervaccinated.” For those who stay up to date and may now be getting ready for their third (or is it fourth) booster, the term “vaccinated.”