1. COVID-19 update: Three new cases and the AstraZeneca vaccine

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Tim Bousquet has the COVID-19 update. Three new cases were announced on Wednesday. Two of those cases are in the Central Zone. The third is in the Northern Zone. All of the cases are close contacts of previously announced cases. 

Four people are in hospital and two of them are in the ICU. 

A few more pop-up testing sites were announced yesterday, too:

  • Thursday: Spryfield Lions Rink, 10am-4:30pm
  • Friday: Spryfield Lions Rink, noon-7pm
  • Friday: Halifax Convention Centre, 3:30-9:30pm
  • Saturday: Halifax Convention Centre, 3:30-9:30pm 

Also yesterday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang says the feds offered the province 13,000 doses of the newly approved AstraZeneca vaccine. Later in the day, the Department of Health said it was accepting the offer.  

There are some concerns about the effectiveness of this vaccine. As Bousquet writes, some people in Germany have shunned the vaccine because of its lower efficacy. But the Department of Health addressed concerns in yesterday’s press release: 

Unlike Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccines, which are both mRNA vaccines and are more than 90 per cent effective against COVID-19, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the first viral-vector-based approved COVID-19 vaccine in Canada and based on clinical trials is 62 per cent effective. 

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that higher efficacy vaccines should be offered to those who are most at risk of severe disease and exposure in order to reduce hospitalizations, deaths and to limit the worsening of health inequities. 

Click here to read Bousquet’s story.  

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2. Volunteers step up to help with COVID-19 testing

Lauren Mills, front, volunteers at the COVID-19 testing site at the convention centre in downtown Halifax. Photo: Lauren Mills.

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.

Nova Scotians are stepping up to volunteer at the pop-up testing sites across the province. In this article, I find out what the recruitment and training processes looked like. I spoke with Lauren Mills, who’s volunteering at the convention centre testing site, Dr. Lisa Barrett whose team created this model, and Richard MacDonald from Praxes Medical Group, the company organizing pop-ups in HRM and around the province.

None of these testing sites would work without the hundreds of volunteers who’ve signed on. Dr. Barrett told me this peer-to-peer model is one her team was already working on before the pandemic hit. But what I learned is these sites aren’t clinics; they’re really owned and operated by the community. Barrett says:

I love the fact people take it and own it. There’s not a lot of difference between the people running the event and the people coming in to get tested. They are the same groups of people. I’m very excited and I hope we can extend this further, so people don’t think of things related to health — like this test — as something that’s not theirs. This is theirs to own.

Oh, do you live in Dartmouth and want to volunteer at a pop-up? This was shared on  Twitter last night. 

It’s is so fascinating how many people have signed on. Nova Scotians are really doing their part to control the virus and help each other.

Click here to read the complete article. 

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3. Tideline Episode #20: Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy. Photo: Meghan Tansey Whitton

Episode #20 of The Tideline, with Tara Thorne is published.

The leader of Tara’s all-time favourite local band, Wintersleep, stops by to discuss the third instalment of his POSTDATA project, Twin Flames. Paul Murphy and his brother initially crafted the 2009 debut as a gift to their parents, but the material found an audience and its catalogue has continued to expand over the past decade. Out March 5, Twin Flames is a thoughtful, introspective, often joyful collection of songs exploring gratitude for life. Murphy also talks about being in Wintersleep for 20 years and then we count our grey hairs.

This episode is available today only for premium subscribers; to become a premium subscriber, click the link below, and join the select group of arts and entertainment supporters for just $5/month.

Please subscribe to The Tideline.

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4. Halifax fire budget: “We need firefighters on fire trucks”

Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s logo is seen on a vehicle parked outside its Fire Prevention office in Dartmouth in July 2020. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford reports on Halifax council’s tentative approval of an increase in Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s 2021-2022 budget. That increase also includes 15 new positions.  

As Woodford reports, there are a few differences between this budget and the 2020-2021 budget, notably a $3.4 million increase for wages and benefits. That increase will pay for 12 firefighters, two fire inspectors, and one emergency management assistant coordinator. 

Capt. Brendan Meagher, president of the Halifax Professional Firefighters Association, made six requests to council, which Woodford includes in detail in his story. Meagher says the message is “we need firefighters on fire trucks.” 

Council’s budget committee looks at Halifax Transit’s proposed operating budget next week and will consider the full budget on April 20.  

Click here to read Woodford’s full story.  

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5.  SIRT report: Only five shots fired at Onslow Fire Hall

Apparent bullet holes in the side of the Onslow fire hall. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson looks at the SIRT report that says five shots and only five shots were fired by two RCMP officers at the Onslow Belmont Fire Hall during last April’s manhunt for the mass killer.  

The two officers were cleared by SIRT, but there are still questions around the number of shots fired that day. Photographs showed the damage to the vinyl siding on the firehall and a truck inside was damaged, too. 

In an interview, Felix Cacchione, director of the Serious Incident Response Team, talks about that damage:  

There were five spent casings on the side of the road where the officers discharged their firearms. The weapons that were used were seized and photographs were taken of the weapons, their magazines, and the bullets still in the magazines. One magazine was short one bullet and the other was short four bullets from full capacity.

There were three puncture holes right through the walls of the fire hall. One shot went through a side window of the firetruck and one caused some damage to the fire engine.

Click here to read Henderson’s story.

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1. The Last Taboo: Black women talk about abuse and violence

Shelley Fashan is one of the organizers of The Last Taboo, a project about Black women and domestic violence.

I met Shelley Fashan back in December 2019 at a workshop that was part of the Standing Together initiative with the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women (the Not Without Us project I worked on was funded by a grant under this initiative).

Fashan, along with Starr Downey, Nadine Paris, Denise Allen, Deanna Sparkes, and Tara Taylor, are part of a non-profit called The Descendants of African American EnSlaved Living in Nova Scotia. Together, they’re working on a project called The Last Taboo, which is addressing the violence and abuse of women against Black women in Nova Scotia (this project is funded by a Standing Together grant).

While the project is still in progress, yesterday I talked with Fashan about the work so far and what they’re learning.  

Fashan says they created the Last Taboo project because the voices of Black women aren’t around the table in discussions of domestic violence.  

You need to have us at the table. The table has been set and eaten at without us. So that means we won’t even have a crumb of information about our experience at the table. Our even any consideration of our cultural needs. You can’t speak for me. As well intentioned as you are, you have to know you can’t speak for me. 

We wanted to wanted to have an opportunity to bring Black women together to have a conversation. We don’t normally get a chance to find a space to discuss these issues. 

The project includes four workshops and an educational documentary. So far, three of those workshops have taken place. The first workshop was one on Black culture and how it strengthens and silences women. The second workshop focused on Black women and the criminal justice system. Says Fashan:  

We know Black men are not going to be treated in the same way so we (women) have the extra burden of to tell or not to tell. And often we’re not believed, as well. 

This week, the group hosted a virtual session on what resources are available to Black women, particularly those women living in the Dartmouth and Preston areas. The night started with spoken word artist Martha Mutale. The session included panelists Clara Coward, a social work clinician in Dartmouth; René Boudreau, an engagement coordinator with the Association of Black Social Workers who’s leading a project on gender-based violence in African Nova Scotia communities; and Kyiaisha Benton, who formerly worked with the Elizabeth Fry Society. Says Fashan: 

Their talk was so interesting, informative, and relatable. There’s a lot of sharing and that’s important. What came out of [this session] is the need for more conversation. The need for resources to come out to where we are situated, where the women are situated. The need to strategize and network together with other activities going on. And there is so much our community doesn’t hear about. That information has to be shared. That’s all part of the healing process to have those supports.  

As for the resources in Dartmouth and the Prestons, Fashan says there’s not much right now. 

There’s not a lot of resources on this side of the water. If there are few for everybody else, just how few are there going to be for Black women? There’s such a need. 

We’re talking about women who just want the same as anyone else: an opportunity to live a good life. It’s to make a difference, to make a change, to make our communities healthier.  

She says the goal would be to have the resources women in the community want.  

There has to be work around that. One thing we noticed is there are pieces of work, but there has to be a way of bringing it all together and coordinating it, so not everybody is lifting the whole load. 

Fashan says there will be a fourth session, this one in-person, but closed to the public. At this session, Black women will have a chance to share their stories. That session, which will include supports for the women, will take place sometime in April. 

That will be an intense one and a very sensitive one. We’re going to do a lot of work around that one. It’s more like a witness moment.  

We just want to start the conversation and the dialogue with the community and from the grassroots level. Our audience is a beautiful mixture. We have young women, older women, women from all the communities. I think we wanted an opportunity to be together and share this information with each other.  

As for the documentary, Fashan says they hope to have that done by the end of May. In the meantime, she says they’re learning so much about the issue and their community.

I have learned there are voices out there I have never heard before. I have learned that the young women, they’re stronger than what we know. They really inspire me. I love my community. I love working with them, talking to them. We come together and we share. At our workshops we have some food and some talk and that’s so strengthening. Often I  get comments like, ‘I’m so glad I came. I didn’t know what this was.’ It makes you feel good that so many people think what you’re trying to do is meaningful and purposeful. I learned there’s so much more work that needs to be done. And there is support out there, too. Some Black women are so encouraging and supportive. I learned a lot from everybody, really. 

When you get a chance to come together and hear other stories and share your story, that’s empowering. That’s something you can take away with you. The young women who come participate as much as anybody else. I’m so happy they do. They ask questions. It’s a shared experience. It’s really something special. 

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Toronto’s Siri Agrell’s recently published book How to Get Laid Without Your Phone got me thinking about technology and how we can connect. Now, I won’t tell you how to get laid with or without your phone; maybe you can share how you do it in the comments!

While Agrell’s book focuses on technology and romantic relationships — from how we meet to how we break up — it should start a larger conversation about our dependency on technology and how we connect with anyone. I’ve been thinking about this for years, and how technology has made us lazy, and we’ve lost connections because of it.  

Agrell was on The Current on Tuesday talking about her book (host Matt Galloway couldn’t say the title). I think we all know how important technology has been in this pandemic; I almost can’t imagine living without it now — which is the problem, really. But as Agrell tells Galloway, we’re still missing out on something: 

I think the thing we’re all losing is that spark of joy and that connection and humanity that we felt is missing. I don’t think anybody can deny that we’ve been locked in our rooms with our screens for the last 12 months and the thing we miss is each other, so how do we get back to that? 

I’m several years older than Agrell and remember when we met people without technology. We met in schools, at workplaces, at bars (which in my case were often my workplaces, too.) 

I won’t talk about technology and dating, although I can tell you from personal stories and those I hear from others it’s often a damn nightmare. I joked once that online dating is so bad, meeting people in bars was actually better. But where I’ve seen the biggest change is in friendships. Instead of going out and actually doing things, many people are very comfortable “seeing” their friends through Facebook. And it’s not the same. Even though I do keep in touch with friends with technology, I like going outside and doing things, and finding people to go out and do things was getting tough before the pandemic.

Agrell remembers the pre-technology days, too, and tells Galloway it wasn’t always better, and we’ve lost some of the “muscle” that helped us connect in person.  

The need to be vulnerable, to put yourself out there, to ask questions, to learn about each other. To be more a little more spontaneous, to be a little braver. I think with technology, while it’s hugely useful, it’s conditioned us to be lazy, to think we know more than we do, to be conflict-adverse because we can send a message to someone that’s unkind or terse in a way we wouldn’t do face to face. 

I admit I’m connected to my phone more than I’d like to be, but I’ll use the phone part of my phone to call people. Agrell, who worked in the technology sector for years, recalled to Galloway how one day a young colleague expressed frustration that another worker wasn’t returning his emails. Agrell suggested he just walk over to that colleague’s desk and ask him. The colleague expressed “terror” at the thought of doing so.

I wonder how we’ll see technology after this pandemic is over. Will we want to get out more and meet each other in person? Do we understand that while technology is useful it also has its limits — and even consequences? As Agrell told Galloway, technology has huge promise for good, but maybe we need to rethink how we use it:

People are introducing these tools to try to do good, to try to connect us, to try to free up time for people to do other things, to allow us to realize our full potential as humans. But I think it’s not hard to see that’s not happening. We have all these convenient tools, we can access so much more than ever before, but when left to our own devices, we’re still just doom scrolling. We’re not necessarily taking advantage of that time. But I think it really accelerated for me over the last few years because all the problems we’re seeing writ large right now — the radicalization of the population, a lot of hatred spilling out onto the streets, the callousness of the way we treated a lot of people throughout this pandemic and before — that comes down to our humanity, and are we taking advantage of these tools to the detriment of compassion, reason, bravery, and love. I think to me, the only way to fix these things — and by fix I mean right-size everything, course correct a bit — is to say, ‘This can be useful. How can it affect us? Is it actually going to solve the problems we want to solve or are we just doing it because we can, not because we should?’ 

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Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live streamed meeting

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available

Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — live webcast, with captioning on text-only site


Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am) — contingency date


No meetings.

On campus



Gendering Humour: Country Music, Rebellion, and the Pistol Annies (Thursday, 12pm) — Stephanie Vander Wel from University at Buffalo (SUNY) will explain

Humor in country music has been integral to the genre’s musical and theatrical practices since the first barn dance programs broadcast slapstick routines in which country performers routinely wore the mask of the hillbilly buffoon, a performance archetype that has been largely gendered male. Despite this, country comediennes such as Lulu Belle on Chicago’s the National Barn Dance in the 1930s and later Minnie Pearl and June Carter on Nashville’s the Grand Ol’ Opry in the 1950s wielded a range of comedic devices steeped in grotesque mimicry that explicitly challenged and questioned patriarchal power structures and middle-class pretenses. This paper connects the theatrical and vernacular traditions of country music humor of the past to female performers in contemporary country music, specifically the Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley). Like many of their contemporaries, the Pistol Annies use humor as a performative means to forge connections with a predominantly female fan base in their attempts to counter the patriarchal practices of the country music industry.

Climate Adaptation in Nova Scotia: Overblown or Under Water? (Thursday, 1pm) — Zoom panel discussion  presented by the MacEachen Institute and the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR). With Robin Cox from Royal Roads University, Patricia Manuel from Dalhousie, Rodrigo Menafra from MEOPAR, Steve Plante from Université du Québec à Rimouski​, and Scott Vaughan from the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

With over 13,000 km of coastline and more than 70% of the population living within 20 km of the coast, Nova Scotia’s population, infrastructure, cultural heritage, and economy are highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, flooding, hurricanes, and storm surges. This extreme weather is becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

How should the province adapt to this new reality and how should communities increase their resiliency to withstand these disasters? What are some ecological, financial, governance, and disaster resilience perspectives?​

Saint Mary’s


D’Arcy McGee Lecture 2021: An evening with Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Thursday, 4:45pm) — The Irish poet and essayist’s most recent book is A Ghost in the Throat.

Don Domanski: A Celebration (Thursday, 8:30pm) — live zoom event with readings of his work


East Coast International Development Summit 2021 (Friday, 10am) — free conference until Saturday; keynote speakers, panels, and roundtable discussions, with the theme “Global Health and Development”

In the harbour

05:00: One Maxim, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
10:00: Siem Hanne, supply vessel, moves from Old Coast Guard Base to Pier 9
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
17:00: Elka Sirius, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John


I’m late to the game on this, but I had my first COVID test yesterday. I went to the testing site at Washill Lake Drive in Bayers Lake, which is close to home. The process took exactly 15 minutes from the time I walked in the door until I walked out. My neighbour is a retired nurse, but she went back to work and is swabbing noses at this testing site. It’s a pretty slick operation.

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

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  1. A friend of mine who is 71 was told by the Health Authority that she was too old to volunteer. Does anyone else know about that?