News

1. COVID-19

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

Thirty-one new cases of COVID-19 over the previous three days were announced in Nova Scotia yesterday.

Thirty-one is a big number for Nova Scotia, but we’ll have to start thinking about these numbers with a bit of context.

Nova Scotia is doing exceptionally well on the vaccination front — it looks likely that 90% of all eligible people will soon have two doses of vaccine, which is one of the very best rates anywhere on the planet.

As Dr. Shelley Deeks, the province’s deputy chief medical officer of health said in a press release yesterday:

We expected to see an increase in case numbers in Nova Scotia as we’ve been seeing in other provinces. It’s important to understand most of these cases are related to travel and they are strictly adhering to the public health measures.

In short, the Fourth Wave of the pandemic is raging in other jurisdictions, and as people are travelling more, we’ll see many more cases in this province. But as teenagers and adults are mostly vaccinated, those cases will be primarily among the unvaccinated, and so far as there are breakthrough cases among the vaccinated, they’ll be less severe.

So the number to watch is hospitalizations, and as of yesterday, that number is zero.

What about children who can’t get vaccinated at all? The good news is that children aren’t hit as hard by COVID as are adults. According to the New York Times, data from the US show that “of the kids who get the virus, roughly one out of 100 ends up in the hospital, and roughly one out of 10,000 actually dies from it.”

But what about the Delta variant and kids? “The question of whether or not it causes more severe disease is a little bit harder to say,” said reporter Emily Antes. “Scientists think it is certainly possible that Delta is causing more severe disease. We just don’t quite have the data to back that up yet.”

Nova Scotia has an under-12 population of about 150,000. If every single one of them was infected, we would see about 1,500 of them hospitalized and 15 of them die. There’s not enough data yet to know how many would suffer from long COVID.

No one wants to see kids get sick, so keeping the virus out of schools is paramount. But it seems probable, given the province’s success at keeping the virus mostly at bay, that in the worst case scenario, a few dozen kids would be hospitalized. With vigilance, that could be in the single digits or even at zero.

Of course, that relatively rosy scenario could change if some even more terrible new variant arises, but for the moment, we shouldn’t be too anxious here in Nova Scotia.

And really, do we want to see anyone get sick?

There’s a schadenfreude in thinking about antivaxxers and those who minimize the disease getting COVID. I admit I laughed when I first read that several American radio blowhards died from COVID, and it was impossible not to see the irony in the grifters selling the big lie in Arizona falling sick from the virus.

But that’s ungenerous.

I long ago gave up on the idea of divine retribution or karma — I mean, Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger are alive and happy, as millions of innocents die among us, and Cheney and Kissinger committed their evil deeds with conscious, villainous intent.

Some of those pushing the antivax line are in fact conmen —  does anyone doubt that Tucker Carlson is himself vaccinated? — but the average Antivax Joe or Jane is simply a victim of the con, caught up in the game promulgated by Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune-making algorithms and promoted by bad actors sowing discord and deceit.

Antivax Joe and Jane may be misguided. They may be overly gullible dupes who fell for the con. They may be angry about something else entirely and are expressing that anger by believing in convoluted conspiracies. Heck, they might just be dumb. But they aren’t evil. At least, they’re not evil in the way that Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger are evil. (And let’s acknowledge that for many people, vaccine hesitation involves a murky middle ground.)

Dying from COVID is a horrible way to go, often involving a long, drawn out hospitalization and immense pain. And those who die from the disease have family who may have struggled with the denial of their loved one; the survivors are left with complicated feelings, but no doubt loss is the deepest cut.

I’ve been thinking about this because a few weeks ago I ended friendships with two people over their antivax views. They were spouting the usual conspiracies about Big Pharma and Nazis and so forth, and minimizing the disease as rare and only harming the old and already sick. Worst, they discounted the opinions of people I’m close to who are actual academics and researchers who study the epidemiology — they are in on the conspiracy or just plain suckers, according to my former friends.

It makes me angry. These are people I’ve had good times with. We laughed together, we cared about the same things, we looked out for each other. And they threw all that away for this antivax bullshit. And again, my reaction was ungenerous: they deserve to get sick, I thought.

But recently, a place we frequented together was one of the potential exposure sites, and it occurs to me that there’s a chance they were exposed. If so, they’ll likely get sick, and it might be a difficult road. The reality of the prospect is the exact opposite of the imagined schadenfreude I felt before. I don’t know who deserves what, but I do know I don’t want these people to suffer.

In the end, even lost friendship is more important than a desire for cosmic karma or a vengeful deity.

It’s just sad.

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2. Province is evicting 63-year-old man with cancer

“Blair Raoul likes to say he’s living one day at a time,” reports Zane Woodford:

The truth is that the crusty 63-year-old, originally from Cape Breton and now living in public housing in Dartmouth, is dying. He has terminal liver cancer, along with a myriad of other health issues, many related to a history of drinking.

Raoul is always cracking a joke, often to break the tension when talking about his prognosis. He moves slowly, hunched over. His arms are marked with bruises and bed bug bites. His eyes and ears don’t work so well.

And he’s being evicted.

Blair Raoul — Photo: Zane Woodford

“They’ve been trying six months to get me out. Still here, one more day,” he says.

“Maybe if I die I’ll do them all a favour, but I said, ‘If I die, do me a favour.’ They said what’s that? ‘Don’t piss on my grave.’”

Raoul lives in Eastwood Manor in downtown Dartmouth. It’s a 12-storey government-owned apartment building for seniors overlooking Sullivan’s Pond and Lake Banook. Raoul’s lived on the 11th floor for more than five years, having moved in as soon as he was eligible, just after his 58th birthday.

In March, the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority (MRHA), the arm of Housing Nova Scotia responsible for public housing in Halifax Regional Municipality and East Hants, served Raoul with notification that it was applying to evict him, citing bad behaviour in the building.

“In Mr. Raoul’s case, [wrote legal aid worker Fiona Traynor to he Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority], “your organization appears to be taking the most punitive option available — eviction. My client will not only be evicted, he will be evicted into homelessness, during a pandemic, when shelters are full.”

Click here to read “Nova Scotia fighting to evict 63-year-old man with terminal cancer from public housing.’

This article is the latest in our PRICED OUT: Addressing the Housing Crisis series.

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3. Art and the environment

EAC’s Joanna Bull, Zuppa Theatre’s Ben Stone and 50 Things artist Lorne Julien sit in front of Lorne’s mural on Agricola Street in Halifax. Photo: Contributed

“How do you celebrate 50 years of environmental activism in Nova Scotia during a pandemic?” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

For the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), a giant community park picnic party was out of the question, so they partnered with Zuppa Theatre Co. to create an interactive, app-guided, provincial treasure hunt.

Featuring 50 original pieces from Nova Scotia artists spanning spaces from Cape Breton to Cape Forchu in Yarmouth County, the ’50 Things’ artworks were inspired by the province’s legacy of environmental activism and EAC’s history.

Click here to read “Celebrating environmental activism with art.”

I’m glad they included the non-existing nuclear power plants:

While some of the work can be accessed through the 50 Things mobile app, others are physical objects. [EAC community engagement manager Joanna] Bull said each piece was intended to be experienced in a specific geographical setting to help bring to life the history of the activism that protected it and to reflect on where we are now. She points to an on-site installation by artist Lou Sheppard overlooking Stoddart Island in Shelburne County.

“One example is what would still be today the largest nuclear power generation plant in the world, a 12,000 megawatt nuclear power plant on Stoddart Island,” Bull said.

“As part of our 50 things, you can go down to the little area right across from the island and you can look at that island and you can see how there’s no nuclear power plant there and then when you get there, you get to see an augmented reality thing about the effect of radiation on our bodies.”

I’ve long been curious about the Stoddart Island scheme, which I wrote about back in 2013:

My favourite mega-project idea is from the 1970s, just after the Three Mile Island incident. As US states were strengthening regulation of nuclear power plants, an American huckster, using a false identity, saw his opportunity. He managed to sucker the provincial government into believing he could build 10 nuclear reactors, Fukushima-style, on Stoddart Island in Shag Harbour, and then sell all the power to New York City via a deep sea cable. I’ve tried to find government documents related to the scam, but apparently they’ve all been destroyed. No doubt the scamster made off with millions of dollars, courtesy of the Nova Scotian taxpayer. On the plus side, this was one of a series of environmental issues that led to the creation of the Ecology Action Centre.

I wrote better back then, I think. Read the whole thing.

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4. Paper Excellence

Northern Pulp A Paper Excellence company. Photo: Joan Baxter

We’ve taken Joan Baxter’s July 22 article, “What are Paper Excellence’s real plans for Northern Pulp?,” out from behind the paywall.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — live streamed on YouTube, with captioning on a text-only site

Wednesday

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Province

No meetings.


On campus

No events.


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Humen Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:00: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:30: MSC Veronique, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
10:00: Siem Pilot, offshore supply vessel, sails from anchorage for sea
16:30: ZIM Constanza sails for New York
19:00: MSC Veronique sails for New York
23:30: Humen Bridge, container ship, sails for New York

Cape Breton
12:00: Corona, bulker, arrives at Pirates Cove anchorage from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
14:15: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Point Tupper from Baltimore
18:00: Nordpenguin, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York


Footnotes

Short and not-so-sweet.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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3 Comments

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  1. I say this as someone who is fully vaxxed, who thinks those who are medically able should also get vaxxed, who has been happy to follow all public health guidelines since this started, and who believes 100% in the work epidemiologists have done to sequence & understand the virus and to develop an effective vaccine.

    …I have never felt any schadenfreude at others getting sick from COVID, regardless of their views. (And make no mistake, it is not just Tucker Carlson and his ilk who are unbelievers. My circles are progressive/left wing and I can assure you, vaccine skepticism exists on both ends of the political spectrum, albeit for different reasons.)

    To be honest, I can understand peoples’ hesitation re: the COVID vaccine. The CDC has decidedly not clothed itself in a robe of glory with regard to this disease over the past year and a half. The COVID fatality rate in Canada is less than 2% (and the fatality rate drops to something like 0.04% when people older than 80 are excluded from the calculation). And now the prevailing wisdom, based on what the scientific community knows about other coronaviruses, is that COVID will never be completely vanquished; we will need to learn to live with some level of it in our communities, which *could* mean periodic booster shots.

    But more than all of that, I think the most critical factor is this: Our institutions have failed and continue to fail us while propping up the power structures of Neoliberal Capitalism. Climate change is ravaging the planet but our government insists on kow-towing to big-moneyed interests and maintaining the status quo. In the US, the Fed created $3.5 trillion in imaginary money to prop up the stock market while allowing untold masses to go bankrupt. Here in Halifax, the police forcibly evict homeless people from temporary shelters in the middle of a housing crisis. I could go on. To curb the scourge of unbelievers, perhaps the first thing that must happen is radical change to restore trust in our institutions.

  2. It has been very sad watching American politics turn everything into a partisan mud slinging contest. For instance, in recent days the establishment media has been weirdly obsessed with describing ivermectin as horse medicine or animal medicine. While it is true that lots of people are making a questionable decision to dose themselves with ivermectin intended for livestock, ivermectin is a safe drug that has been used for decades in humans. The insistence that this is wrong because the ivermectin is intended for horses is utterly facile – who does the establishment media think they are convincing?

    I have no idea whether or not the claims that ivermectin works as a prophylaxis for covid-19 are true (it does not work as a treatment). But what I do know is that ivermectin is cheap, ivermectin has almost no side effects (most side effects are caused by parasites dying when you take it) and there is no financial incentive to do clinical trials with ivermectin as a prophylaxis. And of course, for Pfizer, Moderna et al, there is a big negative financial incentive.

    America is a fantastically corrupt country – there is a reason why epi-pens cost 800 dollars even though they are a 30-40 year old technology developed at taxpayer expense to protect soldiers from chemical weapons. People are right to be skeptical of the pharmaceutical industry.

  3. Re: Antivaxxers getting COVID

    A Beautifully written piece and very insightful and compassionate. Thanks

    Kent Martin