News

1. COVID-19 update: 94th Nova Scotian dies from virus

Photo: Martin Sanchez/Unsplash

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A man in his 60s, who lived in Nova Scotia’s Western Zone, has died from COVID-19. He is the 94th Nova Scotian to die from the virus, and the 28th since the start of April.

Also announced Wednesday, the province has seven new known cases, bringing the total caseload to 50 in Nova Scotia. Five people are considered newly recovered and no one in the province is currently hospitalized with COVID-19.

On the vaccination front, 69.9% of all Nova Scotians (including those ineligible for the vaccine) have received two doses. The province is projected to reach the 75% benchmark by Sept. 15, the tentative start date for the Nova Scotia’s fifth phase of reopening, when most public health restrictions, including mask mandates and gathering limits, will lift. Manitoba and British Columbia both announced this week that they’ll be bringing back mask mandates as we approach the fall respiratory illness season.

For all the local COVID-19 news you need to know, Tim Bousquet has the full pandemic report from Wednesday, where you’ll find more info on vaccination numbers and appointments, testing sites, potential exposure advisories, and case demographics.

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2. Triple-John recount

The candidates in the Glace Bay-Dominion riding were John John McCarthy (Liberal), John Morgan (NDP), and John White (PC).

Did you enjoy the provincial election? Well hold on, cause it’s not over yet!

I mean, the PCs have their majority still, but Zane Woodford reports that one riding is getting a recount.
A judge will be recounting the votes in Glace Bay-Dominion, where three Johns (four if you count Liberal John John McCarthy as two) were separated by fewer than 300 votes, with initial winner John White (PC) edging out John Morgan (NDP) by a mere 33 votes.
Morgan filed for the recount on Aug. 20, and the recount will take place on Monday, Aug. 30.

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3. The Tideline, Episode 43: Rachel Reid

We’ve got a new Tideline for you today!

On this week’s episode of The Tideline, Rachel Reid — aka Rachelle Goguen — tells Tara Thorne about Role Model, the fifth book in her gay hockey player anthology, Game Changers. The two also chat about secret projects, romance, the politics of sports, and the series’ real-life parallels.

Have an idea or comment on The Tideline? You can send an email to TheTideline@halifaxexaminer.ca

Click here to listen for free!

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4. Proof of vaccination in NS

COVID-19 vaccine signage in front of the Walmart pharmacy in June, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

I’m going to go up to Toronto for a weekend in September to see my sister and a few friends. Now, I know what you’re thinking: you haven’t been outside the Atlantic provinces in almost two years and your first trip is to Toronto??? And to that I say, sadly, yes.

While I’m there, I figured I’d take in a few Jays games. Turns out, you need to show proof of vaccination to get into those games. Now, that same requirement is coming to more Nova Scotian spots.

For instance, as Jesse Thomas reports for Global, the Wanderers soccer team (I refuse to say football club, no matter how well “football” describes the sport) will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test for anyone who buys a ticket to see a game in person. It’s not just for ticketed events though. Evolve Fitness will require proof of vaccination for all gym goers at its Halifax and Bedford locations.

Thomas speaks with privacy lawyer David Fraser in the article about the privacy issues raised by proof of vaccination. Fraser says this requirement could become commonplace soon:

When it comes to vaccinations and mandatory vaccine policies, we are still in a global pandemic says Fraser, and businesses and employers still have an obligation to protect and ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.

When you’re collecting information that requires proof of vaccination, it always raises privacy issues, but what’s on the proof of vaccination card or information being requested is what matters in the end.

If it’s simply your name and vaccination status, then that doesn’t pose a major privacy risk, says Fraser. It’s up to the businesses to limit and minimize the information they are collecting.

“I think we’ll see more of it,” said Fraser. “And somebody has to go first and break the seal and after that, it’s likely additional businesses will follow suit.”

Fraser predicts more businesses will come on board with the policy and take on somewhat of a snowball effect, and as it rolls out, you’ll see a strength in numbers approach which leads to the presumption that it’s a reasonable policy.

If you want to read more about giving vaccinated members of the population different privileges than those who choose not to get jabbed, check out Linda Pannozzo’s interview about vaccine passports with a constitutional lawyer from earlier in the month. It’s a longform look at a sticky issue. So if you’ve ever wondered, what’s the big deal about proof of vaccine? I have to show proof of other vaccines when I travel? So what? Check out Pannozzo’s nuanced conversation with Wayne MacKay to see why not everyone’s on board.

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5. Ecology Action Centre celebrates 50 years

This morning Jon Tattrie reported on the Ecology Action Centre’s 50th anniversary for the CBC. The “member-based environmental charity” that started out of a Dalhousie basement in 1971, is celebrating half a century with a little help from artists in the community. Tattrie writes:

More than 50 artists created 50 unique works of art all over the province.

If you download the app, 50 Things: An Art Adventure, it will tell you when you’re near one. Some are physical objects, while others reveal videos or podcasts within the app.

Walk across a Halifax bridge and listen to the Ecology Action Centre founders talk about how they started the organization, and what role the bridge itself played. Another spot features a quilt made out of the rubber bands used to hold lobster claws together.

Or if you’re passing Agricola and Willow streets, stop and take in Lorne Julian’s Respect the Sun. He’s a Mi’kmaw artist from Millbrook First Nation.

His mural, painted on 10 wood panels and attached to the building, features an eagle.

The birthday celebrations don’t mean the EAC’s taking a break, though. In light of this month’s provincial election, the Centre’s executive director, Maggie Burns, released this statement, urging political action on the climate front:

The Progressive Conservatives made some big promises, including commitments to increase renewable energy, protect 20% of land and water by 2030, fully implement the Lahey Report on Forestry Practices and to update all environmental decision-making processes to include diversity, inclusion and equity. Now it’s time for them to get to work making these promises a reality.

Nova Scotians are ready for transformative change. If the new government wants to maintain public trust, they need to take immediate and concreate action toward building a bold climate plan, helping foster resilient communities and healthy ecosystems, and ensuring that no one is left behind. In light of increasing threats to biodiversity and the sobering report from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it’s clear beyond a shred of doubt that we must act fast to ensure a future that protects the communities and natural spaces we love and rely on as a province.

Hopefully they won’t have to make a similar statement for their hundredth anniversary.

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1. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming

A screenshot from Nova Scotia’s back-to-school plan website.

“Part of life returning to some semblance of normal means a return to school.”

That’s what Tim Houston had to say when the province announced its back to school plan on Monday. That quote really rang true for me. Through the winter, I used to time my jogs so that I’d run by the elementary school near my house at recess. There’d be kids playing king of the hill on snow piles, wrestling, chasing, and lots of laughter and screaming. It was the only place I could see a crowd, and it brought a chicken-soup-like comfort to see it.

Recess crowds aside, schools haven’t been the last bastion of normalcy through all this — just ask any parent, teacher, or student — so it’s heartening to see the new premier and Dr. Strang (“It’s time to start living more with COVID”) acknowledge that schools need to start getting back to normal as soon as possible.

All this has got an old Leonard Cohen line stuck in my head this week: “The summer’s gone, but a lot goes on forever…”

It’s about the good times ending, and life going on, but the line’s taken on a new meaning here in the last week of August, in the second summer of a global pandemic, as kids prepare to go to school for another semester of COVID-modified classes. The summer’s gone and this thing just keeps going on forever…

The province’s new back-to-school plan isn’t that restrictive though. Reflecting Tim Houston’s words, the plan is to prepare for a return to normal schooling. Kids will be back in class in the first week of September, extracurriculars will resume, parents can visit the school (to some degree), and masks won’t be mandatory once the province enters Phase 5 of reopening. But the threat of a fourth wave could change things, and even if it all goes as planned, we’re still a ways away from school feeling like regular school again.

I really feel for these kids going through school right now. Younger students have lost a lot of interactive play, and older students have lost their own social dynamics. And those losses must be tough.

I don’t think most students have been so concerned about the potential risks of contracting COVID-19. Aside from the usual sense of invincibility that comes with youth, there’s also the fact that, to date, the youngest Nova Scotian to die from the virus was 37-years-old.

Of the students I’ve spoken with — most of them high schoolers — the two recurring issues I’ve heard are the difficulties of staying disciplined or engaged with their work, and the isolation that comes with restrictions.

Now the lack of engagement is understandable. Students lacking interest in their work is nothing new. But the indifference has been amplified. The first school cancellation was going to be an extended March Break. That limbo eventually gave way to virtual classes ending the 2020 school year. Virtual classes brought their own set of struggles, and the kids I know seemed to have that “last week of school” attitude for two months — that feeling that the year is over and you’re just killing the clock to summer. Turning off your Zoom video is a lot easier than pretending to pay attention from your desk (the only course I ever took online was in university — a summer course I did from distance — and all I remember of it is a vague image of a police officer smiling on the textbook cover).

Then the last, full school year came with its lockdowns and changing restrictions. The lack of consistency can’t have be good for learning.

So missing out on a year and a half of full, uninterrupted in-class learning has been a serious loss, but I’d argue the bigger loss was social. After all, this isn’t the first time classes have been interrupted for school children. It couldn’t have been easy attending classes in Europe during the Second World War. Let’s not get too stressed about these kids “falling behind.”

It’s the masks, the lack of gathering, the added structure that makes me really feel for these kids. (Although I would’ve been happy to have covered up my acne with a mandated mask at that age).

Then there’s the parents and teachers, too. Keeping a classroom of first graders at their desks, separate from each other, and ensuring they follow all public health guidelines must be like trying to keep the lid of a pot pressed closed when it’s bubbling over. But you have to keep 20 lids closed with two hands, six hours a day, five days a week.

And for parents now having to look after their kids when they’re learning from home, while also worrying about getting COVID from their child, which could mean missing two weeks of work at best, and hospitalization or death at worst, this must have been an equally stressful year and a half of school. The Examiner’s documented some of these stresses and how they’ve impacted parents before: coping methods have varied.

Where I feel for the kids though, is the loss of just being a kid with other kids. The casual nature of hanging out in school. Of playing in elementary, or navigating social circles in middle school and high school — although navigating those social circles can be pretty painful, so I suppose I shouldn’t feel too bad they’re missing out on that. And admittedly it hasn’t been all bad (though I’d say it mostly has been).

Even a recent article in MacLean’s that calls this “The lost year of education” is able to list a few positives:

The pandemic school year wasn’t without its unexpected silver linings. Children learned resilience, and in many cases, autonomy. The suspension of extracurricular activities, while they were missed by kids, meant more free play, and some respite from overscheduling. The switch to remote learning led to later school start times, and more sleep for teens, which correlates with better academic performance and health. And children spent a lot more time with their families.

In fact, I hope no student feels they missed out on the “high school experience” because of COVID. The “high school experience” is just something to be endured, not cherished. Yes, prom’s fun. So are hockey games, dances, and parties. But it’s the loss of meeting up with friends, skipping out to swim on a free period, joking around at lunch, and mixing with different social groups that makes me really feel for the current lot of students. Those little things that give them their first taste of independence, of forming their own relationships and rules.

While students haven’t been hit the hardest physically by the pandemic, they’ve certainly lost out on a year and a half of regular childhood, a big chunk of time at that age.

Hearing that the province finally feels comfortable to start looking forward to an eventual full reopen, and a life with COVID, if not after, is pretty encouraging. Not just for students, parents, and teachers, but for all of us.

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2. In case you missed it: staffing shortages and the service industry

A bartender pulls a pint. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

I’ve mentioned before in the Morning File that I do a little bartending on the weekends to make ends meet. The pub where I work has been mostly immune to the staffing shortages other establishments have been having, but that’s been starting to change. As some of the staff leave for school, it’s been difficult to replace them, and it’s been putting some serious strain on my co-workers. The signs of burnout are everywhere, as more staff are forced to work double-shifts and six-day weeks

Working in the service industry through the pandemic has been an adventure. Mostly, it’s been as good as it could be under the circumstances: many customers are more understanding and extra sensitive to the difficulties service workers are facing now. Aside from the risk of contracting the virus, we’ve had to deal with ever-changing restrictions (if I had a nickel for every time a customer said the rules had changed or that they had public health exemptions, so they could sit at a table of 30, or leave their table without a mask, etc….) the constant looming threat of lockdowns and layoffs, a stressful number of additional cleaning steps that make service extremely inefficient, and a loss of hours that came with closing earlier, which has turned into an overwhelming number of hours with staff shortages. Work in the industry’s become more precarious, mentally draining, and physically demanding than ever, which is saying something.

All this is to say, I wouldn’t blame anyone for not taking a job in service if they can make comparable money elsewhere, including from the government.

Here at the Examiner, Suzanne Rent’s written three stellar pieces on the service industry in as many weeks. She’s written about how much work factors into our identity (and whether it should factor less), why people in low-income jobs are choosing to accept government money over returning to work, and why a one-sided idea of customer service, in which the customer’s needs are the top priority, is bad for everyone.

If you’ve ever worked one of these jobs, or if you’re working one now, it’s worth catching up on these articles. Give them a read and take a moment to reflect on the nature of that work, and how sustainable it is for the people who work in the service sector. If you’ve never worked in this area, this is your chance to see whether people truly are lazy for refusing to return to these jobs. Or at least to find out why your waiter seemed tired and upset with you last night. It might have nothing to do with you, don’t worry!

Here’s one story, from Rent’s Aug. 17 Morning File, that really illustrates the struggles of those considering a return to work in the service industry. This one, from a man who used the pandemic to switch from one “front line” job to another:

“Bryn Jones-Vaillancourt is starting a whole new career. When COVID hit, he lost his job as an executive chef (he worked in the hospitality industry for about 16 years). Jones-Vaillancourt, who’s married with a young daughter, says at first he tried to find something else in that field. He says:

‘Because the cook trade is one of the unregulated trades in this province, there is no minimum wage other than what’s legislated by the province. And because it’s unregulated trade by the province, it drives down the wages for people who do have the trade and their papers. The food side of hospitality was so impacted by COVID, there were a lot of people looking for work. There were positions I did interview for, but either the working conditions or what they were willing to pay didn’t match what I was looking for. We have a toddler, and with my experience, I refused to be a line cook for $12 or $13 an hour.’

After looking at the pay and working conditions he thought maybe it wasn’t the right industry for him anymore. He had reached all his goals in his field, and says anything new would just be a lateral move. So, he applied for and was accepted into a two-year LPN program with l’Université Sainte-Anne’s Halifax campus.

‘From my perspective, switching to nursing is just a different way of taking care of someone. At the end of the day, food is about love and taking care of someone as well. Nursing is just a different application of that.’

Jones-Vaillancourt did get CERB after his job stopped because of COVID. He says that downtime helped him think about his next steps, between taking care of his daughter and cleaning the house — which he says you can only do so many times.

‘It gave me that breather to reflect and reevaluate what I want my goals to be the rest of the working part of my life. Is staying where I am truly making the impact I want to make on the world?’”

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Noticed

I tried to look around for some letters of Canadian students going through school in World War II. Instead I found this pamphlet from Veterans Affairs, highlighting some of the ways life changed for students during the war.

There’s a pretty good chance you’ve heard stories of this time from relatives, so you’ve already got an idea of school life in the war. All I remember from what my grandmother told me was that they had to write in the margins of their loose leaf so as to preserve paper for the war effort. I choose to believe she had more interesting stories from that time, but I’ve simply forgotten them.

Here’s a little of what Veterans Affairs had to say about student life in WWII. See how it compares to school in the pandemic for yourself:

  • With so many labourers enlisted overseas, many students took over farm labour to produce food for the war effort. Schools opted not to take attendance or introduce new material until after the crops were in. If I were a student in 1942, I might be incentivized to hold off putting the crops in until summer vacation started. Money be damned.
  • The minimum age for a driver’s license was lowered to 14 so that children could legally operate farm trucks and cars for transport. I assume the 14-year-old drivers didn’t work out too well if we reverted back to 16 after the war.
  • “Many children saw themselves as junior soldiers. They prepared for war by memorizing aircraft silhouettes and building ship models. Many high school students joined cadet corps and learned how to march, perform arms drills and fire weapons.” Preparing for armed combat was the baking sourdough pastime of the wartime student, apparently.
  • Teachers often had children write letters to Canadian military members overseas, telling them about what was happening back home. In a way that’s not so different from now. Students, and people of all ages, have been writing letters to lab workers on the front lines to show their appreciation.

I wonder if they’ll ever make a pamphlet like this for student life in the COVID-19 pandemic? What would be on it? Most likely historians will just compile 100 of the most culturally significant TikToks that best capture school life, then preserve them in the Parliamentary Library for posterity.

2. Job postings

Some of the Examiner writers suggested including interesting job postings in the Noticed section following Suzanne Rent’s inclusion of a job posting in her Morning File this week from a Mahone Bay cafe offering $21 an hour for kitchen staff and $18 an hour for front-of-house staff. The job would also include accommodations above the cafe. The high wages are an attempt to attract workers during the current labour shortage.

Well, I couldn’t find anything near as interesting, but I did find this posting. It’s for a job as an “Office Superstar” working for Kings Produce in Wolfville. It’s $30-$35k a year — you get paid more in Office Superstar glory than money, I guess — to do the billing for a fleet of 20 trucks.

Two of the benefits listed: on-site parking and casual dress.

Apply now and you could be a superstar with the stroke of a pen and a firm handshake. It’s that simple!

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Government

No meetings


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: MOL Empire, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
08:40: USCGC Escanaba, coast guard cutter, arrives at Dockyard from sea
11:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
12:00: Siem Pilot, offshore supply vessel, moves from Dartmouth Cove to Bedford Basin for trials
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
12:00: CSS Acadia, with Atlantic Larch, tug, sails from Maritime Museum for sea
21:30: MOL Empire sails for Southampton, England

Cape Breton
08:00: Marguerita, bulker, sails from Port Hawkesbury Paper for sea


Footnotes

Last week I asked whether Grand Pré, Hantsport, or Windsor was the western limit of the Annapolis Valley. I also said I considered the North End of Halifax to be west of Windsor Street. Either I had my map upside down or my roommate put something in my cereal. Or I’m just an idiot sometimes…


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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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7 Comments

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  1. “on site parking and casual dress”
    Let’s be clear. If you have a business that needs employees to make it work, and you don’t pay those employees a living wage, you are fully exploiting them. And you should close your business.

  2. “Rung him up” is what you say an umpire did when calling a batter out on strike 3. I looked up “rang true” vs “rung true” and came up with an academic paper called “The Internal Revenue Code as Sodomy Statute.” The internet is a weird place.

  3. “I don’t think most students have been so concerned about the potential risks of contracting COVID-19”

    I’m not a doctor and don’t even play one on TV, but COVID-19 is less lethal than the seasonal flu if you are young enough.

    1. It’s still early for good comparisons, and you might be able to dig to find data to suggest COVID-19 is less lethal, but the data I am seeing suggests that is a dangerous misconception.

      Canadian flu cases, ages 0-19, last full flu season (2018-19): 13,006 [1]
      Canadian covid cases, ages 0-19, to date: 282,845 (not the same time frame but hard to separate into seasons like we do with flu) [2]

      flu: 10.3% of Canadian flu cases required hospitalization, 2% ICU, and .07% died. [1]
      covid: JAMA study reviewed 43 465 COVID cases in children and found 9.9% required hospitalization, 2.9% ICU, and .9% died. This is pre-delta and in the US. [3]

      flu: vaccine available for children
      covid: not so much

      There are comparable levels of severe outcomes and a higher risk of death, the potential for transmission is much higher, and we have fewer mitigation options.

      That said, I generally think the back-to-school plan is reasonable if there’s no community spread of COVID. The problem is it’s not resilient to a potential fourth wave: once there is community spread, we either shut them down again or endanger children. I think we need to be honest about the levels of risk, and not fall into the trap of saying kids will be okay because COVID doesn’t impact them as much.

      The focus on getting back to normal is understandable, but why not focus on getting back to an improved normal? One where schools are ventilated, instead of relying on opening windows and hoping there’s a breeze? That would help reduce all forms of illness, including the flu and COVID.

      References

      1. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/fluwatch/2018-2019/week30-34-july-21-august-24-2019.html

      2. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html as of August 25.

      3. Kompaniyets L, Agathis NT, Nelson JM, et al. Underlying Medical Conditions Associated With Severe COVID-19 Illness Among Children. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(6):e2111182. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.11182

      1. I can’t read [3], but the paper is called Underlying Medical Conditions Associated with Severe COVID-19 Illness Among Children, which makes me think of already sick kids.

        I think that if 1% of kids really did die of COVID-19 we would not be re-opening schools without vaccines for under 12s.