News

1. COVID-19

Photo by Georg Eiermann on Unsplash

The weekend saw single-digit daily new cases of the disease — six on Saturday and just four yesterday.

There are now 88 known active cases in the province. No one is currently in hospital with the disease.

Last night, the Department of Education announced a new case of COVID associated with a school — Ian Forsyth Elementary School in Dartmouth:

Nova Scotia has identified a case of COVID-19 today, Dec. 6, at Ian Forsyth Elementary School in Dartmouth, Central Zone.

The school will remain closed to students until Thursday, Dec. 10. A deep cleaning will take place and students will learn from home during the closure. Students and staff will receive an update Wednesday.

As with any positive case, public health will be in touch with any close contacts of this case and advise of next steps. Everyone who is a close contact will be notified, tested and asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

And still later in the evening, Public Health issued advisories about potential COVID exposure on two flights into Sydney:

Anyone who was on the following flight in the specified rows/seats is asked to continue to self-isolate and immediately visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

• Air Canada flight 8210 travelling from Toronto (10:20 p.m.) on December 2 to Sydney (12:00 a.m.) on December 3. Passengers in rows 14 to 18 should continue to self-isolate and visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. Passengers without online access can call 811 to book testing. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on this flight may develop symptoms up to, and including, December 17.

As a precaution, anyone who was on the following flight in the specified rows/seats who has or has had any mild symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate and visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a test. Passengers without online access can call 811 to book testing

• Air Canada flight AC 8210 travelling from Toronto (10:55 p.m.) on November 18 to Sydney (12:16 a.m.) on November 19. Passengers in rows 21 to 25, seats A, C, D and F. All other passengers on this flight should continue to monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Here are the new daily cases (not including yesterday’s school case) and seven-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

I’ve updated the possible exposure map to remove a handful of locations for which the advisories have expired and the flights above:

This is heartening news. Let’s hope we can soon return to the zero or near-zero numbers we had through most of the summer. However, see Views #2 below.

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2. Northwood staff shortages

“Shortages of front-line workers — primarily Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) and nurses — continued to be a critical issue at Northwood in Halifax long after the Department of Health activated an Emergency Plan on April 19 to assist with an outbreak of COVID-19, which would eventually claim 53 lives,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

That conclusion is supported in daily reports of meetings held from April 20-May 4 by the Incident Management Team, which included senior managers from Northwood, the Department of Health, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA). The reports were requested last July under Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation by the NDP. You can read them here.

Henderson walks us through the reports, which illustrate the many staffing difficulties managers faced through the first wave of the virus. She then concludes:

As we experience a second wave of COVID-19 in HRM, there is a different set of infection prevention and control policies in place. Northwood has been permitted to reduce its capacity by 90 residents so it can offer more private rooms. The number of shared rooms in the 52-year-old Halifax facility is now below 20. Care units have been established off-site as well as on-site and mobile vans are available to carry out rapid tests on both staff and residents.

Some lessons have been learned. But the critical issue of not having enough people to do the work remains a major worry if the virus emerges again in long-term care.We’ve seen the result.

Click here to read “Staff shortages at Northwood continued weeks after Nova Scotia Health stepped in to help.”

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3. Killer’s spouse charged

The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a NS tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

“The RCMP announced that three people, including Lisa Banfield, the commonlaw spouse of the killer, have been charged with providing the killer ammunition used in the mass murders of April 18/19,” I reported Friday:

They are:

  • James Blair Banfield, 64-years-old of Sackville
  • Lisa Diane Banfield, 52-years-old of Dartmouth
  • Brian Brewster, 60-years-old of Sackville

According to the RCMP release, the three have been charged with the following offences: “between the 17th day of March and 18th day of April 2020, unlawfully, transferred ammunition, specifically, .223 caliber Remington cartridges and .40 caliber Smith and Wesson cartridges, contrary to Section 101 of the Criminal Code.”

That section prohibits the transfer of “a prohibited firearm, a restricted firearm, a non-restricted firearm, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, any ammunition or any prohibited ammunition to any person” to a person who is not licensed to possess such arms. The killer, who the Examiner refers to as GW, had no firearms licence.

Violation of the code is punishable by up to five years in prison.

“Based on the investigation to date in which those charged cooperated, these individuals had no prior knowledge of the gunman’s actions on April 18 and 19,” reads the release. “In addition, investigators have determined the ammunition was purchased and trafficked in Nova Scotia.”

James Banfield is Lisa Banfield’s brother. Brian Brewster is her brother-in-law.

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4. Business and Schools

Photo: Priscilla du Preez / Unsplash

“Education is underfunded, and donations from businesses help fill gaps,” writes Philip Moscovitch. “But when do corporate donations — and the schools’ acknowledgement of them — cross an ethical line?”

Click here to read “Business and Schools.”

Moscovitch’s article is nuanced, and he makes pains to point out that the relationship between schools and the communities they serve is complex and interdependent, as it should be.

For myself, I look at the corporatization of charity with sadness. We should give to charity as the bible suggest we pray — quietly, and not for corporate PR gains or for personal “social capital” on the website twitter dot com.

Charity in action.

But that’s how the world goes, no? Every last damn thing has become transactional. We can’t watch a sunset without calculating how to best place it on our youtube channel to increase impressions per million for the advertising profit, so is it really a surprise that The Borg, Inc. wants to use the underfunding of education as a vehicle to increase return to shareholders?

I was taken aback recently when one of my favourite local non-profits was praising one the absolute worst multinational earth-destroying enterprises because the multinational earth-destroying enterprise gave the favourite local non-profit a tiny, tiny contribution. But if I got into the shaming game, then I’d essentially be trying to profit off it too, so I kept mum.

Which is to say, the whole thing is a mess. We should simply increase taxes enough to pay for social needs, and let the PR pros find some other, non-charitable avenue to serve the Borg Queen, like maybe, I dunno, jingles?

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5. Risley

John Risley

“I was scrolling/strolling/trolling through my weekend news feed recently when I stumbled upon this item from the Macdonald Notebook, a business-friendly news site run by former allnovascotia journalist Andrew Macdonald,” writes Stephen Kimber:

The story was headlined: “John Risley This Week: Bemoans Tedious Delays of Highway Twinning in Nova Scotia.”

I almost upchucked my Bran Buds.

Click here to read “John Risley: the hypocrisy of the super well-done-by.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

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6. Vaccine development

Poliomyelitis Vaccine, Formalin-Inactivated, otherwise known as Salk Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine, or IPV, Connaught Medical Research Laboratories, University of Toronto, 1959. Source: Sanofi Pasteur Canada Archives

Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator draws our attention to Linda McQuaig’s book The Sport & Prey of Capitalists, which, Campbell notes:

…asks the question:

Why are we selling off the impressive public enterprises we often battled as a nation to create?

McQuaig challenges the “dogma of privatization” by recounting stories of successful, publicly owned, Canadian companies like Connaught Labs, the subject of [this article]. which was founded in 1914 by Toronto doctor John G. FitzGerald.

If Connaught were around today and owned by the Canadian government, McQuaig has no doubt it would be at work on a coronavirus vaccine — which, in keeping with company practice, would be provided to Canadians first and at cost.

But Connaught was sold off as part of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s “privatization frenzy” of the ’80s, and what remains of it today “has been absorbed into the vaccine division of foreign-owned pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.”

Is there such a thing as a de-privatization frenzy? Because I think we’re due for one.

Click here to read “Opportunity lost.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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7. Out of the Cold

“Operators of a new shelter in Halifax are preparing to open to high demand as the number of people experiencing homelessness continues to rise,” reports Taryn Grant for the CBC:

The 25-bed shelter at 1221 Barrington St., run by Out of the Cold, is slated to open Dec. 12 and will stay open until the end of April.

Out of the Cold used to operate an overnight drop-in centre through the winter months, run mostly by volunteers, but this year it’s offering a staffed, 24/7 shelter for the first time.


Views

1. Freshwater Brook

Freshwater Brook. Photo: Stephen Archibald

“There is buried treasure for you to behold, but be quick, you will never get another chance,” writes Stephen Archibald:

The bonanza is a section of the stone conduit that carried Freshwater Brook from the Halifax Common towards the pond in the Public Gardens. The brook was sent underground probably in the late 1870s.

If you have kids of a certain age, this relic might be something for them to see. Forty years from now they will still remember the experience and be able to tell folks on the patio about that moment they saw Freshwater Brook daylighted.

This marvel of 19th-century engineering has been revealed by our folks at the Province, who are prepping the Common land just north of the Museum of Natural History for one of their multi-story car parks, that will serve the hospital complex.

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2. We’re all going to die!

“Once again, Canada’s COVID-19 cases and deaths are rising faster than the U.S.,” writes Richard Starr:

In November, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada increased by 61.2 per cent, versus 47.5 per cent in the U.S. Both increases exceeded the October rate and in Canada’s case represented almost a three-fold rise since the first of September. Over the same three months, cases in the U.S. merely doubled. And deaths in Canada, which lagged well behind the increase in the U.S. for September and October, rose by 19.7 per cent in November, compared with only 16.0 in the U.S.

I was thinking there’s a logical fallacy here, but I couldn’t remember what it was called — something something prior conditions, or some such. I mean, it depends on what the starting point is, no? Tripling 1 gets 3, and increase of 2, while doubling 100 gets you 200, and increase of 100. When you’re talking about lives, absolute numbers matter more than percentage point changes.

But as he continues, it’s clear that Starr isn’t making that fallacy, because he brings us to a per capita analysis:

This past week some news reports cited projections here from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. As Globe and Mail and CBC pundit Andrew Coyne reported, citing IMHE, “the number of new infections in Canada each day will nearly triple between now and the first week of January, surpassing the U.S. in per ­capita terms some time in mid­-December. The death rate, meanwhile, is projected to more than quadruple.”

The problem — as Starr himself acknowledges (“The IHME projections can change significantly from day to day”) — is that the IHME figures are a mess. Consider not just future projections but past numbers of deaths for Nova Scotia, which are collected on this “daily deaths” chart:

According to the chart, on November 23, there were an “observed” 0.12 deaths per 100,000 population in Nova Scotia, which translates into 1.2 deaths that day for the provincial population of about a million. Again, according to the chart, there were another 1.2 deaths on November 24 and again on November 25. On November 26, the number increased to 0.13 deaths per 100,000, meaning 1.3 people died that day, and then another 1.3 on each of November 27, November 28, and November 29. So according to the IHME, in the week from November 23 to November 29, 8.8 people were “observed” to have died from COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. Of course, in reality, no one at all died from the disease in Nova Scotia in that period. (The last reported COVID death in the province was on August 22, and that was someone who had died some weeks previously and whose death was only later attributed to COVID-19.)

When the actual “observed” facts are nonsensical, can we really trust future projections?

But for what it’s worth, the IHME projects that Nova Scotia could have a total COVID death toll of 121 to 146 by the end of April, depending on how and if restrictions are eased, and how religiously we wear masks. So far, 65 people have died from the disease, so the projection is for about doubling the death figure.

None of this is pre-ordained, however. There’s no reason we can’t return to the days of summer, with zero new daily cases for weeks at a time except for those traveling into the province. It takes vigilance, of course. But projections of certain death counts could lead to a collective fatalism that helps no one.

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Noticed

The Michener Award for public service journalism will be announced virtually this year, on Thursday at 8:30pm Atlantic Time. The Halifax Examiner is one of five finalists, and as such, I provided a video explanation about our entry:

You can watch the ceremony here. (Spoiler: I predict the Tainted Water folks are totally going to win.)

And special thanks to Yvette d’Entremont for filming and editing the video. It was a cold and blustery day when we set out for the gazebo at the Dartmouth Common to film. We (meaning: she) set up the video equipment, and just as we started at it a car flipped over on the approach to the Macdonald Bridge, and there was a parade of sirens for a good while. Then, just as the sirens settled down, a train passed, with its squeaky groan and whistles. We finally just said the heck with it, the background noises are the soundtrack to Dartmouth.

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Government

City

Monday

Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Monday, 12pm) — virtual meeting.

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Monday, 2pm) — virtual meeting.

Tuesday

No public meetings.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 9am) — video conference. Department of community Services, with Tracey Taweel and Leonard Doiron; Family Service of Eastern Nova Scotia, with Nancy MacDonald; agenda setting. Info here.

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, ) — video conference. Stephen Beed will talk about ongoing work with organ and tissue donation. Info here.


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Investigations on enzymes of the enolase superfamily (Monday, 9am) — Oliver P. Kuehm will talk.

Woodwind Student Recital (Monday, 12pm) — via Zoom, Students of Patricia Creighton, Eileen Walsh, and Brian James will play works by JS Bach, Albinoni, Rutter, CPE Bach, Weber, Mozart, and Muczynski.

Karina Top. Photo: Twitter

Vaccine safety monitoring and the COVID19 response (Monday, 12:30pm) — via Zoom, Karina Top from Dalhousie will provide

an overview of post-market vaccine safety monitoring systems in Canada focusing on the Canadian National Vaccine Safety Network (CANVAS) and Special Immunization Clinic Network. CANVAS assesses vaccine safety during implementation of mass vaccine campaigns (e.g., seasonal influenza vaccine) via participant-based reporting, while the Special Immunization Clinic Network is focused on improving management of patients after an adverse event following immunization and assessing vaccine safety in special populations. Dr. Top will present key findings from these research networks and discuss how they will be harnessed to address the unique challenges of post-market safety monitoring in COVID-19 vaccination programs.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:30: Manon, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Santander, Spain
Taipei Trader, container ship, sails from Anchorage 12 (Bedford Basin) for Kingston, Jamaica
10:30: John J. Carrick, barge, arrives at MacAsphalt with Leo A. McArthur, tug from Montreal
11:00: Glorious Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
11:00: Manon moves to Pier 31
12:30: Atlantic Sail sails for Liverpool, England
16:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, moves from Pier 9 to Irving Oil
16:00: IT Intrepid, cable layer, arrives at Berth TBD from Baltimore
16:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg,Sint Maarten
16:30: Manon sails for sea
18:00: Largo Desert, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
21:00: IT Integrity sails for sea
21:30: Glorious Leader sails for sea


Footnotes

For nearly 20 years, I lived in a land where it never got cold. I think about that a lot.

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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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7 Comments

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  1. Curious comment.

    Statement from Supt. Darren Campbell on RCMP website included this: “The gunman’s relationships with others was very much a part of this investigation and, as with every piece of information, were analyzed as we pieced together the gunman’s actions, motives and the potential for others’ involvement. As a police agency we cannot, however, dismiss evidence from the investigation that others contributed to the incidents by providing the gunman with the ammunition he used on April 18 and 19. Today we have charged the following individuals:”

    Gee… isn’t it a given that a police agency cannot dismiss evidence of a crime? Why the need for Supt. Campbell to point that out? Is it SOP for RCMP to make such a comment when reporting that individuals have been charged?? It kinda sounds like an apology for charging Wortman’s common-law spouse who has been deemed by RCMP as only a victim.

    The media fell in line: no ifs, ands or buts; hands off; no scrutiny.

  2. Tim… months ago you said you wouldn’t publish the name of Wortman’s common-law spouse, until she gave you permission to do so, because she is a victim. You said victim, not alleged victim. Isn’t it generally SOP for mainstream media (not meaning to say HE is mainstream) to report alleged victim, until there’s been a judicial court trial and accused perpetrator has been found guilty? Isn’t it always SOP for RCMP to report alleged victim of assault until there’s been a judicial court trial and accused perpetrator has been found guilty? Well, in this case, because the accused perpetrator is dead, there can’t be a judicial court trial, only one in the court of public opinion and seemingly by RCMP. At a press briefing on NS mass shooting, RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell reported that the NS shooting attack began with Wortman assaulting his common-law spouse and that it was a significant assault. Not allegedly assaulting. To date, as far as I know, RCMP have not provided any evidence to support this claim, other than common-law spouse testimony to police and RCMP say so. Well, as we know, RCMP say so is not always reliable. How reliable is common-law spouse testimony?

    Now that Wortman‘s common-law spouse has been charged with a criminal offence, you have published her name and the names of the other two people charged, i.e., her brother and brother-in-law. A family affair. Such usually means an issue which is private within the family, and not anyone else’s business. Perhaps the common-law-spouse, her brother and brother-in-law thought so, and therefore didn’t come forward almost 8 months ago and tell police that they had supplied Wortman with ammunition between March 17 and April 18. That is, assuming they did supply Wortman with ammunition. Seems so, given that RCMP say those charged are cooperating. They were charged December 4th. How long have these individuals been cooperating with RCMP as such relates to these charges? Surely not for almost 8 months. Wouldn’t RCMP have asked at least the the common-law spouse early on in their investigation if she had any idea where Wortman got ammunition for his illegal guns??

    Whatever, as it stands now, the common-law spouse and kin have been accused of and charged with a criminal offence — not yet found guilty nor pled guilty. So why publish their names?

  3. “POVERTY AND CHARITY ARE TWO EVILS. The former grinds our bones and souls and children into rubble, while the latter weakens and ultimately eliminates our ability to live lives for ourselves—leaving us dependent upon the kindness of bureaucrats. You know the ones—those people who have your life in a manila folder hanging from wires in a green filing cabinet that sits behind a locked door that you don’t have the key for.

    The arbiters of philanthropy and good-will organizations never prepare us for liberation or revolution; they never question their superior position of humility and selflessness or the rightness of their charity.

    Charity is the lesser evil, but it is still evil.”

    Walter Mosley

    1. Thank you for the link Joan. Finally someone putting this all together with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Who is Bill Gates? by the Corbett Report is good too. Even if you just listen to the words coming out of his mouth it helps put all of this in perspective. Once you see it you can’t unsee it. https://www.corbettreport.com/gates/