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News

1. How big is the iceberg? New national COVID-19 study

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

Yvette d’Entremont reports on a new national study aimed at providing “a much more complete picture of what has been going on,” when it comes to COVID-19 infection, in the words of Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

As part of the survey, some 3,600 blood test kits and surveys will be mailed to Nova Scotia households.

d’Entremont writes:

The goal is to figure out how many Canadians have had SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and to learn more about whether or not they had symptoms. It’s the first study in Canada to use a representative sample of all Canadians covering each province and territory…

“They may not have had any symptoms, they may have had mild symptoms, they may not have had access to testing, or decided not to have a test, or not even know that they were exposed,” Hankins said.

“So we’ll get a better feel for it. If you’re thinking about the idea of an iceberg and the COVID cases kind of being the tip of the iceberg that we see, this will give us an idea about how many are underneath the surface of the water in that iceberg.”

Of course, participation is voluntary, but Hankins hopes that people will be motivated in part by the opportunity to learn whether or not they have antibodies to SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The study’s results will be released in May 2021.

Read d’Entremont’s full story for more on the study, its implications, and how it might affect policy, plus other research the task force is funding.

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2. Update on Nova Scotia COVID-19 clusters, plus new isolation rules for travellers

Photo: Priscilla du Preez / Unsplash

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

Tim Bousquet reports on Dr. Robert Strang’s briefing yesterday, to address the clusters of COVID-19 cases in the province, including a particularly concerning one in Clayton Park.

“We are at a tipping point right now here in Nova Scotia,” said Strang. “I had a very anxious weekend. We are at a critical tipping point that we all need to pay attention to.”

Like many others (judging by what I see on social media) I was surprised to learn that people self-isolating after travel had been allowed to stay with family members who did not need to themselves isolate. No more. Strang, the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, announced a change to the rules at yesterday’s briefing:

“Anyone traveling into Nova Scotia from outside of Atlantic Canada must isolate alone for 14 days,” said Strang. “And if they’re coming into the province and they don’t have that option of isolating alone, they have to stay in a residence, whether it’s an apartment or a house, then everybody in that location then needs to start a 14 day isolation period.”

This next part is key. If your friend or relative spends part of their quarantine and then moves in with you, you still have to isolate for the full 14 days.

“Let’s say a person went to stay at a hotel for five days and then went to start to live with relatives on Day Six, that person then has eight more days of isolation,” continued Strang. “[But] the other people he or she has possibly exposed, they don’t just have to isolate for the remaining eight days. They actually have to isolate for a full 14 days. So people need to understand if they are taking people into their home and living with travellers in a quarantine period, they are imposing a full 14-day isolation period on themselves and the rest of their house. If they choose to do that, it means their kids can’t go to school, people cannot go to work, you can’t go shopping, go to the grocery store. So that sounds harsh, but it’s necessary.”

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3. Clearwater Seafoods sold for $1 billion

Yesterday evening, the big news broke yesterday that an agreement has been reached to sell Clearwater Seafoods to BC-based Premium Brands and a Mi’kmaq coalition led in Nova Scotia by the Membertou band. The deal is worth $1 billion.

Paul Withers reports on the story for CBC:

Membertou Chief Terry Paul said the Mi’kmaq will hold Clearwater’s Canadian fishing licences within a fully Mi’kmaq-owned partnership.

“This deal is a transformational moment for all participating communities,” Paul told CBC News. “We will now have access to the offshore fishery from an ownership position.”

Some of the brands owned by Premium Brands.

Paul makes it clear that this sale does not mean the end of the moderate livelihood fishery, which is separate. Withers writes:

“Our investment in a commercial offshore fishery is completely separate from our commercial inshore and moderate livelihood fisheries,” Paul told CBC News.

“We’re still very incredibly committed to our other fisheries and to our communities on moderate livelihood. This deal does not impact the processes and the discussions taking place in other areas of the fishery.”

We will be hearing more about the sale and its implications in the coming days and weeks.

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4. Don’t lie about having a positive COVID-19 test

Aerial view of the Riverbreeze Farm corn maze. Photo: Riverbreeze Farm website

Last week, I turned on the radio to hear Riverbreeze Farm and Corn Maze owner Jim Lorraine explaining why had shared information on the company’s Facebook page about an employee who had tested positive for COVID-19. He said there was no obligation to share the news, but he felt that it was the right thing to do, to protect the farm’s customers. He also specified what part of the operation the employee was working in, which would have narrowed it down to very few people.

CBC Maritime Noon host Bob Murphy asked Lorraine how the employee felt about the information being shared, and Lorraine didn’t really answer the question, but said it was a tough decision and he had to do the right thing.

Public Health had not issued any possible exposure warnings for the farm but Lorraine would have felt bad having information about a positive test and sitting on it, even if the risk of contracting COVID-19 was extremely low.

Yesterday, Lorraine spoke to media again, this time saying that the employee who claimed to have tested positive had lied.

At CTV, Heidi Petracek and Andrea Jerrett report:

Lorraine confronted his employee, who eventually wrote in a text that, not only had he not tested positive for COVID-19, he had never actually been tested at all.

“The story was a complete fabrication, made up by the staff member to reasons of which at this time we are not sure,” said Lorraine.

While he doesn’t regret putting out his own notice about a potential for public exposure, Lorraine said next time he would check with Public Health first.

They also quote a statement from a Public Health spokesperson:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety for people and businesses. It is disappointing to hear that anxiety in this instance was heightened unnecessarily. We strongly encourage people to think about the impact false claims have on the public and businesses. This is a time for people to be truthful and forthcoming about exposure to COVID-19 and follow the public health measures. It is an offence under the Health Protection Act to provide false or misleading information to a Medical Officer, Public Health Nurse or Public Health Inspector.”

After posting the news of the now-discredited positive test on Facebook, Lorraine said he received online threats.

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5. Correctional Service of Canada ignores call to end “dry cell” practice for nearly a decade

The Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

At CBC, Shaina Luck continues her excellent reporting on the practice of putting prisoners into “dry cells” — cells with no running water and no flush toilet, with lights on 24 hours a day, and prisoners under constant surveillance.

The justification is to find out if inmates have drugs or other contraband in their bodies.

Yesterday, she wrote about the case of Lisa Adams, who was left in one of these cells for 16 days, because authorities believed she was hiding contraband in her vagina. Now, with the support of the Elizabeth Fry Society and other advocates, she is challenging the legality of the practice.

Today, Luck follows up with more background on dry cells, including the fact that the Correctional Service of Canada has resisted calls to end the practice for eight years.

She writes:

In the 2011-2012 annual report of the Correctional Investigator, [Howard] Sapers recommended an “absolute prohibition on dry cell placements exceeding 72 hours.”…

In an interview in October, Sapers said he made the recommendation after gathering evidence from prisoners and their families, medical staff at the CSC, psychologists, corrections policy and international practices.

“Dry cell placement and other forms of restricted custody were constant themes that were reported to my office and many prisoners or their families would contact our office and they would talk about the arbitrary, punitive nature of it, the inconsistent application of these kinds of interventions — almost a capriciousness about when dry cells or other forms of restriction were being imposed,” Sapers said.

Sapers’ successor, Ivan Zinger, renewed the call earlier this year, so far to no avail.

Luck reports that CSC thinks 72 hours is an unreasonably short cap, because “it is more than feasible to delay bowel movement beyond 72 hours.”

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Views

1. Death, grief, and social media

Rebecca Dingwell. Photo: Chris Stoodley

Halifax-based freelance writer Rebecca Dingwell has a thoughtful and moving story at This Magazine.

Dingwell’s father died of ALS (often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at 58. In her essay, titled “How social media informed my grief,” she recounts how finding traces of her dad online — in photos, social media posts and so on — offered solace, but also eventually became a kind of trap.

She writes:

…my dad’s social media, Facebook in particular, had acted like a time capsule. Photos and posts triggered memories, which allowed me to retrace my steps and regain some sanity. I had spoken to my dad in my head many times, begging for some kind of sign so I could know he was at peace. I didn’t have any prophetic dreams. No spirit floated to my window at twilight. But I could find plenty of ghosts online by conjuring them with Google searches. Although part of me must’ve realized this wasn’t healthy, the solace was worth it. As far as the internet was concerned, my father was still alive.

He breathed through photos, silly tweets, and the occasional email.

One of the last comments my dad made on Facebook was about me…

Dingwell writes about her dad laughing at the Ice Bucket Challenge videos (remember those?) in support of ALS research, and about finding a trove of photos he had left behind in a shared folder on a cloud drive.

I’m not sure how long after my dad’s funeral—maybe one week, maybe two—I discovered those archived photos in the cloud. They were comforting at first, but soon they weren’t enough. They emphasized the distance between then and now, alive and dead.

I met Dingwell when we were both in the King’s MFA program in creative non-fiction and I was impressed by her writing. I hope this piece gets the audience it deserves.

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2. Thinking outside the boss

The Glitter Bean. Photo: Google Streetview.

The Halifax Workers’ Action Centre is hosting an online event on the benefits of worker-owned co-ops tonight at 7 PM. It’s called “Thinking outside the boss” and highlights the story of the Glitter Bean Café, which went from being a Just Us! location whose workers unionized, to being owned by the hellish Smiling Goat people, to being taken over by those same workers after the Smiling Goat went bust.

The Halifax Workers’ Action Centre was founded by the Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council and Solidarity Halifax.

You may recall this wretched piece in the National Post by pundit Robyn Urback, sneering that the cafe unionization effort was doomed to fail because it would drive prices up too high. The whole piece is an exercise in “How wrong can you be?”

Here’s how it ends:

Not only is a group of unskilled workers attempting to unionize on arguably tenuous ground, but it is doing so in a city with six universities and an estimated 30,000 students and thus, a bountiful supply of labour when it comes to coffee shop work. (By that notion, of course, it’s no wonder existing baristas are taking steps to protect their jobs.) But when workers across Canada are taking on precarious work with increasing frequency (especially in Nova Scotia, where the percentage of the labour force working part-time or casual jobs is 12 times the national average), it seems almost trivial for baristas — who have not invested time or money in relevant education — to be decrying their labour plight.

Of course, baristas have every right to explore union options, though the implications on businesses are fair consideration. There’s no question that union conditions will put added financial strain on employers, who may opt to jack up prices, or else, limit new hires to part-time positions. But that barista who serves your morning latte with a scowl? He just got some cushy new job security. And that mom & pop down the road that doesn’t have the capital to satisfy union demands? Closed. Union structure may be to the betterment of the Halifax barista, but for those on the opposite side of the counter, it’s a tough idea to swallow. Especially for $8.95 a cup.

$8.95 a cup, eh? It’s as if labour is not the only cost businesses face and there isn’t a one-to-one correlation between price and the cost of labour.

I think the Glitter Bean story is an interesting one. Today, the “about” page on the Glitter Bean website says:

Glitter Bean Cafe rose as an alternative to having to work in an unfair work environment. Workers who lost their jobs banded together and formed a worker owned co-op that will breathe life back into our much loved, cozy cafe.

We remain unionized with SEIU 2, a victory won by cafe workers in 2013.

We are working to create a community space that will provide a safer space for queer, two-spirit, and trans people in K’jipuktuk (Halifax).

Speaking of labour, I see the 12th annual Canadian Labour International Film Festival is on (online, of course). Interesting lineup of films, which you can stream free on specific dates… I think? (The website seems a bit of a mess to me, and when I click the “Buy passes” button nothing happens.)

Company Town, which previously aired on CBC, is the marquee film. It’s about the battle that ensued when GM announced it was going to close its Oshawa plant.

There are a few other films in the festival that caught my eye. The Ballad of John Henry tries to figure out the identity of the person who inspired the famous song about the worker racing the steam drill, and “sheds new light on an unjust legal system developed after the Civil War replacing slavery with a new labor-based economy, the convict lease program.”

Many of the films are shorts, running 15 minutes or less. One of them is Kar, a short doc set in Scarborough. From the film’s description:

In Farsi, the word “kar” means work. Mohammad has worked in Canada as a pizza delivery man, a driving instructor, and a taxi driver. With the rise of ride-sharing apps like Uber, he is now unemployed. A weekend drive around Scarborough, ON with his daughter prompts reflection on cars, labour, and family.

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Noticed

1761 map of Canada by Guillaume de L’Isle. Photo: British Library

This past summer, the British Library put scans of  thousands of maps from the King George III Topographical Collection online. Eighteen thousand images from the collection are now on Flickr. The maps date from 1540 to 1824.

Because I am exceedingly parochial, I guess, I went to look for maps of eastern Canada, and, more specifically of Nova Scotia. In addition to seeing how an understanding of topography and geography evolve, it’s also interesting to see how frequently names change (note to those concerned that changing the name of, say, the town of Amherst will erase history).

In the map above, Labrador is called Labrador “or land of the Eskimos.” Port Royal is on the map, of course, but eastern mainland Nova Scotia is the land of the “Micmaques” (the map is in French). The Bay of Fundy is Baye Francoise.

1768 map of Nova Scotia and Acadia

Here is a lovely 1768 map that has some illustrated topography, as well commentary. “Aspatogan Hill” is noted as “remarkable for being seen at a great distance.” What we now know as the Minas Basin is “the Basin of Mines.”

1750 chart by John Rocque

I learned from this 1750 “Chart of Chibucto Harbour… with the Plan of the Town of Halifax” that what we now know as the Northwest Arm was called the Sandwich River, and McNabs was Cornwallis Island.

“Map of the South Part of Nova Scotia and its Fishing Banks”

Finally, I will leave you with this image, that combines map, illustration, and commentary. “Sandwich Point” on the previous map is now “Sandwich or Pleasant Point” and Georges Island is noted as “where the Transports first Landed.”  We also get a view of Halifax from across the harbour, with the gallows featured prominently on the waterfront.

I am not particularly knowledgeable about maps, but I do find them fascinating on many levels. Maps encode worldviews, both literally and figuratively, and shape our understandings of past and present.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — the first meeting of the new council. Mostly just setting priorities, but a couple of small action items on the agenda as well.

Province

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — Department of Community Services with Tracy Taweel and Joy Knight; Lynne McCarron from United Way of Cape Breton; JoAnna LaTulippe-Rochon from Cape Breton Family Place Resource Centre. More info here.

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — Lori Barker and Alison Cogdon from Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic, and Matthew Campbell from IWK Health Centre. More info here.

On campus

No public events.


In the harbour

05:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
09:30: APL Miami, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
16:30: YM Evolution, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Rotterdam
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s
20:00: Front Cosmos, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
20:00: BSL Elsa, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp


Footnotes

Here is Bruce Springsteen and his band doing John Henry from the wonderful Seeger Sessions.

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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