Today’s Morning File provides a nice summation of why you should subscribe to the Halifax Examiner.  A deep dive into what the future holds for the lobster fishery, three stories on COVID-19, including Yvette d’Entremont’s remarkable piece on the little understood “long haulers” — people who experience effects of the disease for months on end — and another solid piece on affordable housing by Jen Powley. Plus, of course, you get some opinions thrown in as a bonus, along with links to stories you may not have otherwise come across. A lot of this is available for free! Anyone can read it. But the work still requires money and time — and that means your support. Please subscribe.  If you purchase an annual subscription for at least $100, we’ll throw in a free t-shirt, which is a fine piece of swag.


News

1. Could lobster go the way of the cod?

Atlantic cod. Photo: NOAA

The lobster fishery has seemed to be in good shape for years, with high yields driven by conservation measures, warming waters, and the collapse of the ground fishery (which lowered predation). But, Joan Baxter and Linda Pannozzo report, trouble could be on the way.

The beginning of the end for the cod fishery may well have been 1968. The year that catches reached their highest point. Why? Because of the huge number of “mother fish” removed from the ocean. Pannozzo and Baxter write:

It became known as the “killer spike” — when one million tonnes of cod from the stocks off Newfoundland were reported landed in a single year — nearly quadruple the average annual catch that had been sustained for at least the century before.

The reproductive capacity of the “mother fish” was crucial to the long-term viability of cod stocks. They not only produce more eggs — between five and eleven million eggs compared to fewer than one million for smaller females — they also produce larger and possibly more viable eggs, which therefore increases the chance of survival of those eggs.

Since the odds are that only one in a million cod eggs will reach adulthood, fewer old spawners mean fewer eggs, which means fewer cod.

As we’ve seen in Part 1 of this series, the same might also be true for lobsters.

This is a long read, and well worth your time. Baxter and Pannozzo talk to scientists on both sides of the Canada-US border and to fishers about changing climate, and how other fish stocks like mackerel and herring affect lobster; and they look at whether the phenomenal catches of the last few years may have led people to be less prepared for a downturn, should it come.

One thing that surprised me about this story is just how many gaps there are in our knowledge of lobster, despite it being by far the most lucrative fishery in the country. Pannozzo and Baxter speak to Dal professor Boris Worm, who says:

Lobster is a species we don’t know enough about, which is always surprising to me because it’s the most important we have in Canada, as a whole, species-wise. Where’s the larva supply come from? How much biomass is there offshore? Can it be harvested sustainably, should it be harvested at all? These are all the questions, I think, that haven’t been conclusively answered.

Read “Part 1: Stocks are healthy, but why?” here.

Read “Part 2: The new cod?” here.

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2. In it for the long haul

Dartmouth resident and COVID long-hauler Joe Cullen. Photo: Contributed

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

Yvette d’Entremont looks at COVID-19 long-haulers: people who have had the disease and their cases considered “recovered” or “resolved”, but who are suffering sometimes debilitating consequences months later, and with little support.

She writes:

It’s been eight months since Doug Cochrane tested positive for COVID-19. These days, the 55-year-old from Hacketts Cove, N.S. said he feels more like 75.

Cochrane finds it challenging to talk for longer than 10 minutes, and his voice is raspy when he does. The professional genealogist who’s worked on projects for Warner Brothers, major TV shows, and law firms now finds it difficult to remember three items on a list. He regularly experiences dizziness, extreme fatigue, and muscle pains that are particularly intense in his hands and feet.

“Sometimes I get out of bed and my feet are so sore I can’t stand on them to use the washroom or to let the dogs out. I just can’t walk,” Cochrane said in an interview late last week. “I don’t want to sound maudlin or anything like that, but sometimes I feel like I’m feeling what the end of life feels like, some days it’s just really that bad, not mentally but physically. It’s not a good feeling.”

This is an amazing piece of reporting by d’Entremont, as she looks not only at individuals and their symptoms, but down-the-line effects on employment and insurance. There is also the question of the provincial government’s abrogation of responsibility for doing any kind of follow-up or providing support.

One of the people d’Entremont speaks with is Susie Goulding, who lives in Oakville, Ontario and started a Facebook support group for long-haulers:

Goulding said one thing she hears repeatedly from people in her online support group is frustration over describing those who are no longer contagious or in hospital as “resolved.” She believes it’s irresponsible and helps prop up conspiracy theorists who claim COVID-19 is nothing more than the flu.

“You have all the anti-maskers saying ‘Look, everyone recovered, it’s just like a flu,’” she said. “The way that the statistics are laid out by the government plays into that, and people become dismissive because everybody thinks that people just recover, it’s just about deaths and recoveries.”

The Cochranes agree. Doug said he also wants the provincial and federal governments to stop using the words “recovered” or “resolved” when speaking about those who’ve had COVID-19. He said an unknown but growing number of them are struggling and far from resolved.

“We need to get that mindset out there that people that are no longer in hospital are still ill with this in some way and require help from health care providers or the government,” Doug said.

“The government’s got to stop saying we’re resolved when we’re not…It’s a falsehood. It’s a numbers game. It just has to look good on paper.”

Yesterday, Tim Bousquet asked health minister Leo Glavine about the province’s lack of follow-up with long-haulers, and his response was not exactly confidence-inspiring. Here’s a transcript of the exchange:

Glavine: “And I believe we can flatten this second curve that’s coming at us here and that we can, again, you know, be the leader in Canada in dealing with COVID-19. I think even though we may say it’s only been a year in the making, there’s every indication of some long term impacts of of COVID…

Bousquet: “Yeah, you just spoke to the long term effects of COVID, which are the so-called long haul. But the long-haulers tell us that the provincial health system doesn’t even acknowledge their existence, no one is studying them. There’s no long term care options available to them. What what would you say to them?”

Glavine: “You know, I believe we’re still, you know, early days. There is certainly research beyond Nova Scotia and beyond Canada that I am certain that our public health and perhaps, you know, health departments and ministry will have an opportunity in the future to know what those impacts are and the kind of medical support that they will need. You know, we don’t want to to to leave them without without care. But it’s early days. We’re dealing with the most challenging aspects now of the second wave.”

In other words, we are leaders when it comes to COVID-19. Unless you are a long-hauler, in which case we’ll see what other places do, and anyway we have to deal with the second wave now, not with you and your concerns.

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3. 14 new COVID-19 cases reported yesterday

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, speaks during Tuesday’s COVID briefing. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia
Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, speaks during Tuesday’s COVID briefing. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

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

Speaking of that second wave, Tim Bousquet reports on the latest numbers: 14 new cases, over 2,500 tests completed in 24 hours, and a total of 114 active cases.

I found it interesting that nobody is hospitalized with COVID-19, since there had been one hospitalization the day before. Thankfully short stay, I guess.

Bousquet has been producing graphs of new cases and total active cases, which help provide a simple visualization of how we are doing.

Bousquet has been all over this file, to the point that when a person I know was uncertain yesterday over whether or not she needed to self-isolate — and she couldn’t find the information online, and couldn’t get through to 811 — she asked me if I could check with him. Bousquet had the answer within seconds. She was grateful.

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4. Researchers study COVID-19 among health-care workers who deal directly with infected patients

Toronto-based researcher and epidemiologist Brenda Coleman is co-leading a national study looking at whether health care workers who deal directly with patients are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than hospital personnel working in housekeeping, lab and administrative positions. They’re now recruiting study participants in Halifax. Photo: Contributed
Toronto-based researcher and epidemiologist Brenda Coleman is co-leading a national study looking at whether health care workers who deal directly with patients are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than hospital personnel working in housekeeping, lab and administrative positions. They’re now recruiting study participants in Halifax. Photo: Contributed

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

Another COVID-19 story from Yvette d’Entremont, this time on a study looking at infection rates among health-care workers in direct contact with infected patients.

You might think that, say, respiratory therapists working with COVID-19 patients are at a higher risk of infection than hospital admin workers, but the truth is we simply don’t know. And that’s where this new study comes in.

d’Entremont writes:

“What the epidemiologist in me really wants to know is what the risk factors for infection are. Is it exposure to patients? Is it exposure to sick colleagues or sick housemates? What is it that puts you at higher risk? Are there certain procedures within the hospital,” [Dr. Brenda] Coleman said in an interview Thursday morning.

“Imagine a respiratory therapist or a physician who is having to do something with the lungs and doing things where people are actually having to breathe on them without a mask or any sort of protection. The health care worker has one, but the patient can’t obviously. Is it aerosol generating procedures like that that put people at higher risk?”

She continues:

But the study isn’t just about hospital health care workers. It will also examine levels of infection in housekeeping, lab, and administrative staff.

“They’re in the hospital, they’re exposed to peers who maybe are directly exposed to patients, and they’re also exposed to patients themselves,” Coleman said. “Maybe not for two or three or five minutes, but passing them in the halls and that sort of thing. And if there are contaminants on things like handrails and elevator buttons, they can still be infected.”

In the Morning File yesterday, Tim Bousquet wrote:

The Examiner has a dedicated and talented team of reporters who can capably get into all things COVID, so I threw open the gates yesterday: let’s get creative and find more ways to cover the second wave. Already the ideas are flowing in. We’re on the story.

You are already seeing the results of this effort.

I have to say that one thing I find fascinating is being on the Examiner Slack and watching these experienced reporters coming up with idea after idea and contributing expertise to each other’s pieces in real-time. Is this what the old hanging-out-by-the-water-cooler was like, only better?

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5. What the city can do about affordable housing

The vacant building on Maitland Street where the North End Community Health Centre hopes to create 10 shared housing units. Photo: Google Maps

In an opinion piece on the city’s stance on affordable housing, Jen Powley writes:

If housing is a human right according to the UN’s 1948 Declaration, why is HRM leaving it up to the market to provide?

Powley looks at the city’s weak-kneed 2018 work plan on affordable housing (“The strongest commitment made is ‘consider’” — ouch) and its recent update, and asks why we are selling land to developers, when land is one of the biggest expenses when it comes to affordable housing.

She writes:

I know that HRM might argue that the proceeds from the sale will be put into a fund for affordable housing, but considering one of the largest costs of development is purchasing land, it might be smarter to put land that is in prominent places in the community in the hands of non-profits. As the Rapid Housing Initiative Agreement that was before Council on November 24, 2020, proved, there are a number of very active non-profit groups working in the municipality. 

[Municipal CAO Jacques] Dubé talks about density bonusing in great detail but fails to mention if the funds have resulted in creating any actual units of accessible, affordable housing. 

This is a short and punchy piece, but it provides a lot to think about.

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6. COVID concerns or political expediency?

Province House. Photo: Halifax Examiner

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

Jennifer Henderson writes:

A funny thing happened on the way to the legislature today. A scheduled, in-person meeting of the legislature’s Human Resources Committee to discuss now to recruit and retain more Continuing Care Assistants for nursing homes and homecare went ahead without that discussion

You see, the committee chair, Liberal MLA Brendan Maguire, was worried about bringing witnesses into HRM, what with the second wave and travel restrictions. Never mind that an NDP MLA had already arrived from Cape Breton, and that witnesses had said they were willing to appear in person or by phone.

Henderson writes:

“Late yesterday the Committee was polled for permission to move the meeting to the telephone,” said Chender. “Our Caucus did not agree to that change and the reason we didn’t agree is because we were not aware there was any problem from the witnesses with appearing nor was there any issue with staff appearing. The rules say people can come in and go to work; our children are in school. Many government employees, particularly in the Health Department, are at work.” 

Chender was clearly suggesting political rather than public health considerations were behind the last minute change to shut down the discussion. Here’s the reason Maguire gave the committee this morning but which Chender claims did not accompany the request late yesterday:

“HRM has the majority of the exposure sites right now and what we were concerned about — and staff was concerned about — and Health was concerned about was bringing outside members and witnesses in to expose them to Halifax when Dr. Strang and others are encouraging people not to come to Halifax unless absolutely necessary.”

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Views

Teaching 19th century literature in a way that won’t make students hate it

Dal/King’s English professor Rohan Maitzen. Photo: University of King’s College
Dal/King’s English professor Rohan Maitzen. Photo: University of King’s College

I co-host a books podcast called Dog-eared and Cracked, and in the latest episode my partner Jay and I discuss Jane Eyre.

I hadn’t read Jane Eyre until a few years ago, and Jay had never read it. Jay and I went to high school together, and it was a fancy kind of place with great books on the curriculum (I remember The Mayor of Casterbridge being on the summer reading list, I think between Grades 8 and 9), but we read almost no books by women. And some of the classics, at least as I remember it, were taught in a way that turned me off them for years.

At one point in the podcast, Jay says he’s happy he’d never read Jane Eyre in high school, because he probably would have hated it, and it would have turned him off a great book that he enjoyed reading now.

That got me wondering about how we teach classics, which led me to call Rohan Maitzen. Maitzen teaches (among other things) courses in Victorian literature at Dalhousie University, and is an avowed fan of books some would consider difficult. (She is a huge fan of Middlemarch, and has set up a website devoted to Middlemarch for book clubs.)

I asked her if we can cause damage by teaching classics to students before they are ready for them,

In some ways, she said, she sees the opposite problem:

Watching my kids go through school, I got really upset actually with their teachers in elementary school, especially because they were fixated on what they called ‘just right’ books. So, they would actively discourage students from taking books that they thought were too hard for them. And that’s just — I mean, I would want people to be ambitious readers.

Photo: Matt Briney, Unsplash

Part of the problem, Maitzen says, is that these books are presented as classics, or almost as “medicinal.”

Remember that these books were not written as classics. There’s no such thing. These were massive bestsellers. Dickens was such a huge icon of popular culture of his age. The Brontë novelists were a sensation in their time. They made headlines…

[The approach that] you have to read these books because they’re the classics and they’re good for you and they’re important creates a kind of dread, and it disconnects you from the energy that the writers brought in. These are people who are writing at a time when by and large they thought literature was meant to change people, when it was meant to change the world. They weren’t writing aesthetic objects to be admired. I mean, Dickens wanted people to get up and do things differently because they had read his books. They really reach outward. They often address the reader. And they draw you into the story to say, this isn’t just about my characters. This is a reflection on you and the world you live in and the way you behave. And and to me, anyway, that’s an exciting relationship to have with the book.”

I told Maitzen that I’d read Great Expectations in high school and hated it, and she asked me what the English teacher who taught it was like. I said she was kind of a Miss Havisham character herself — English, single, somewhat elderly — dusty feeling, if that’s possible. When I re-read the book recently, I was shocked at how engaging and funny it was.

As we talked about various teachers, Maitzen said it seemed the common denominator in our conversation was enthusiasm. She said:

Enthusiasm is the force that that fuels [her] courses… The books are long, but they’re fun and the class is engaging. But that doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes challenging. I mean, the biggest challenge is their length, and Jane Eyre and Great Expectations are among the shortest ones I teach. I teach Great Expectations a lot because it’s one of the shortest Dickens novels, and when I’m feeling bolder, I like to teach Bleak House, which I think is his greatest novel, or David Copperfield, which I think is maybe his most delightful novel. And those are both 800, 900 pages. So they’re big chunks.

And I think the trick in part is not to apologize or not to expect anything less than full engagement. Just go in there and say, wow, these are tremendous books and let’s just get started as fast as we can and do our best to get excited about them.

Maitzen has said that good books can change people’s lives, and I asked her about how her own attachment to Middlemarch came about. She said:

My particular passion for that book came about by accident, like many of the best passions, because I read it on a train when I was 19, and I didn’t know what it was. Again, I think it comes back to this idea that we approach the classics sometimes with this trepidation — I’m picking up this big imposing thing.

I was looking for something long because this was the 80s and I was travelling by train in Europe and there were no iPads. And I thought it was a really good family saga kind of novel. It didn’t seem that unfamiliar to me. I’d read Scruples, and novels by Barbara Taylor Bradford that were historical fiction about women, and it felt kind of familiar to me, but smart. So I really was moved by it, and I remembered it.

And then when I was a student, I went and took a course in the 19th century novel and I wrote my honours thesis on Middlemarch. And then I wrote part of my PhD thesis on George Eliot. And it just kind of snowballed from there. I think I stay attached to it because it never, ever disappoints. I’ve been reading it for more than 30 years now.

Yesterday, the King’s Co-op Bookstore launched a web page called Halifax Reads, in which they ask various people for their book recommendations. (I love stuff like this as a way of finding books.) I noticed that Maitzen and I are adjacent to each other with our recommendations.

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Noticed

Photo courtesy of Sonya Yruel and the Drug Policy Alliance

I see that cannabis industry trade magazine Grow Opportunity has named Nova Scotia’s Jake Ward as top grower of the year.

Ward works for Brooklyn, NS based Aqualitas, managing an organic hydroponic growing system.

From the Grow Opportunity story:

Most commercial aquaponic systems produce both leafy greens and fish – like salmon and tilapia – for commercial harvest. At Aqualitas, the fish being grown are koi, but they are not harvested for revenue, but as a source of nutrients for the cannabis plants.

“The reason why we use koi is they are hardy fish – they can withstand 28 degrees right down to sub-zero temperatures,” explains Ward. “Their immunity to maintain temperatures is good, they can take fluctuations in pH and they live up to 50 years, and some of them even live up to 100 years.”

Even though they are not grown for commercial purposes, the Aqualitas koi live “the best life,” according to Ward. The company does engage in breeding and R&D for the koi, to ensure optimal performance.

“It’s one thing to do hydroponics – which, at the end of the week you flush your nutrients out and you start all over again,” Ward explains.

“This is a little bit different when you have fish, you have to be a little bit more careful about what goes back to the fish.”

Back in 2019, The Coast ran a story in part on Aqualitas, then updated it with this amazing correction:

Correction: One of our sources for information about Aqualitas turned out to be very mistaken, and on July 29 we revised the story to make it reflect current facts. For example, Aqualitas is not the first LP to grow organically in Canada, as we reported, but it is the first to receive the cannabis-specific Clean Green agricultural certification. Also, the koi fish used in the aquaponic system live out their natural life span at Aqualitas, rather than being sent, as we said, to aquariums at homeless shelters. And cannabis grown in the aquaponic system isn’t on the market quite yet, even though we told you Reef’s Ebb & Flow is raised aquaponically. We apologize for the errors.

Sometimes you get things wrong, and you need to apologize. I appreciate an apology with some panache, like this one.

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Government

No meetings.

On campus

Dalhousie

Learning from the Past to Build for the Future: Challenging Discrimination from the Global to ​Local (Friday, 10am) — the first day-long Human Rights and Equity Conference. More info here.

A Masterclass in Performance Creation with Michelle Thrush (Friday, 1:05pm) — co-presented with the Prismatic Arts Festival. Info and Zoom link here.

Harnessing Chemical Potential from Light (Friday, 1:30pm) — Prashant Jain from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will talk. Info and link here.

The Passions of Solidarity: American Jews and the 1948 War (Friday, 3:30pm) — Derek Penslar from Harvard University will talk. Info here.


In the harbour

05:00: Gerhard Schulte, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
15:30: Gerhard Schulte sails for Rotterdam
15:30: ZIM Constanza, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
15:30: CMA CGM Corte Real, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
22:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for Rotterdam


Footnotes

I want to echo what Tim Bousquet had to say about Sheldon MacLeod yesterday. I was a guest on Sheldon’s show many times, usually discussing stories I’d written for the Examiner, Halifax Magazine, or the Globe and Mail, and he was always a pleasure to speak with. That early afternoon slot used to be radio death for me — just a time of day I was not in the mood for radio — and yet I found myself tuning in to The Sheldon MacLeod show most days.

Whatever the antithesis of shock jock is, that’s Sheldon in the host’s chair, and I agree with Bousquet that he “has played an important role in our community.” I hope he lands somewhere else soon.

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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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  1. I’m very grateful for my high school English teacher, an intelligent, hard-working man who had a separate full-time job running a restaurant and was also raising kids at the time.

    I now get the impression that teaching high school English Lit was a favoured part of his day. He’d have the class take turns reading Ernest Buckler, Alice Munro, Robert Kroetsch etc, sitting with his eyes closed and asking a new student to take over reading during natural pauses.

    I don’t know how many of my rural NB classmates took it all in, but I ended up doing an English Lit degree immediately after high school due to how much I enjoyed it. Thanks Mr Griffin!

    1. I haven’t heard Robert Kroetsch’s name for ages, but his books are on the shelf behind me. Thanks for this shout out!