The COVID news hasn’t been good.
On Friday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announced that because so many people responded to the call for testing, Nova Scotia Health labs were facing a backlog of 45,000 tests. Moreover, there was a delay in data entry.
“The data entry backlog means today’s case numbers are in all likelihood much higher than the reportable number of 67,” he said Friday, and sure enough, as lab workers made their way through the backlog, the daily new case numbers increased to 148 on Saturday and 133 on Sunday.
Strang asked people who are asymptomatic to not go to the PCR testing and instead go to the rapid-testing pop-up sites, which provide antigen testing. A total of more than 45,000 PCR tests were processed on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and if the number of new tests coming in has been reduced, the lab may have made significant progress in clearing the backlog; if so, and if the restrictions are having their intended effect, I think we can expect to see a decline in the daily new case numbers over the next few days.
In more positive news, this morning the province opened up mRNA vaccines — the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — to the next age cohort, those 50 years old and over. You can book an appointment here.
One of the vaccine appointment opportunities is for a new drive-thru vaccination clinic at Dartmouth General Hospital; don’t ask for fries with that, they hate that.
There’s still lots of confusion over who should get the vaccine, questions about pregnant people and vaccines, and the like, so Yvette d’Entremont interviewed Canadian Centre for Vaccinology investigator Dr. Karina Top. The result is a super-informative article that anyone with lingering questions should read.
Every night, I dutifully update the potential COVID exposure advisory map (you can zoom in on the map and click on the icons to get details about each site), but I found that bus routes and flights were hard to map — I’ve mapped Halifax Transit routes at the Bridge Terminal and flights at the airport, but that doesn’t seem to quite get at it. So yesterday I published a separate article listing all the active potential exposure advisories on buses and flights, and I’ll update that as more come in and others expire.
I’m struck that so many flights on the list — by my reckoning about 25% of all flights landing in Halifax result in a potential exposure advisory — and that two of the flights each have two separate advisories, apparently reflecting people sitting in different parts of the plane (so, likely not travelling together) who later tested positive for COVID.
There’s also concern that Halifax Transit should return to a back-door entry only, to give at least some measure of additional protection to the drivers. I intend to ask about that at today’s COVID briefing, which is scheduled for 3pm.
In the Halifax area, we’re now on Day 11 of lockdown; in the rest of the province, it’s Day 7. As I said above, we should soon start seeing the effects of locking down. I’ve only been out into the world to procure food and get some exercise, but in those trips, it appears people are mostly taking the restrictions seriously.
So it’s vexing to learn that people are still holding parties, in clear violation of gathering limits imposed for the lockdown.
Friday night, Halifax police busted a “loud party” on Parker Street, and ticketed 10 people for violating the Health Protection Act. Saturday night, Halifax police were called to three different locations for noise complaints, and issued a total of 17 tickets for violating the limits. And last night, police received a weapons complaint for an address on Old Sambro Road; when they arrived, they didn’t find any illegal weapons, but they did find a party, and ticketed 10 people.
The RCMP says that since Dec. 1, it has issued 67 tickets to people and businesses for violating provisions of the Nova Scotia Health Protection and Emergency Management Acts in relation to COVID-19.
Also, we take our comment moderating duties quite seriously at the Examiner, and so when people post links to questionable websites, we have a duty to check that information out before approving the comment. Frankly, both Iris and I (we — mostly she — are the ones who moderate comments) are simply too busy right now to take the time to go down those rabbit holes, so we’re closing comments on all COVID articles until things calm down a bit.
Meanwhile, our other reporting work continues…
2. Sea lice
“A Dalhousie University researcher is among a team of scientists tracking a big threat to Atlantic salmon: sea lice,” reports Joan Baxter:
Climate change can increase risks of disease in marine ecosystems and pose an additional threat to the health of Atlantic salmon, according to a recent paper published in Nature’s peer-reviewed journal, Scientific Reports, and authored by scientists from Canada, Finland, and Norway.
The experimental work undertaken in a Dalhousie University lab shows that as climate change warms ocean waters, the negative effects that sea lice have on their salmon hosts will worsen. Sea lice are an external parasite that attach to and feed off salmon.
“Our waters are getting warmer along coastal Nova Scotia,” says Dalhousie University biology professor Jeffrey Hutchings, one of the paper’s authors. “They’ve been getting warmer for a while and they will continue to get warmer. So we were looking at this interaction of increasing water temperature and the degree to which this might exacerbate the negative influence of sea lice on salmon growth and survival. And we found that it exacerbated it quite a bit.”
Hutchings calls climate change the “elephant in the room” and something that “we are not accounting for” in any of our coastal industries, including how warming ocean waters will affect Atlantic salmon.
And anything that affects sea lice infestations has major implications for open-net pen salmon farming.
3. Moderate livelihood
Writes Stephen Kimber:
How do Ottawa and First Nations mutually agree on the best way to organize Atlantic Canada’s most lucrative fishery to serve the economic interests of Indigenous communities and those of traditional non-Indigenous commercial fishers without undermining the industry’s commercial viability or environmental sustainability? It won’t happen so long as Ottawa insists it alone knows best.
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4. A Sullivan’s Pond goose has died
“One of the geese at Sullivan’s Pond in Dartmouth has died,” reports Zane Woodford:
Hope For Wildlife director Hope Swinimer told the Examiner that the wildlife refuge, where the geese spend their winters, got a call from a woman about the goose on Wednesday.
“She said she was watching it in the throes of death so we immediately dispatched a volunteer,” Swinimer said in an interview Friday. “But sadly we didn’t get there in time. The goose had already passed away.”
5. Donald Cameron has died
PC Leader Tim Houston has confirmed that former Premier Donald Cameron has died.
Cameron sat in the legislature from 1974 to 1993, and was premier for the last two years of that period, from 1991 to 1993. Houston writes of Cameron:
He was Nova Scotia’s 22nd premier and on the first day he sat in the Legislature as Premier, his government introduced Human Rights legislation, which included equal rights for gays and lesbians, making Nova Scotia one of the first places in North America to do so.
Most Nova Scotians probably better know Cameron as the premier who privatized Nova Scotia Power and who promoted the Westray mine.
Donald Cameron’s death comes just four months after his wife, Rosemary Cameron, died from breast cancer.
1. Market corner
“Recently Halifax Retales, in his reports on businesses opening and closing, noted that Noggins Farm Market was going to open an outlet in the new Capital Suites building at the corner of Coburg and Seymour Streets in Halifax,” writes Stephen Archibald. “Fresh produce in the centre of a university and family neighbourhood feels like a brilliant idea.”
Turns out that corner has long been a market location, dating back at least to Eld & Akerley (meat and provisions, and confectionary and tobacco) in the 1930s, as captured in photos by a nearby resident, writer Clara Dennis.
That store evolved into one of the Capital Markets. “In the 1950s our family did much of our grocery shopping at the Capital,” writes Archibald. “Tiny carts and narrow aisles, and I remember it as always crowded. Tastes were simpler then, and the paradox of too much choice was an agony still many decades in the future.”
The delightful sounding corner market at some point morphed into a Needs “food store” — the scare quotes are Archibald’s — before the building was torn down to make room for the new construction.
“When they open, be sure to welcome Noggins to this venerable commercial location and pick up some local produce,” writes Archibald. “You deserve a honeycrisp and a big celeriac.”
It was nice to see that the Guardian has given a shout-out to the Halifax Examiner for our local news coverage.
I’ll rephrase and elaborate on what I said in a Twitter thread Saturday night,
I’m extremely appreciative of the support the Examiner has received over the past week or so. And it’s not just for the new subscribers — although of course that — but also for the kind words that people have sent my/our way.
While I’ve committed myself to extensively covering the current COVID outbreak — and for breaking news, my Twitter account has proven to be the best vehicle for that — I need to stress that this is a team endeavour. The Examiner could not be doing this were it not for the incredible group of reporters we’ve assembled, and especially for Iris the Amazing.
More subscription revenue provides us with the capacity to respond to unexpected breaking news stories and in-depth reporting that we would not otherwise have. When I’m not reporting, I’m concentrating on turning the Examiner a degree or two towards being able to do this work responsively.
I much appreciate it.
No public meetings.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — video meeting, with captioning on a text-only site.
No public meetings.
Community Services (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference with Paul LaFleche, Deputy Minister of the Department of Transportation and Active Transit.
House of Assembly management Commission (Tuesday, 1pm) — more info here
No public events.
In the harbour
06:00: Augusta Sun, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba
06:30: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
10:00: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
15:00: Alpine Madeleine, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
16:00: Selfoss sails for Portland
No arrivals or departures today.
After almost a year’s absence, the Lockdown Dreams have returned.