News

1. COVID

The COVID situation is not good.

Yesterday, 689 new cases were announced in Nova Scotia, a one-day record.

Hospitals

Halifax Infirmary in July, 2021. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

The most immediate concern is hospital capacity. So far, there are relatively few people in hospital with the disease (although of course for them personally it is a tremendous burden) — 14 people, four of whom are in ICU.

But increases in hospitalizations tend to lag two to three weeks behind increases in case numbers. So we’ll see.

Particularly worrisome is that hospitals are seeing the same sort of staff shortages that are affecting other organizations and businesses, as workers are self-isolating because they are either infected themselves or are close contacts of infected people.

Additionally, there have been COVID outbreaks at three hospitals: Dartmouth General, the Halifax Infirmary, and St. Martha’s in Antigonish. Those outbreaks appear to be contained, and each has affected fewer than five patients.

Testing

Rapid Test Lineup-Changing Seasons. Illustration by Zak Markan — Instagram @zak.markan.art

Nova Scotia’s celebrated testing regime is also stressed and the strategy that prevailed previously through the pandemic is being modified to the point of near-abandonment.

Now, if you test positive with a rapid (antigen) test, you no longer will follow that up with a PCR test. Instead, you are assumed to definitely have COVID, and you and your household are to self-isolate as required.

But take-home rapid testing kits are no longer widely available. They’re not at libraries, and the rapid testing sites aren’t giving them away.

I noted last night that rapid testing sites in HRM are still scheduled through New Years’s Day, as follows:

Friday, Dec. 24
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-3pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm
Centennial Arena, 10am-2pm

Saturday, Dec. 25
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-3pm

Sunday, Dec. 26
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-3pm

Monday, Dec. 27
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm

Tuesday, Dec. 28
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate, 4-6pm

Wednesday, Dec. 29
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm

Thursday, Dec. 30
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm

Friday, Dec. 31
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-4pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm

Saturday, Jan. 1
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-4pm

Otherwise, starting Monday, rapid-testing will only be available by appointment and after completing an online assessment; they’ll be distributed at the PCR testing sites, but you’ll take them home and do it yourself.

Meanwhile, PCR testing is being reserved for “people who have symptoms or are close contacts and are at increased risk for severe disease, live in congregate settings or are integral to keeping our health system running. A full list of people who require PCR tests will be available shortly.”

Realistically, this means much COVID will go undetected.

Even the PCR testing that is happening is sometimes delayed — a family member of one of the Examiner crew has been waiting five days for a result. Dr. Todd Hatchette provided the following explanation to us:

We provide a wait time range of up to 72 hours but strive to get results out as quickly as possible. Provincially, the turnaround time from collection to result for Dec. 19-21 was 99.9 per cent within 48 hours; 63.5 per cent within 24 hours.

If someone hasn’t received results within 72 hours they can now check the online web portal for results (https://c19results.nshealth.ca/), as sometimes the email address may not be correct and the result may be available but they have not yet been notified. Note that the times will vary depending on volumes and human resources and Public Health is trying to keep up with volumes.

Variations in wait times for two people may depend on a number of factors, for example:

• Samples can be placed on different racks, which could mean the samples enter the machines at different times.
• We screen multiple samples in pools of six. If one person is in a positive pool the results will be delayed from someone in a negative pool as the individual samples in the positive pool then need to be retested to see who is positive.

Exposure notices

There’s been an obvious delay in exposure notices — some of the school-connected case announcements have been made as far as two weeks after the potential exposure, rendering them useless, and some of the retail exposure notices have been a week or more after the potential exposure.

Apparently hoping to speed that process up, last night Public Health announced that it will “no longer be issuing notifications when there has been minimal risk to the public (precaution notifications). We will only be issuing notifications when the public has had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (exposures).”

I updated the potential exposure map last night:

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2. Mar Mar

Lee-Marion “Mar Mar” Cain, the 8-year-old killed in a drive-by shooting on Windmill Road in Dartmouth 4 days before Christmas. Photo: Odette Smith / Facebook.

“An online vigil was held Thursday night for Lee-Marion “Mar-Mar” Cain, the eight-year-old boy who died in a shooting on Windmill Road in Dartmouth Tuesday,” reports Matthew Byard:

The vigil was led by Preston MLA Angela Simmonds and featured a series of prayers from pastors and members of the African United Baptist Association (AUBA).

Close to 500 people watched the vigil via Zoom while many others watched through The Black Cultural Centre’s Facebook and YouTube platforms. As of early this morning, the video has thousands of views.

Click here to read “Online vigil held for eight-year-old boy killed in shooting in Dartmouth.”

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3. Beaver Dam mine

The Killag River is just a stone’s throw from proposed Beaver Dam mine. Photo: Simon Ryder-Burbidge

We’ve taken Joan Baxter’s November 26 article “Expansion of gold mining on the Eastern Shore meeting with stiff resistance” out from behind the paywall. Writes Baxter:

Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia (AMNS) looks bound and determined to mine paradise, blast a giant hole deep into the earth at Beaver Dam in a rural part of the Halifax Regional Municipality just over an hour’s drive from downtown Dartmouth, and extract 56 million tonnes of material from the bowels of this small province between 2023 and 2027 in return for a few thousand kilograms of gold.

The open pit gold mine that AMNS foresees is no small thing.

It will cover 632 hectares (1,611 acres, or the equivalent of 1,220 football fields), create a crater nearly a kilometer long, half a kilometre wide, and 200 metres deep — that’s twice as deep as Fenwick Towers in Halifax is tall. Nearly 15 million tonnes of “waste” will be “generated” over the short life of the mine.

The mine will also be just upstream from the Killag River, where the Nova Scotia Salmon Association has been working for years with a host of other organizations and support from the provincial and federal governments, to undo the negative effects of acid rain with lime treatments and restore the watershed to health so it can again support wild Atlantic salmon.

But Beaver Dam is just one of the open pit mines the company has planned for the province.

AMNS already operates one giant open pit gold mine in Moose River, and in addition to the Beaver Dam project that is undergoing a joint federal – provincial assessment, it has two other mines planned for Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore — at Fifteen Mile Stream, which is also undergoing assessment, and an even more controversial one at Cochrane Hill on the St. Mary’s River.

Additionally, St Barbara has purchased NSGold (part of Globex Mining), which owns a bunch of exploration licences at Mooseland, very close to the Moose River mine.

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Noticed

Due to the holidays, this is an abbreviated Morning File. I’m taking Christmas Day completely off. I’ll have the full weekly COVID recap this afternoon, a short COVID report Boxing Day, with the normal daily reports returning Monday. In order to give our staff a true break, Morning File is taking a hiatus until Wednesday morning and there likely won’t be any news reports through that time. Unless of course some big news happens, in which case we’ll be right on it.

These are difficult times. I hope readers can find a bit of peace and solace with loved ones, if even remotely. We will get through this.

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In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container ship, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
11:30: Oceanex Connaigra moves back to Pier 41
13:00: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
17:00: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
18:00: Qikiqtaaluk W, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Quebec City

Cape Breton
12:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
13:45: CSL Kajika, bulker, arrives at Point Tupper coal pier from Baltimore


Footnotes

Don’t Look Up is now on Netflix. Guess what I’ll be doing Christmas Day.


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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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  1. Merry Christmas to all!

    Note: Halifax Convention Centre is NOT doing any testing until Dec 27. They are handing out 5 packs of rapid test kits (one per household) during the open hours on December 24, 25, and 26 (while supplies last). I was in the line today to get a 5 pack for a family member. I dressed for the weather and it was still damned cold standing on the corner of Argyle and Prince waiting for noon. I probably won’t be doing that again on any day with a windchill. 🙂

  2. Merry Christmas
    Thank you for all that you do and report.
    May no new thing arise (until the New Year)!

  3. Merry Christmas to all you hard working Examiner folks. I hope you get to enjoy the break and have time to relax and peacefully reflect.