1. Record COVID deaths
Twenty-four people died from COVID in Nova Scotia last week (April 19-25) — the highest weekly COVID death toll for the duration of the pandemic.
COVID hospitalizations also increased, to 91 for the same reporting period (up from 84 the week before).
As of yesterday, Nova Scotia Health reported the following hospitalization breakdown (this does not include any patients at the IWK):
Admitted for COVID-19: 55 (10 of whom are in ICU)
Admitted for something else but have COVID-19: 155
Contracted COVID-19 after admission to hospital: 129
While deaths and hospitalizations increased, new lab-confirmed cases (PCR testing) decreased during the reporting period, to 5,436 (down from 7,508 the week before).
PCR testing is limited, and many people test positive using the take-home rapid tests and don’t report the results, so the lab-confirmed test result figure doesn’t tell the complete story, but it does indicate overall trends. And that’s enough for Deputy Chief Officer of Health Dr. Shelley Deeks to declare that the latest wave of the pandemic has peaked.
“The data this week on PCR-confirmed infections suggest the peak of the sixth wave is behind us,” said Deeks in a press release. “While the increase in hospitalizations and deaths is not unexpected, they are not insignificant, either. Behind each of these 24 COVID-19 deaths is a family grieving an incalculable loss. It is those families and those loved ones that we should keep in mind. That’s why we get vaccinated. That’s why we wear a mask. That’s why we stay home when we’re sick.”
Well, concern for the most vulnerable among us may be why some people wear masks, but that concern isn’t enough for the government to mandate mask-wearing in places where vulnerable people must go, like in grocery stores and on transit — the median age for COVID deaths is 80, so I suppose old people are considered expendable and not worth requiring masks when they’re around.
As deaths lag behind new cases by about two or three weeks, we’ll likely see 20+ new deaths over each of the next couple of weeks.
Public Health has also designated a “sixth wave” of COVID, which started March 1. Perhaps what journalist Katherine Wu calls the So What? Wave of COVID — a record number of people are dying from the disease, but they’re mostly old people, so no one much cares.
2. James Banfield
Yesterday, the Mass Casualty Commission made public two statements James Banfield gave to police — one at 4:15pm on Sunday, April 19, 2020, just hours after the murder spree had ended, the other on June 30, 2020.
James Banfield is the brother of Lisa Banfield, the common-law spouse of the killer, who the Examiner refers to as GW.
James said that he had bought ammunition for GW “four or five different times” through the years, always at Lisa’s request. James knew GW did not have a firearms licence, but he didn’t think anything of it; GW liked to target practice, and it seemed harmless to him.
The most recent ammo purchase was on April 7, 2020, 11 days before the murder rampage started.
GW had some days before emailed a number of people — James couldn’t remember who else received the email — to ask that they buy him ammo. “And he said something about the ah, I thought it was about the ah, don’t let anybody know about it, but I’m not 100% sure,” said James.
James and his wife were driving around when Lisa called to remind James about the request for ammo. James asked Lisa what GW wanted the ammo for. “It was something to do with Covey [COVID],” said James. “And if anyone you know bothers him and you know, or something like that, and, just collected them too, I guess.”
James and his wife happened to be driving in Tantallon, so they stopped by the Canadian Tire. “I think he wanted way more but I only got him two boxes… they never had any more than two boxes down there at that time,” said James. It cost $141 or $142, he remembered. Lisa later sent him an e-transfer for the money.
James brought the two boxes home, and left them on his porch so his other sister, Janice, could pick them up while remaining socially distanced.
“And the Covey was on, so I said they’re right there on the back, there on the step. And I said, just come up to the back door and pick ’em up. I never even opened the door. She just picked them up and took ’em home down to her place. And now, Lisa got them from there.”
I’ll leave it to others to comment on the terrible irony of trying to remain COVID-safe while providing ammunition to a mass murderer.
But James fully admitted his role in providing the ammunition and pleaded guilty to a single criminal charge related to it; his case was referred to the Restorative Justice program.
3. Dartmouthian squirrels
Another odd bit of information contained in James Banfield’s statement to police.
“He liked squirrels,” said Banfield of the killer. “He loved squirrels. He’s always collect squirrels. I don’t get it but he [would] collect them up there [in Portapique] and bring them into the city.”
“You mean live squirrels?” asked the investigator.
“Yeah, he’d feed them up there and just take them to Dartmouth,” replied Banfield.”You know, just let them loose in there.”
I live in central Dartmouth, just a few blocks from the killer’s former denturist office. And it’s always struck me as odd that there are no squirrels in the neighbourhood. I’ve seen the odd racoon, even a deer that I assume swam over from McNab’s Island, but never a squirrel. I don’t know why — there are plenty of oak trees dropping acorns, and the sprawling Dartmouth Common seems like a good habitat for squirrels. Squirrels live seemingly everywhere else in the world — grey squirrels populate the rest of the eastern seaboard; in California they have a blue tinge and run around both the redwoods and oak-studded Sierra foothills; in Toronto there’s a rainbow spectrum of squirrels, from black on through various shades of grey to albino white — but squirrels are completely avoiding my hood.
Maybe like peninsular elites, squirrels look down their hairy noses at Dartmouth and make rude comments about the bridge toll and only travelling through on their way to the airport.
Was the killer trying to address the dearth of Dartmouthian squirrels? If so, it didn’t work — the squirrels he released here didn’t stick around. Maybe they headed stat to the airport.
4. Ol’ 55
“Residents of a neighbourhood off Waverley Road are continuing their fight against a Halifax Transit routing change,” reports Zane Woodford:
Route 55 Port Wallace used to run between the Bridge Terminal in Dartmouth and a gravel parking lot at the Highway 118 underpass on Waverley Road. As the Halifax Examiner reported in April 2021, Halifax Transit proposed to change the route as part of the Moving Forward Together Plan:
Citing low ridership, Halifax Transit is proposing to stop the route 3 km short at Charles Keating Drive, rather than continuing down Waverley Road to the Highway 118 underpass, where it turned around in a gravel parking lot.
The new route will use Charles Keating Drive and a portion of Craigburn Drive to create a loop at the end, and that had Coun. Cathy Deagle-Gammon, who represents District 1–Waverley-Fall River-Musquodoboit Valley, asking questions.
People in the neighbourhood brought out all the old tropes to argue against the change:
“I feel like the demographics of the neighbourhood are either families with young kids or older individuals and there’s lots of families and we are just concerned about the safety aspect with the bus coming through,” Kate Ryan told councillors.
Parents in the neighbourhood feel comfortable sending their children to play at the playground on Craigburn Drive, Ryan said, and that wouldn’t be safe any more.
“I also don’t love the fact of the stranger danger risk of buses coming through and seeing small children playing independently because that is important to us, to allow our children to do that,” Ryan said.
Downtown Dartmouthian hoodlums and squirrels may ride the bus to the leafy suburb and, I dunno, sell cocaine to the toddlers on the playground swings.
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5. Gay men will soon be able to give blood
“Health Canada has given Canadian Blood Services the green light to end the three-month donor deferral period in place for sexually active men who have sex with men,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
Instead of a blanket ban, the policy change means Canadian Blood Services will focus on sexual behaviour associated with a higher risk of infection. When implemented later this year, the new criteria means all blood donors will be screened for high-risk sexual behaviours, regardless of their gender or sexuality.
Under the new criteria, all donors will be asked if they’ve had new or multiple sexual partners in the last three months. If they answer yes to either question, they’ll be asked if they’ve had anal sex with any of those partners. If so, they’ll be required to wait three months from when they last had anal sex with any of those partners.
6. Pedestrian killed by cop
“Antigonish County District RCMP has referred an investigation into a fatal collision on Hwy. 104 in Addington Forks to the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT),” reads an RCMP press release:
At approximately 10:35 p.m. on April 27, Antigonish County District RCMP responded to a report of a man who was walking on the 104 Highway, possibly into traffic. While conducting patrols of the area to search for the pedestrian, an RCMP officer struck the pedestrian with their police vehicle.
The pedestrian, a 22-year-old Antigonish man, was pronounced deceased at the scene.
An RCMP collision reconstructionist and RCMP Forensic Identification Services attended the scene.
Antigonish County District RCMP contacted SiRT, which has taken over the investigation.
At approximately 9:30 a.m. today, a man attended the Pictou Detachment and reported that he had been in a collision on Hwy. 104 in Addington Forks on the night of April 27. The man advised that he had struck an unknown object on the highway, however, after learning of the fatality overnight, he reported the collision to the RCMP for further investigation.
RCMP and SiRT investigators are working to determine if these incidents are related.
SiRT is leading the investigation relating to the collision between the RCMP vehicle and the victim; the RCMP will not be providing further details.
Neither the RCMP nor SIRT has named the victim or the cop.
I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, which is home to the world’s largest naval base. Before he retired in 1966, Dad worked on the Marine air base attached to the Navy base, and my childhood home is (we still own it) about a mile from the base. As a child, I spent a great deal of time going to the base — we went grocery shopping at the base commissary, took swimming and sailing lessons on base, went to the base movie theatre.
In the 1960s and and 70s, nuclear war was a distinct possibility, but we never talked about it around the dinner table, or at school. I went to a private Catholic elementary school, and then the Catholic high school, so I don’t know if it was handled differently in the public schools, but we never had Duck and Cover exercises. By the time I was a young teenager, I had it worked out in my head that that was because it was sort of pointless to even pretend we could survive a nuclear attack: Norfolk would be Ground Zero for the first volley of a nuclear exchange, and so we’d all be vapourized instantly.
There was something freeing about that understanding. Sure, I might die in a heartbeat, but the causes and reasons for that potential instant death were beyond my control, so I could instead focus on a girl named Kathy who wanted a little of my time, hang out on the beach, and get rid of any lingering worries by running long distances on the track and cross country teams. I could just be a dumbass kid, which is all the world wanted from me anyway.
After the Soviet Union collapsed, it seemed like all humanity exhaled in a sigh of relief, and assumed there was no longer a real danger of nuclear war. This never made a lot of sense to me — as I saw it, the combination of tens of thousands of rusting nuclear missiles, control systems staffed by accident-prone humans doing things like dropping wrenches down the silos and spilling coffee on control panels, and the general inattentiveness of governments probably meant that the chance of an ICBM being accidentally launched had increased, not decreased. ‘Shouldn’t we get rid of those weapons?’ I thought. But I learned to live with my nagging misgivings and eventually joined the general nuclear apathy.
And now, all these decades later, there’s talk and rumours of nuclear war again.
But living in a corner of the world that likely won’t be targeted by missiles, the possibility of a nuclear war is far more worrisome than it was when I just assumed I’d simply be vapourized in the event of one. Should it occur, I’ll watch it play out, I’ll see the terrible suffering, I’ll have to take whatever action I can to try to protect my family and community and heal the world, if such a thing can be possible.
I have no idea how the current geopolitical madness will end, nor do I have any idea about how to end it. But I do know this: once something like normality returns, we must, must get rid of those monstrous weapons.
Wonder World (Saturday, 7pm, Council Chambers, SUB) —K.R. Byggdin will launch their book, with Francesca Ekwuyasi and Venus Envy. Masks required, books for sale, more info here.
Research Expo (Friday, 1pm, Loyola Conference Hall) — Researchers from the faculties of Science, Business, and Arts showcase their research in the form of short pitch presentations or through displays; more info here
In the harbour
13:00: Claxton Bay, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
15:30: NYK Romulus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
16:00: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Bilboa, Spain
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
19:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
I’ve told some of this story before in the Examiner, but not all of it:
In a previous life, I was a dumb ass kid doing dumb ass shit, trying to find my place in the world. After a few years of aimlessness, I decided to pull my life together and landed on the idea of moving to California, establishing residency and thereby getting free college tuition (Americans say they’re going to college even if it’s Yale or whatever, while Canuckians are religious about making the class distinction between college and “university”). So I saved up a thousand bucks, and hitchhiked across country to Los Angeles, seeing shit I never saw before and doing things I’d never done.
I landed a job as a manager of a bookstore in West Hollywood and worked for that year, then set upstate in a borrowed car to check out the various colleges — Santa Barbara, San Louis Obispo, San Francisco State, Berkeley, way up through the redwoods to Humboldt State, then up over the coast range to Chico, where the borrowed car up and died.
In that telling, I didn’t tell about the car.
One day, when I was managing the bookstore, a pleasant “older” woman (she was maybe 60, which was ancient in my dumbass eyes) came in and asked for a job, and I hired her. She was Australian, and her husband was a heart surgeon then working at UCLA; she was just looking for something to do during her stay in her new adoptive country. We hit it off fabulously; she was my best friend in LA.
Soon after I gave my notice to leave the job, she invited me to a party at her house. I showed up on the appointed night at a sprawling manse in the Hollywood Hills, overlooking the lights of the city below.
I was totally out of my element, and knew it. The partygoers were the elite of Hollywood — famous film people, famous surgeons, famous intellectuals, famous musicians, famous whatevers — all stylish and chic, and I was just some dumbass kid. So I politely said goodbye to my friend, planning to go to some dive bar on Pico Boulevard.
Before I left, however, she had a surprise for me. She explained that her son had returned to Australia and left his car. It was a VW Rabbit that hadn’t been driven in two years, but there it was in her driveway; she handed me the keys.
I left LA a couple of days later, packing up the Rabbit the night before, and hitting the road at something like 5am. I rooted around the glove compartment and found a Tom Waits cassette (kids, ask your grandparents what a cassette is). I was such a dumbass kid I had never heard Tom Waits before, but there I was driving up the Ventura Highway, the sun rising over the hills to my right, the ocean to my left, listening to Ol’ 55:
Now the sun’s coming up
I’m riding with Lady Luck
Freeway cars and trucks
Stars beginning to fade
And I lead the parade
Just a-wishing I’d stayed a little longer
Oh Lord, let me tell you that the feeling getting stronger