News

1. National COVID study released examining prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Canadian population. There are a few big things we can learn from it.

Dr. Catherine Hankins, co-chair of Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. Photo: COVID-19 Immunity Task Force

Yvette d’Entremont continues her award-winning COVID coverage this morning with a look at a newly released study that examined infection rates in Canada before the pandemic’s third wave this spring.

The study, which d’Entremont first reported on in November when it was set to begin, was conducted by Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) in order to better understand the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) in private households nationwide. From November to April, CITF tested the blood of more than 10,000 Canadians from the age of one and older for antibodies, and there were a few interesting findings.

First, remember in the beginning when we thought surviving infection might mean immunity? Well, we were way off. Here’s d’Entremont:

Only 2.6% of Canadians were found to have developed antibodies due to a past COVID-19 infection. Vaccination wasn’t widely available during the survey period, so only 1% of participants had antibodies from vaccination.

That means before the third wave hit the country this spring, only 3.6% of Canadians had some form of immunity.

And what about asymptomatic carriers? How prevalent could they be. Here’s d’Entremont again:

“Many participants had no idea they’d been previously infected, only learning via the study that they had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies.

[CITF co-chair Dr. Catherine] Hankins said 30.3% of those people hadn’t been tested for COVID-19, with 76.6% indicating it was because they’d had no symptoms.”

Other standout takeaways: children and youth had the highest rates of SARS-CoV-2 found in their blood — all acquired by infection, not immunization — and visible minorities were twice as likely to have caught the virus.

There’s also a good chance that COVID infections will be around for a while yet, despite talks of herd immunity, according to Dr. Hankins:

“You know, I think we’re going to see that we’re going to have infections and coronavirus around for a long time,” Hankins said, pointing to asymptomatic spread.

“That’s my own personal (view). You’re not supposed to predict into the future, but I think people who talk about some kind of herd immunity that’s going to stop transmission are in la la land.”

The CITF is hosting a town hall with Statistics Canada on Thursday, July 15 that’s open to all Canadians. Presenters will provide more detailed data and an explanation of the CITF’s updated models “regarding the progression of population immunity throughout the pandemic.”

To find out how and where to register for the virtual event, and to see all the details and findings from the massive, nationwide study, read Yvette d’Entremont’s full article by clicking this link.

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2. COVID by the numbers

Photo: Ivan Diaz

There were seven new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nova Scotia Tuesday. There are now 44 known active cases in the province (two hospitalizations, none in ICU).

Six of the new cases are in the Central Zone and one is in the Eastern Zone. One of the Central Zone cases is related to travel and all others are close contacts to previously known cases. A provincial press release states these contacts don’t represent wide community spread.

The latest vaccination numbers show 73.2% of the province has at least one dose, leaving us 17,092 first doses away from reaching the benchmark of 75% of the population being at least partially vaccinated.

Below is a chart showing the percentage of different age groups who’ve received one dose (green) and two doses (blue) of the vaccine. The 85% line reflects the percentage of all people eligible to be vaccinated (those who are 12 years old and older) in order to get to 75% of the entire population (including 11-year-olds and younger) vaccinated. This is considered the threshold that needs to be crossed to get to herd immunity.

For all of yesterday’s COVID news and numbers, head to Tim Bousquet’s full provincial pandemic roundup from Tuesday. It has all the details on vaccination numbers, testing (stats and locations), case demographics, and potential exposure sites.

The Examiner also has ongoing updates on potential virus exposures on flights and Halifax Transit, as well as answers to the COVID-19 questions Tim Bousquet most frequently gets asked.

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

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3. Liberals promise $25 million for affordable housing

The province announced Tuesday that $25 million will be invested into affordable housing to “address the immediate recommendations made by the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission.”

The commission, as the Halifax Examiner reported on May 31, was tasked with identifying solutions to Nova Scotia’s affordable housing crisis. The commission’s report made 17 recommendations with 60 “key actions.” It also recommended four urgent actions to be taken in the next 100 days that would total $25 million in spending, the same amount the province says they’ll spend immediately.

Michael Tutton at the Canadian Press reports that the money will provide affordable housing for 600 to 900 households in Nova Scotia, the first of which the province says will be ready in 12 to 18 months.

The announcement came hours after HRM issued a public statement saying all temporary emergency shelters built on public municipal property will be evicted and torn down next week.

Remember, the Liberal Party has also been making financial promises around the province, all without mentioning anything about an election. To see what else they’re talking about spending money on, check out Tim Bousquet’s handy “It’s raining money” map below. As of Monday’s spending announcements to start the week, before the affordable housing announcement, the Rankin government’s total off-budget expenditures have are up to $109,369,000 since June 7.

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4. Mary Simon becomes first Indigenous Canadian to be appointed governor general

“Let me begin by conveying, in the strongest possible terms, that I am honoured humbled and ready to be Canada’s first Indigenous governor general,” began Mary Simon in her televised address following the announcement of her appointment Tuesday as the 30th person to fill the role as representative for the Queen in Canada.

In her decades-long career as an advocate for Inuit and Indigenous peoples, Simon, who was born in the Nunavik region of Northern Quebec, has served as chair of Canada’s Inuit Circumpolar Council, the head of the Inuit Tapitiit Kanatami (the national advocacy organization that promotes awareness about political, social, cultural, and environmental issues that impact Inuit communities), and ambassador to Denmark.

The appointment comes at a time when the road to reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the government of Canada has come to the forefront of the national discussion, following the discovery of multiple mass graves on the grounds of former residential schools around the country. Simon spoke to the House of Commons in 2008 on behalf of the Inuit people following Canada’s official apology to students of residential schools.

“I can confidently say that my appointment is an historic and inspirational moment for Canada,” said Simon in her address yesterday. “And an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation.”

Speaking in both English and Inuktitut, Simon first thanked Queen Elizabeth II — still Canada’s head of state and, to many, the modern embodiment of the country’s history of colonialism — before speaking about the significance of her appointment as a reflection of Canada’s “collective progress toward building a more inclusive, just and equitable society.”

The country has been without a full-time governor general since Julie Payette resigned amid complaints of workplace bullying in January. The Rt. Hon. Richard Wagner had been serving as Administrator of the Government of Canada since that time, taking on the responsibilities of the office of the governor general in the interim.

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Views

1. The new normals of Canada in the 21st century

Female tick laying eggs. Photo: Vett Lloyd

In my first Morning File for the Examiner way back in December, I wrote about how one emergency — the COVID-19 pandemic — had superseded the urgency with which we approached another — the climate crisis. Flash-forward eight months: we’re (hopefully) entering the endgame of the pandemic, and the public health restrictions and state of emergency that have come with it. We’re also seeing the effects of carbon-fuelled global warming first hand as parts of the west go up in flames and heat records continue to be broken. It seems we’ve entered a new era here in Canada.

These wildfires are some of the big, obvious results of our human impacts on the environment. I think it’s what many of us pictured when we’d hear about the coming natural disasters associated with global warming. Here on the East Coast, the obvious fear is a rising tide that will consume coastlines, as well as longer, harsher hurricane seasons. At least, these are things my mind usually jumps when I think about the climate crisis.

But reading Joan Baxter’s reporting on ticks and Lyme disease in Nova Scotia this week (here are parts one and two) made me think of some of the smaller concessions we’re making in order to sustain a 21st century lifestyle fuelled by carbon-emitting resources. Lyme disease has been on the rise since the first human case was reported in 2002. Baxter cites a 2012 provincial report that found a warming climate has been contributing to an increase in the populations of Lyme disease-carrying ticks:

Climate change models predict that Nova Scotia is very close to having a suitable climate for tick establishment across the entire province. Local ecology, including suitable habitat, host availability and other factors, will determine the extent to which tick populations will expand and where new populations will establish.

When I went for my first camping trip this summer, in the backwoods of the Gaspereau Valley, I spent the entire afternoon picking ticks off my clothes, or worse, out from under my clothes. We had to tick check pretty well every 20 minutes to stay on top of them. And when I go running, I’ve started to get the occasional hop-on so I now avoid certain trails I love for fear of long grass. I also don’t know if I’m interested in eventually owning a dog in Nova Scotia anymore.

Like so many other Nova Scotians, there was a time when I didn’t think twice about ticks when I went outside. Now, they’re a part of the provincial furniture. Ticks are a fact of outdoor life now, as are tick checks, tick spray, Lyme disease tests, and a constant, nagging paranoia in the back of my mind as I walk through the woods. It’s worse than the constant threat of bears when I lived in Alberta. At least it is to me.

It feels like such a loss. And it’s happening because of our warming climate here, allowing these gross, disease-carrying things to multiply and thrive where they couldn’t before. It’s maybe my first real case of that solastalgia I’m always hearing about.

And now I’m wondering about other small changes that might make life a bit more unpleasant if we don’t curtail our emissions and hit the targets we’ve set for ourselves here — no coal power by 2030, net zero by 2050 — and keep things from getting worse. For the most part, I’ve thought about the seriously detrimental effects of global warming, like the aforementioned wildfires and rising tides, or failing crops, and potential refugee crises. But this tick thing has got me thinking about the smaller stuff we could still work to avoid.

The German government-run news site DW ran a short article two summers ago — the times weren’t as simple then as we like to think in the pandemic — about smaller things that climate change could impact. Things we might not think about that, while not disastrous, are certainly undesirable: warmer water leading to more jellyfish, earlier springs leading to longer allergy seasons, warmer nights leading to sleep loss, better environments for the breeding of bacteria and mosquitoes that could lead to more widespread illnesses, and so on.

What other small unpleasantries and grievances could we prevent being added to every day life if we face this emergency as seriously and totally as we’ve faced the one we’re almost out of now?

These things aren’t inevitable.

The province has made a lot of promises and set a few lofty targets, admirable if we make an earnest attempt at hitting them. But the roadmap for reaching them is still unclear. As the Examiner reported in May, the Sustainable Development Act and Coastal Protections Act, created by the province in order to address and fight the impacts of the climate crisis, still haven’t been fleshed out with any meaningful regulation. There hasn’t even been formal public consultation regarding either act. Work on both has been put on hold with the all-consuming handling of COVID as the province’s excuse. Too bad. I think a lot of Nova Scotians would place the threat of the climate crisis above, or at least equal to, that of the pandemic.

In all likelihood, an election will be called in this province very soon. It’ll be worth looking at what party and candidate will be most invested in legislating some regulations behind these acts, giving them teeth, and working to protect our forests and diverse ecosystems on top of that. Leadership on those fronts will be more important than ever this next decade.

Let’s get inspired to move out of this current public health crisis and get to work on the climate. Ticks and wildfires might be here to stay. But there’s still a lot left to hold onto.

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2. More on Halifax’s threats to remove temporary shelters if they’re still on city land in a week

Andrew Goodsell’s new emergency shelter, made by Halifax Mutual Aid, next to the old Halifax Memorial Library on Wednesday. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Yesterday, Zane Woodford reported on Halifax Regional Municipality’s announcement Tuesday that it will “start removing temporary shelters and people’s belongings next week if they’re still on city property.”

The reasoning for the decision to evict people from these temporary emergency shelters, which were built by Halifax Mutual Aid at the beginning of the year, came in an online statement published Tuesday morning. It said that building structures on city land is prohibited by By-Law P-600. Evicting the homeless from the only shelter they might have, however, remains permissible under all municipal by-laws.

The statement continues:

“Housing as a human right does not mean that this right can encroach upon the rights of others. With the safety of all residents as a top priority, encroachment must be acted upon by appropriate enforcement of existing laws and regulations.

Moving forward, upon being made aware of the installation of temporary shelters on municipal property, the municipality will take steps to facilitate removal or stop installation in a timely manner. It is important to remember that those experiencing homelessness can choose to accept or decline housing options and offers of support.”

I wrote a bit about my thoughts on putting more time and energy into evicting the homeless from public spaces than actually finding long-term housing solutions for them in my June 23 Morning File. At the time, police in Toronto had just forcibly removed tent-dwellers from Trinity Bellwoods park. So, I thought this morning I might follow up with my thoughts on the potential evictions happening here in Halifax. Then I read the comments from Examiner readers on Woodford’s story. I think they do as good a job encapsulating my views as anything I could write myself (particularly the second comment). So I’ll just leave them here for you.

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Noticed

This commercial is constantly on every break during the Stanley Cup Finals

Does anyone else find this new ad campaign from Tim Hortons a bit off-putting?

I’ve had to sit through it a hundred times watching hockey these past few weeks. I don’t think it’s offensive or anything like that, but the timing just could not be worse.

You’re trying to sell a summer drink by saying even Canadians in the hottest part of the country find it especially refreshing. Meanwhile, the hottest places in the country are unbelievably hot. Historically hot, actually. Large parts of BC are on fire and many people in these western communities are dying as a national heat record that had stood since 1937 has been broken multiple times in multiple places in the last two weeks, including in Osoyoos, the town featured in the ad. In fact, a new wildfire just sprung up eight kilometres from there on Monday

I know it’s not intentional on the part of Tim Hortons, and this was likely all shot well before the recent heat wave, but I can’t help but think when I watch these ads that they’re trying to sell some iced tea by saying: “The world’s on fire, why not cool down with a refreshing sugary peach drink!”

This should just be some stupid ad asking you to cool down with Tim’s, but I find myself filled with an uneasy morbid dread every time I see it.

I searched through Terry O’Reilly’s catalogue of podcasts on Under the Influence to see if he’d done anything on terrible timing in advertising. I found an episode on shifting marketing directions in COVID to be sensitive to the pandemic, and how the cultural Zeitgeist can cause ads for products like Aunt Jemima to become tone deaf, but there’s nothing I could find that applied to this commercial. He’ll have to do an episode about selling products sensitively in a climate emergency.

Or maybe it’s savvy marketing. A sort of, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em approach to a warming planet. If the world’s gonna get hotter anyway, might as well roll with the punches and use it to sell a few iced teas, right? Make it the official thirst quencher of the climate crisis. If that’s the case, you’re welcome for the free marketing here, Tim’s.

Also, as a side note: what exactly is an outdoor wine taster? That’s apparently the profession of the woman in the thumbnail photo above. Why the distinction between outdoor and indoor wine tasting? Are there two camps that wine tasters fall into and each considers theirs the true, purist form of wine tasting? Was there a split similar to Church of England and the Catholic Church? How much can the location of your wine tasting possibly play into your ability to taste the wine?

Maybe I’m just sleep deprived and overthinking all this.

These 9pm hockey games can’t keep going into overtime. And I’ve gotta start muting these commercials.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Wednesday, 1pm) — live streamed on YouTube

North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — dial-in or live broadcast not available

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Province

No meetings.


On campus

No events.


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: X-press Irazu, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Mariel, Cuba
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
11:30: MSC Annick, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
12:00: MSC Veronique, container ship, sails from Pier 36 for sea
14:00: Nord Swift, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
15:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England (itinerary)
18:00: X-press Irazu sails for sea
20;30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Montreal
22:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
Thursday, 04:00: CMA CGM Panama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Colombo, Sri Lanka; at 366 metres long and capable of carrying about 15,000 containers, this is one of the three or four largest ships to call in Halifax.

Cape Breton
13:00: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Dock (Sydney) from Corner Brook, Newfoundland
13:30: Fairway, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea


Footnotes

A series of “if’s”:

  • If you don’t like my footnotes, but appreciate the work that goes into the reporting above them, you can scroll down below to support the Halifax Examiner by subscribing or donating.
  • If you can outrun the fastest women in the world stoned, you can outrun them any time. Say what you will about the health effects, there’s no way any runner smokes to increase their speed. How the IOC considers cannabis a performance-enhancing drug is beyond me. Unless hot-dog eating competitions have become an Olympic event.
  • If you are impressed that a watermelon drink tastes like a watermelon smells, your standards are far too low.
  • If adding two creams and two sugars is the way most people like to take your brand of coffee, I’m sorry, but your coffee is terrible. Ridiculous national myth or not.
  • If the Canadiens go into one more overtime this postseason, I’ll have a heart attack way too young.
  • If they win, I’ll at least die happy.
  • If today’s Morning File was a bit bleak, I’m sorry. I think I’m a little strung out this week. Please don’t let me get you down. Like that poem says, “It’s still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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  1. It is my understanding unmarked graves were found at former residential schools not mass graves. The number of unmarked graves is staggering.

  2. Re “official thirst quencher of the climate crisis” – plus aren’t those drinks in single-use plastics?