News

1. Community spread

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

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Eight new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia yesterday (Thursday, Feb. 25) — the highest number of new cases in a day since Jan. 12, when there were also eight new cases.

One of the new cases is in Nova Scotia Health’s Eastern Zone and is related to travel outside Atlantic Canada.

The other seven cases are in the Central Zone; four of those are close contacts with previously announced cases, and the other three remain under investigation.

There are now 27 known active cases in the province, and one person remains in hospital with the disease, and that person is in ICU.

The active cases are distributed as follows:

• 11 in the Halifax Peninsula / Chebucto Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 5 in the Dartmouth/ Southeastern Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 4 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network in the Central Zone
• 3 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network in the Eastern Zone
• 3 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network in the Western Zone

There remains one other case that isn’t ascribed to a community health network.

Nova Scotia Health labs conducted 2,969 tests Wednesday.

As of end of day Wednesday, 30,748 doses of vaccine have been administered — 18,982 first doses and 11,766 second doses.

Here are the new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 3.1) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

And here is the active caseload for the second wave:

Last night, Nova Scotia Health issued the following potential COVID exposure advisories:

Anyone who worked at or visited the following locations on the specified dates and times should immediately visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have COVID-19 symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access or if you have other symptoms that concern you.
For the following locations, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.
  • Walmart (6990 Mumford Rd, Halifax) on Feb. 19 between 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
  • Dollarama (16 Dentith Rd, Halifax) on Feb. 19 between 5:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.
Regardless of whether or not you have COVID-19 symptoms, those present at the following locations on the named dates and times are required to self-isolate while waiting for their test result. If you get a negative result, you do not need to keep self-isolating. If you get a positive result, you will be contacted by Public Health about what to do next.
  • Chebucto Inn Restaurant (6151 Lady Hammond Road, Halifax) on Feb. 13 between 12:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, Feb. 27.
  • The Wooden Monkey (1707 Grafton Street, Halifax) on Feb. 19 between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5. Back-of-house staff are not required to isolate while waiting for their test results.
  • Cha Baa Thai (1511 Bedford Hwy, Bedford) on Feb. 19 between 6:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, March 5.

Here is the updated potential exposure map:

Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang have scheduled a COVID briefing for 1pm today.

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2. Irving

Irving Shipyard. Photo: Halifax Examiner

An employee at Irving Shipyard, who works in the Assembly Hall & Module Hall, has tested positive for COVID-19. All of that employee’s work crew were sent home yesterday and directed to self-isolate and schedule a test.

A company statement said that contact tracing has determined that there is “no identified risk” to other areas of the shipyard — office areas, Ship Repair, Ship 2 or Ship 3 at Land Level — and so those shifts will continue as usual.

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3. Get tested

A woman gets swabbed at one of the rapid testing sites. Photo: Lisa Barrett

Whenever there’s a spike in daily new cases, as there was yesterday, there’s an inclination to condemn unnamed people for violating the rules and criminally introducing the virus into the community. But we can see these spikes, and even spread in the community, without anyone violating any of the public health rules.

There are broad exemptions from the self-isolation rules for travellers for essential workers like truck drivers and cops. They’re free to go shopping and out to eat. But it doesn’t even have to be essential workers not self-isolating that is causing community spread.

Consider the student at Acadia University who travelled in from out of province, self-isolated as required for 14 days, and even tested negative. He had followed all the rules, was responsibly careful, and at the end of his quarantine period was allowed to rejoin public life like the rest of us, so went to class and so forth. But two days later, he fell ill, and got tested again, coming up positive. Public Health determined that he had contracted the virus before coming to Nova Scotia, and it lay dormant for more than 14 days before expressing itself in large enough numbers to test positive. It happens.

Thankfully, that student didn’t infect anyone else, so far as we know. But there could be other people who likewise go through the 14-day self-isolation and then become infectious. And what if they’re asymptomatic, as many people with the virus are? And what if that person’s immediate contacts are infected but are also asymptomatic? You could see a chain of three or four infections before someone pops up with symptoms and no one knows what the original source of the virus was.

It’s a squirrelly virus, this covid, and doesn’t care about our desire to track it or our propensity to place blame.

Which is why instead of putting our efforts into arguing about locking up virus spreaders or coming up with increasingly unworkable plans to segregate truck drivers and the like, we should all get tested. That way we can start finding the asymptomatic carriers among us before many more are infected.

There are lots of options for asymptomatic people to get tested. The rapid-testing pop-up sites the next few days are:

  • Friday, Feb. 26 — Eastern Passage Cow Bays Lion Club 65 Hornes Rd (DIRECTIONS) from noon to 7:30 p.m.
  • Friday, Feb. 26 — Halifax Convention Centre, Argyle St. entrance (DIRECTIONS) 3:30 to 9:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Feb. 27 — Halifax Convention Centre, Argyle St. entrance (DIRECTIONS) 3:30 to 9:30 p.m.

You can also go here to schedule an appointment for the regular lab testing. Asymptomatic people just answer “no” to the various symptom questions and click “I want a test” and Bob’s your uncle.

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4. Vaccines

How is Nova Scotia doing on the vaccine front?

Most people (not the woman at the bank the other day going on about the government forcing chemicals into her, but most people) want the vaccine like yesterday, and if not yesterday, as soon as possible. But the vaccine rollout appears to be going something close to plan.

In early January, the province published this table of “expected” vaccine deliveries to Nova Scotia:

Note: each vaccinated person must receive two doses of vaccine. Source: Province of Nova Scotia

At the time, it was made clear that those numbers were very tentative and could change depending on manufacturing glitches and the like. And indeed, two issues came up that affected delivery of vaccine to Nova Scotia: Pfizer temporarily reduced production in order to retool its plant to increase production, and the federal government diverted Moderna vaccines from the provinces (including Nova Scotia) to the northern territories.

So in early January, the plan was that Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout would see 140,000 doses of vaccine received by the end of March, with 75,100 of those doses received by the end of the February. Here we are at the end of February, and 47,280 doses have been received, with 14,700 more anticipated this week, for a total of 61,980 doses. That’s about 17% less than hoped for.

But while the province doesn’t say which kind of vaccine is arriving, it appears the increased Pfizer production has materialized. If each of the next four weeks sees 14,700 doses of vaccine delivered, and crucially if the large shipment of 28,200 Moderna vaccine arrives the week of March 15, then Nova Scotia will have received 148,980 doses by the end of March, so more or less on schedule.

The Department of Health has told the Examiner that it will have an announcement about vaccine delivery numbers next week, so we’ll know then if these numbers hold up.

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5. Pedestrian push buttons

A pedestrian push button, a.k.a. beg button, in the north end of Halifax. Photo: Zane Woodford

“Pedestrians will have to push a button to cross at fewer intersections in the municipality later this year following a vote on Thursday by council’s Transportation Standing Committee,” reports Zane Woodford:

There are 278 signalized intersections (those with traffic lights) across Halifax Regional Municipality, Taso Koutroulakis, the city’s manager of traffic management and traffic authority, told the committee in a presentation during its virtual meeting on Thursday.

Koutroulakis hasn’t really changed his mind on the push buttons, telling councillors their removal would result in traffic delays, increased vehicle emissions, driver frustration, and in some cases, delays for fire trucks. He said the municipality can’t use a “cookie cutter” approach to the buttons, removing them everywhere.

But he brought a compromise to the committee, removing the requirement for pedestrians to push a button at more intersections.

The committee voted unanimously in favour of that staff recommendation, to direct Koutroulakis to change the buttons at 23 intersections to no longer require the push button in any direction, and at another 71 to only require the button to cross the main street.

Click here to read “Councillors approve staff plan to reduce — but not eliminate — use of pedestrian push buttons.”

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6. Tourism

“The ‘devastating’ impacts of COVID-19 on Atlantic Canada’s tourism sector and the policies that could support a post-pandemic recovery were discussed during an online forum hosted by the MacEachen Institute on Thursday,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

“There’s a new player in town, and that’s actually public health. I would argue that public health and the government is now a critical stakeholder in the supply chain for the development of tourism,” Ross Jefferson, president and CEO of Discover Halifax, said at the beginning of the online event.

Jefferson, one of four panelists leading the Atlantic tourism recovery discussion, described the tourism system as one that has evolved over decades. He said while it works well when things are “at a steady state,” that’s not the case during shutdowns like we’ve seen during the pandemic. He said things aren’t going to return to normal at the flip of a switch.

I think you need a degree in buzzword-slinging in order to work in the tourism promotion business, but one of the more interesting things for me to come out of the discussion was the impact of the pandemic on operations at the Halifax airport:

2020 route plan from Halifax airport.
Actual flights servicing the Halifax airport today.

While that reduction is having obvious impacts on the tourism industry, I don’t see how any discussion about recovery can be divorced from the environmental impacts of the airline industry. Seems we’re just ignoring that because, well, no one has an answer to it. Maybe someone else will solve the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from planes with biofuels or some such, so long as the price of flying doesn’t go up, eh?

Click here to read “What does a recovery of the tourism industry look like?.”

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Government

City

Budget Committee contingency date (Friday, 9:30am) — if needed; live webcast, with captioning on a text-only site

Province

No meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Krishnamurti and the Contemporary World Crises (Friday, 11am) — a weekend Zoom conference featuring Nayha Acharya, from Dalhousie University.

​The world-renowned Indian philosopher and educator J. Krishnamurti has offered some of the most novel insights into the nature of human consciousness and our conflicts. In this conference, Canadian and Indian scholars, educators, and alumni of Krishnamurti schools will engage in a cross-cultural and multi-disciplinary dialogue aimed at understanding contemporary world crises (including the COVID-19 pandemic) through the lens of Krishnamurti’s philosophical and educational ideas.

Mental Health and Criminal Courts in the Arctic (Friday, 12:10pm) — Priscilla Ferrazzi from Queen’s University and the University of Alberta will talk via Zoom. 

Saint Mary’s

Academic Well-Being of Racialized Students (Friday, 6:30pm) — online pre-book launch, featuring Benita Bunjun, Tammy Williams, Wayne Desmond, Isalean Phillip, Vanessa Mitchell, and Timi Idris.


In the harbour

02:30: Fouma, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
05:30: Niagara Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
10:00: Dalian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
11:00: Niagara Highway sails for sea
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails for St. John’s


Footnotes

I have a pressing deadline so must run. Sorry for the short Morning File.

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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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4 Comments

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  1. Re #3, Get Tested – And the public shaming on social media (a form of bullying?) hurts us all because more people will lie to contact tracers.

  2. I get that the government has little control over how many vaccine doses get here, and don’t expect doses to be administered the day they arrive. But putting together the figures in items 1 and 4, only about 65% of the doses received have made it into arms. From my (totally non-expert!) perspective that seems… low?

    1. Half of doses delivered are held back 3 weeks for the second doses. So they’re here, but not yet delivered. There are debates over whether this is the correct strategy, but Public Health is sticking to it, so far.

  3. RE: You should get a COVID test, even if you have no symptoms

    Maybe I should, but I won’t be. I went to the pop-up clinic in Dartmouth North in November (tested negative). Nothing in my life has changed since then – I mask up when I must, stay distant from those I don’t live with, wash my hands, and have a very limited number of indoor contacts. I do go out and about every day, sometimes just for a walk and other times to run errands while getting a walk. I check the daily updates to see if any place I may have been shows as a potential exposure site and will follow directions should that happen (knock on wood, it hasn’t yet). Until then, my opinion is that testing without a reason (and a small spike in cases isn’t reason enough for me) is a waste of time and resources.

    I know some will disagree me. Please share your reasoning (respectfully, of course), and I will consider it. I may not change my mind, but there’s always a chance I might.