COVID-19 Roundup: Free meals to feed positivity, university students connect to communities, mental-health tools

Yesterday, May 18, Nova Scotia confirmed three new cases of COVID-19. The province has 36,263 negative test results, 1,043 confirmed cases, and 55 deaths. Eight pandemic patients are currently in hospital, including four in ICU; 946 people have recovered from the disease.

“The lower case numbers we have seen over the last few days is encouraging, but it doesn’t mean we can let our guards down just yet,” says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, in a press release. “It is just as important now as ever to stay vigilant, follow public health advice and continue working to keep case numbers low.” 

Bubble confusion: family or friends?
On Friday, Strang and Premier McNeil announced that Nova Scotians can now form bubbles with other households (maximum two households per bubble) and socialize without distancing. But the announcement caused confusion about what’s allowed.

Originally, Strang said it applied only to family gatherings, leaving those without immediate family nearby out of luck. “This is a first step to allow immediate family to gather in small groups,” he said on Friday. “We want to reconnect families, but we can’t put anyone at risk.”

After an outcry from people who would rather bubble with a friend, the policy appears to have broadened to allow any two households to bubble, without being related. On Saturday, McNeil contradicted Friday’s family-only message, tweeting: “If you don’t have immediate family to bubble with, you can choose another household to be in your immediate family bubble.”

Feeding positivity
As tragedy after tragedy rocked her province, Karen MacNeill of Tatamagouche wanted to do something to help people feel better. So four nights a week, she’s making free meals for seniors in her area. “Some try to give me money but I won’t take it,” she says. “If they insist… [I] donate it to another local charity.” Now others are helping too, with donations rolling in and four volunteers joining her to cook and deliver the meals. She tells Raissa Tetanish about it in this report for The Light.

Alyssa Spridgeon

University students stay connected to their East Coast communities
When university classes abruptly ended in March, East Coast university students returned to their homes across the country and around the world. “It was very sudden,” recalls StFX student Alyssa Spridgeon. “We got the email saying the school was closing. We got up the next day and started moving out.” When she got home to Ontario, she was lonely, feeling like she’d be abruptly ripped out of her Nova Scotian community.

In response, she created “The Xaverian Pen Pal Project.” Now she and her classmates are corresponding with seniors and elementary students in Nova Scotia. So far, 140 people have signed up. “I think it’s really valuable as StFX students to build more one-on-one relationships in the community we love,” she tells Drake Lowthers of The Reporter.

Tools for mental health
Amid fears of pandemic isolation exacerbating anxiety and stress remote-medicine experts are working on ways to help people from a distance. In Pictou County, a community group has partnered with New Glasgow’s RiverStone Psychology and Counselling to deliver Jerk Brain. The series of five-minute videos features psychologists Tammy Kontuk and Greg Purvis. “Our goal was to bring a little bit of comfort and mental-health information to anybody who has access to a screen,” says co-organizer Jonathon MacKay. Jackie Jardine reports for The Pictou Advocate.

Reach out
Know a community group, good cause, or inspiring local story we should share? Email the editor.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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