COVID-19 Roundup: Northwood under siege, Oktoberfest cancelled after 40 years, studying how we cope, rural internet inadequacies

Yesterday, April 29, Nova Scotia recorded 20 new cases of COVID-19, plus another pandemic death at Northwood. That raises the totals to 935 confirmed cases and 28 deaths province-wide. There are currently 11 cases in hospital, including three in ICU.

The heart of the storm
The pandemic is hitting hardest at Nova Scotia’s long-term care homes, in particular at Northwood in Halifax, which has seen two-thirds of the province’s COVID deaths. “As of April 28, there were 10 licensed long-term care homes and unlicensed seniors’ facilities in Nova Scotia with cases of COVID-19, involving 227 residents and 97 staff,” says a press release from the province. Premier Stephen McNeil adds: “We will continue to work diligently with our partners to make sure we do everything we can to protect residents and staff at Northwood and all of our long-term care homes from this terrible disease.”

Strength and connection
When author Steven Laffoley moved here three decades ago, he learned two things about Nova Scotians: they’re resolute in the face of adversity and they feel deep connections to each other. He recalls driving in the U.S. on a busy freeway, when a driver in the neighbouring lane rolled his window to shout greetings, because he saw the “Canada’s Ocean Playground” licence plate, and wanted to talk—however briefly—with a fellow Bluenoser. “When I got to the [toll] booth, the attendant told me I didn’t have to pay, because the car in front of me had just covered the toll,” he says. “I never saw the fellow again, but I have always believed that his paying my toll likely made him feel a little closer to home.” In this warm, poignant Halifax Magazine essay, Laffoley muses on how the virtues of kinship and resolve will serve Nova Scotia, as people cope with recent tragedies of the mass shooting and COVID-19.

Pandemic cancels historic Oktoberfest
For 40 years, the Oktoberfest in Tatamagouche has been a rite of autumn. Now, like its well known counterparts in Munich and Kitchener, the 2020 edition is cancelled. “This has been a big part of our lives for 40 years,” says festival co-founder Claire Mueller. “In view of what’s going on with the pandemic… We just can’t take the chance.” As Raissa Tetanish reports for The Light, it’s not just a blow to beer lovers: the event is a big supporter of local charities and funds bursaries for high-school graduates.

Share your experiences
Lives have changed dramatically in the last six weeks, in ways few ever imagined, and academics are going to be busy for years studying how we coped. Karen Blair, a psychology professor at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, is looking for people to take part in a detailed survey and share their experiences. Participants will help researchers and may find taking part a helpful way to process the upheaval. “I think people are looking for … outlets where they can record their thoughts,” she tells Drake Lowthers from The Reporter. “We’re trying to give people a bit of a way to cope.”

Inadequate internet
In many rural Nova Scotian communities, internet access is unreliable, with low bandwidth and frequent service interruptions, problems more keenly felt when people are isolated or working at home. That’s why the County of Pictou is calling on other municipalities for support after Develop Nova Scotia yanked funding for service improvements in the area. County Warden Robert Parker says the appeal is a last-ditch effort. “We’ve held back on this since early January,” he says. “We played it out and played it out trying to get [Develop Nova Scotia] to listen to common sense.” Heather Brimicombe reports for The Pictou Advocate.

Help good causes spread the word
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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