Roundup: Another COVID death, untaxed properties costing Richmond Co. thousands, Pictou mayor remains wary of Northern Pulp, virtual book clubs thrive through pandemic

Illustration: Colleen MacIsaac

Plus: The tender work of a death doula — with gentle guidance, the journey through life’s final stage can be peaceful and comforting

A man in his 80s from the Central Zone has died from COVID-19, provincial health officials reported yesterday.

“It is tragic to see the virus take another life, especially when we know we can prevent this from happening,” Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says in a press release. “Please use this as a reminder to get vaccinated, wear a mask, and reduce your social interactions to keep omicron from spreading.”

So far, the disease has killed 115 Nova Scotians.

Health officials estimate there are 6,796 active cases of COVID in the province, announcing 616 “lab-confirmed” new cases yesterday.

Those numbers likely don’t reflect the disease’s true extent, though. Premier Tim Houston’s government stopped widespread testing, saying that the pervasiveness of the omicron strain requires focusing on vulnerable areas like hospitals. That means many cases in the general population are now going unreported.

There are 58 Nova Scotians in hospital with the disease (including four in ICU) with 15 new admissions and 16 discharges tallied yesterday. Again, however, that number doesn’t give the full picture, as it only includes people admitted for COVID, not people who tested positive after entering hospital for other reasons.

Strang and Premier Tim Houston are scheduled to webcast an update today at 3 p.m.

The tender work of a death doula
A new movement is changing the way we look at life’s final chapter. End-of-life doulas (otherwise known as death doulas or death midwives) are seeing growing demand with the newfound death wellness movement.

It started in 2003 with Henry Fersko-Weiss in New York City. He was the manager of Continuum Hospice’s social workers when he identified a gap between medicine and hospice care: neither catered to end-of-life patients’ personal, spiritual, or emotional needs.

He went on to create the first death doula program based on the approaches of modern birth doulas. Like birth doulas, death doulas create a plan with their clients that outlines their wants and needs while the client can give informed consent. They are active listeners that help dying clients to find peace at the end of their lives.

In the new issue of Unravel Halifax, Brooklyn Connolly talks with local death doula Cindie Smith about how work, and how it resonates in this pandemic era.

Jim Ryan. Photo: Steve Goodwin

Northern Pulp concerns continue
Pictou Mayor Jim Ryan is repeating his opposition to Northern Pulp’s latest plan to pump treated effluent from its pulp mill into coastal waters.

Ryan describes a document that the company registered with the province on Dec. 7 as part of its environmental assessment as “vague promises and commitments to minimum standards.” Northern Pulp plans to treat effluent onsite, burn sludge in the pulp mill’s power boiler, and pipe the effluent into Pictou Harbour.

“We have all been anxiously (waiting) for the filing of the registration document,” Ryan says. “I see exactly what I had been expecting considering the rhetoric we have been hearing from Northern Pulp representatives for the past few months.”

Steve Goodwin reports for the Pictou Advocate.

Hundreds of properties untaxed, says councillor
Richmond Municipal Councillor Michael Diggdon says the local government is losing hundreds of thousands in tax revenues because there are properties of “large value … that are not being taxed, or where no taxes are being paid on the property.”

The council first discussed the issue in May 2021, without resolving it.

“In all fairness to residents who pay taxes in the County of Richmond, it only seems fair that we look at those properties and we either figure out who owns them, put them up for sale, or have whatever is required,” Diggdon says. “We have many acres of property — some off lakes, some off rivers, some off (the ocean), some with houses, some that are vacant, some that are non-vacant, and not paying taxes.”

Jake Boudrot has more for the Reporter.

Dartmouth’s Megan Brydon is an enthusiastic member of Emma Bent’s new book club. Photo: Bruce Murray

Virtual book clubs thrive through pandemic
COVID changed the way we connect, and in many ways, sparked new ideas and opportunities to bond. While stowed away in Dartmouth during quarantine, avid reader and wine lover Emma Bent came up with Read Between the Vines, a monthly subscription book club box. Bent launched the club in fall 2020.   

“I became a particularly voracious reader during the pandemic because I was spending more time at home. I was getting restless and needed an outlet,” she says. “I love to read, and although there are other book subscription boxes, none of them integrated a book club aspect. I wanted something that would not only keep me accountable – like a weekly book club, but that would also allow me to meet some new people.”

Shannon Webb-Campbell has the story for East Coast Living.

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