Roundup: COVID update, soaring fuel prices leave families looking for help, C.B. man faces sexual assault charges, Milton oak endures for centuries

Milton's iconic oak tree marks its 200th birthday this year. Photo: Elizabeth Klaas

Plus: Expert James Golemiec is used to making common-sense safety choices, so he’ll keep right on wearing his mask

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, with the World Health Organization tallying 1,138,093 confirmed new cases globally in the last 24 hours. The real number of infections is likely much higher though, as many jurisdictions (including Nova Scotia) are now withholding daily data, making it impossible to get an accurate picture of the disease’s spread.

So far, COVID has killed 6,170,283 people worldwide, including 37,935 people in Canada and 263 Nova Scotians

Fuel prices strain relief efforts
The Pictou County Fuel Fund, which helps lower-income families pay their heating bills, has seen an explosion in demand for its aid this year.

George MacLellan, who chairs the fund’s board of directors, points to a jump in fuel oil prices from about $1 per litre in November to $1.60 today.

“We supported 255 families this season as opposed to 162 last season,” he said. “There has been a huge demand, and the price of everything has gone up … It’s a volunteer organization, and we don’t get government money. The money comes from communities and groups, but mainly from individuals.”

Steve Goodwin reports for the Pictou Advocate.

Cape Breton man faces sexual assault charges
Forty-five-year-old Jason Frank Seymour is scheduled to appear in Port Hawkesbury Provincial Court today to enter his plea on two counts of sexual assault, two counts of sexual interference, and a count of sexual exploitation.

Cpl. Chris Marshall says that on Jan. 23 Port Hawkesbury RCMP received a complaint “alleging that a man had sexually assaulted a female youth.” He says the assaults happened in 2021 between May 17 and Sept. 1.

Jake Boudrot has more for the Reporter.

James Golemiec

A simple way to stay safe
When he ended most pandemic-related public health measures in the province last month, Premier Tim Houston also nixed Nova Scotia’s mask mandate, with government now just recommending that people mask in public, instead of requiring it.

Safety expert James Golemiec is keeping his protection, though.

“I’ll continue to wear a mask at work,” he says. “I’m used to taking safety precautions, and it’s just another piece of clothing to put on, like my steel-toed boots. I’ll also wear it in crowded public places to protect myself and others around me who are at higher risk … Despite what some people wish to believe, the pandemic is still raging. In November 2021, scientists detected a variant dubbed ‘Stealth Omicron,’ which is even more contagious that the current COVID Omicron variant, and it expected to make up at least half of the infections in the near future.”

Read more in his latest Unravel Halifax column.

Heart of oak
Two hundred years ago, a young girl named Mary Letitia Smith planted an acorn in front of her home on West Street in Milton. Two centuries later, the mighty oak that grew from it is still thriving, a beloved local landmark.

“That tree alone reflects a long heritage of the many generations that have lived on that street and on that property,” says Linda Rafuse, director of Queens County Museum. “It’s an important historical gem.”

Kevin McBain has the story for LighthouseNow.

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