Roundup: COVID variant count climbs, immunization update, Queens Co. tax break for non-profits, Pictou Co. ‘food forest’ grows, new doc for Strait area

Photo: CNS

Nova Scotia has 26 known active cases of COVID-19, with five new cases reported in the latest government update. Three new cases are in the Central Zone and two in the Western Zone. One person is hospitalized in ICU with the disease.

The National Microbiology Lab confirmed five new variant cases: three more of the U.K. variant and two of the South African variant, all in the Central Zone. Nova Scotia has had a total of 11 known cases of the U.K. variant and eight of the South African variant. “There is no sign of community spread from the variant cases,” says the government update.

Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed Nova Scotia tests on March 8 and 252,798 tests since the second wave of the pandemic began in October.

As of March 8, health-care workers have dispensed 40,231 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Nova Scotia, with 14,542 people getting the second jab that completes the inoculation.

Premier Rankin. Photo: CNS

Vaccine update
Nova Scotians aged 63 and 64 will be the first group eligible to get the AstraZeneca COVID-19, vaccine starting March 20, says a recent government announcement.

Officials plan to have the vaccine available at 25 locations across the province (see the list here) on a first-come, first-served basis.

“We have a solid plan to offer the AstraZeneca vaccine to a specific age group as a start,” Premier Iain Rankin says in the press release. “This vaccine provides another tool in our fight against COVID-19 and builds on the roll-out that is already underway in our province as we work to vaccinate all Nova Scotians.”

The government is working with the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia and Doctors Nova Scotia, aiming to dispense 13,000 doses of the vaccine before April 2.

Studies show the AstraZeneca vaccine is about 62% effective. By way of comparison, the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective and Pfizer is 95%.

“All COVID-19 vaccines provide good protection against severe COVID-19 illness,” says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “Having the AstraZeneca vaccine will allow eligible Nova Scotians to have an option to receive an earlier immunization.”

Queens Co. waives taxes for non-profits
The municipal government for Queens County is wiping out about $240,000 in tax bills for local non-profit groups.

Every Nova Scotian municipality has the option of waiving taxes for non-profit groups. According to Mayor Darlene Norman, Queens has been doing so since municipality amalgamated in 1996.

“Council agreed at that time that one way to assist the non-profits is to make them tax exempt,” she explains.

Kevin McBain reports for LighthouseNow.

HMS Tribune

Halifax’s first marine disaster
In 1797, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Tribune arrived at the mouth of Halifax Harbour.

Impatient to make port and lulled by calm weather, the captain decided not to wait for a harbour pilot, and ordered the ship to sail on, before heading down to his cabin.

“The master realized they were dangerously close to Thrumcap shoal. Efforts to manoeuvre away failed and the thud of the ship hitting the shoal brought Captain Barker back on deck,” writes Bob Gordon.

The ship remained stuck on the rocks as the water worsened, thwarting rescuers, except a Herring Cove boy, who jumped in his row boat and saved eight men.

See the full story, originally published April 2015, in the free Halifax Magazine archives.

Pictou Co. “food forest” grows
After a successful start, organizers of the Scotsburn Community Food Forest are looking for funding to help their project keep growing. “What’s in phase two depends on the funding support we receive,” says Raina McDonald. “Signage would really help.” That would require about $2,500, she adds.

Food forests are similar in philosophy to community gardens, but instead feature nut and fruit trees, berry bushes, shrubs, and habitats for pollinators like bees and butterflies.

Raissa Tetanish reports for The Pictou Advocate.

Dr. Tobechi Okeke

New doctor for Strait area
A family doctor is setting up practice in Port Hawkesbury, alleviating local concerns about Nova Scotia’s provincewide physician shortage. Dr. Tobechi Okeke will start at the Island Gateway Medical Clinic on March 15.

A graduate of the Nigeria College of Medicine, Okeke immigrated to Canada with his family in 2014. “I am an experienced family physician and … I do have also some experience in emergency medicine,” he says. “To say the least, I’m ecstatic. It’s been long road to get back into practice here in Canada.”

Jake Boudrot interviews him for The Reporter.

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This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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