Roundup: Gov releases back-to-school plan & Phase 5 details, shark in C.B. attack was likely great white, author delves into local true-crime tales

Premier Tim Houston. Photo: CNS

Health officials promise that when public-school students return to class on Sept. 7, they’ll find both ongoing public health measures in place and a return to a more familiar routine.

“Our schools are as safe as our communities and thanks to safe and effective vaccines, and Nova Scotians rolling up their sleeves, our schools have an additional layer of protection this year that will allow students to have a much more normal year,” Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says in a press release. “We continue to have core public health measures in place to protect everyone in our schools, including wearing masks, frequent hand washing, staying home if you’re sick, and sanitizing high-touch surfaces.”

Masks are required at all times for anyone inside a school building or bus. People can remove them to eat and drink, to participate in physical activity, and for breaks when people are physically distanced. When the province enters Phase 5 of its reopening plan (see below), schools will transition to optional mask-wearing.

The government also says to expect:

  • Full in-class learning
  • Continued use of outdoor learning and small-group instruction, and enhanced use of technology
  • Full resumption of music classes, band, sports, plus use of cafeterias, lockers, and cubbies. There will also be extra-curricular activities and community use of gyms, following core public health measures
  • Ongoing inspections and maintenance of school ventilation systems
  • Mental health support programs will continue
  • Non-essential visitors will be permitted but officials encourage virtual meetings instead
  • Parents and guardians of pre-primary and Primary students will be able to visit schools on their child’s first day

If at-home learning becomes necessary, the approach will be similar to the 2020–21 school year.

Experts say the plan reflects the current understanding of how COVID spreads, and the epidemiology Nova Scotia has experienced so far.

Schools have not been a significant source of infection transmission and I’m confident the plan for this year has appropriate measures that will continue to keep students and staff safe,” says Dr. Jeannette Comeau, paediatric infectious diseases physician and medical director of Infection Prevention & Control at the IWK Health.

Dr. Robert Strang. Photo: CNS

Targeting Sept. 15 for Phase 5
Nova Scotian are aiming to have Nova Scotia move into the fifth and final phase of its reopening plan on Sept. 15, with border measures continuing as most other public health restrictions end.

To start Phase 5, officials say they want to see little spread of COVID-19 in the province, with 75% of Nova Scotians fully vaccinated. Right now, about 70% of Nova Scotians have had both shots.

“My main priority is to work with public health to continue to protect Nova Scotians in what we all hope are the final months of this pandemic,” premier-designate Tim Houston says in a press release. “For now, living with COVID-19 means leaving border policies in place through the fall while lifting most other restrictions. The requirement to self-isolate after travel has been the main line of defence to protect Nova Scotians from COVID-19 and that won’t change for travellers who are not fully vaccinated.”

International travellers will continue to follow federal requirements. Nova Scotia’s current border policy of isolation based on vaccination status and testing will remain in place for travellers coming from outside Atlantic Canada. As of 8 a.m. on Aug. 25, the border policy will also apply to people coming from New Brunswick, due to growing COVID-19 activity there.

Workers and students who frequently cross the border with New Brunswick and people who need to make quick trips will not have to self-isolate as long as they follow the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick travel protocol. People moving to Nova Scotia or coming for vacation or an extended stay will have to complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in and self-isolate based on vaccination status and testing.

When Phase 5 begins, the only restrictions for the general population within Nova Scotia will be related to management of COVID-19 cases. For example, people with symptoms must still get tested, isolate while they wait for results and continue to isolate if they test positive.

“Removing restrictions and mandatory measures does not mean COVID-19 is gone,” Strang says. “It means that our vaccination rates are high enough that we can start living safely with the virus without the restrictions and measures that were needed … Thanks to vaccination, there is much less risk of wide spread of the virus and severe illness. Even though we expect to see cases and small outbreaks in people who aren’t vaccinated, our overall vaccination coverage should limit the impact.”

Masks will still be required for staff in long-term care facilities. Health-care facilities will continue to set their own policies for masks and visitation. Businesses and other organizations may also set their own mask policies.

As of the latest government update, Nova Scotia has 17 new known active cases of COVID-19, 11 of which are in the Central Zone.

Mary Simon

From the beach to the capital
A group of Caribou River neighbours didn’t realize that the Mary they spent countless hours with seaglassing on the beach and enjoying deck visits on a lazy afternoon was the same Mary who would become Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General.

And then they were invited to Ottawa for Mary Simon’s installation as Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Canada, the head of the federal government, and commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces.

“There were only 38 people at Rideau Hall and about 44 in the Senate, so we felt very fortunate to even get an invite,” recalls neighbour Red MacKean. “It was just thrilling—something you would never imagine you would ever get the opportunity to do.”

Jackie Jardine has more for The Pictou Advocate

Attack shark was likely great white
Dalhousie University professor Fred Whoriskey says the shark that recently bit a woman swimming in Inverness County was likely a great white. The swimmers were offshore, near a common seal habitat, which is significant to researchers in understanding why the rare attack happened.

“It is kind of an ideal hunting ground for white sharks, which like to find these islands where the seals haul out, where there’s a deep area close to the haul-out site so that they can lurk down deep,” he explains. “The prey is silhouetted against the surface. When a vulnerable animal is not paying attention, that’s when the shark will strike.”

Jake Boudrot interviews him for The Reporter.

Dean Jobb

Local true-crime tales
With his latest book, Madness, Mayhem & Murder: More True Tales of Crime and Justice from Nova Scotia’s Past, author Dean Jobb again delves into Nova Scotia’s history.

“I had done Dangerous, Devious & Deadly last year—another collection of true crime stories from Nova Scotia’s past—and I had some more stories I had done over the years, some fairly recent,” Jobb says in an interview with LighthouseNow. “I think readers like them because there’s drama and interesting characters and a way to learn about the past.”

One of the most riveting tales in the new book is about “the Chesapeake incident,” which saw a Confederate raider make an unwelcome visit to Nova Scotia, fleeing Union forces during the Civil War. “I’ll leave readers to discover how it’s ultimately resolved,” adds Jobb.

Read an exclusive excerpt from the book about that incident in this recent Halifax Magazine post.

Need to know
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This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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