Roundup: Houston cuts COVID protections despite deadly week, the Mass Casualty Commission’s discouraging start, 10 guns stolen from Pictou Co. home, more South Shore land conserved

Portapique shooting victims' families march in Truro in 2020. Photo: Raissa Tetanish

Plus: Artist Félix Bernier explores how redevelopment is changing the character of Halifax

Last week was one of Nova Scotia’s deadliest of the pandemic so far — with the province tallying 17 more COVID-19 deaths — but that isn’t slowing Premier Tim Houston’s reopening plan, which begins its second phase today.

Acknowledging that the disease remains active in the province, Houston and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, now urge Nova Scotians to rely on personal responsibility rather than public health protections. The government is also cutting back on the pandemic information it releases, replacing the daily COVID update with a weekly summary.

Premier Houston (left) and Dr. Strang. Photo: CNS

Strang urges those at high risk from COVID, and the people around them, to test regularly.

“The pandemic is not over, and we need to continue to evolve our testing strategy,” Strang says in a press release. “Through the Omicron wave, rapid tests were used mainly to diagnose COVID-19 among close contacts and people with symptoms. We are now encouraging Nova Scotians to also use rapid tests as a way to help protect vulnerable people in our communities as we move toward a state of living with COVID-19.”

According to the provincial website, there are 2,650 active cases of the disease in Nova Scotia, with 294 new lab-confirmed cases reported on Friday.

There are currently 45 Nova Scotians hospitalized with COVID and getting treatment in specialized units, including 13 in ICU. There are also 117 people who were admitted to hospital for another reason but tested positive for COVID (or were in a COVID unit but no longer require specialized care), and 158 who contracted the disease in hospital.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, COVID has killed 208 Nova Scotians and 36,843 people across Canada.

Mass Casualty Commission off to discouraging start
Hopes that the Mass Casualty Commission will provide a clearer picture of how police responded to the 2020 Nova Scotia shootings weren’t bolstered in the first week of public hearings, as lawyers representing RCMP officers continue their fight to exclude them from testifying.

The RCMP lawyers argue that testifying would be too traumatic for the officers, even though documenting and speaking about crimes is a regular police duty.

Michael Scott, a lawyer representing most of the victims’ families, tells the commission that the families “are extremely frustrated at the prospect of having to justify seeking facts in a fact-finding process.”

Janet Whitman sums up last week’s hearings for the Reporter. 

Guns stolen from Pictou County home
Pictou District RCMP say that earlier this month, someone stole 10 guns (including a revolver, a pistol, a rifle, and shotguns) and a crossbow from a home in Three Brooks. Investigators believe the suspect was travelling in a black sedan.

The Pictou Advocate reports.

Félix Bernier

Our changing city
The area around Agricola Street is transforming at its fastest pace in decades, with new developments forcing people out of neighbourhoods they’ve been in for years, quickly transforming the community’s character.

Artist Félix Bernier is among those wondering what that change means for his city, a theme he explores in a recent art installation.

2454 Agricola St. was a response to the boom of urban development in Halifax,” he explains. “It involved re-creating the entrance door of Obsolete Records in its old location, using latex and wood. This project is a meditation on how gentrification pushes lower income families, small businesses, and local communities further away to the outskirts of Halifax.” 

See the work and learn more in the new issue of Unravel Halifax.

South Shore coastline protected
The Nature Conservancy of Canada has bought 157 more hectares of land along the Port Joli peninsula, giving it 787 hectares in the area.

“It adds to a current land assembly and it’s always great to do that because bigger conserved areas are better than small, scattered ones,” says Doug van Hemessen, the organization’s Nova Scotia stewardship manager. “It’s a lot better for conservation of species and biodiversity.”

The area is home to a number of rare and endangered lichens, and it is a potential habitat for endangered moose and piping plovers. It includes a variety of ecosystems including salt marshes, tidal flats, white sandy beaches, and stretches of intact forest.

Kevin McBain reports for LighthouseNow.

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