Roundup: Houston cuts COVID protections, racists briefly disrupt virtual African Heritage Month event, Blayre Turnbull’s dad reflects on Olympic gold, tree trimming safety tips

Premier Tim Houston. Photo: CNS

Plus: Recalling our past as war rocks Europe

Premier Tim Houston is accelerating his government’s plan to remove Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 public health protections, with most now set to end by March 21.

“The restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic are a balancing act between keeping people safe and preventing other harms, and we knew we wouldn’t need them forever,” he says in a press release. “Now, it’s time to stop pulling the big levers, like broad restrictions, and shift to personal actions and responsibility.”

The premier hasn’t elaborated on what he means by personal responsibility, or how people’s widely divergent understanding of the concept will help protect the chronically ill and other vulnerable people.

The first change comes on Feb. 28, when the government lifts the requirement to show proof of vaccination before participating in non-essential, discretionary events and activities. On March 7, gathering limits will increase and businesses like bars and restaurants can return to normal hours of operation. And on March 21, all protections, including masking, are scheduled to end.

Dr. Lisa Barrett. Photo: Submitted

Dalhousie infectious disease expert Dr. Lisa Barrett shared some observations on the “personal responsibility” strategy last evening.

“Masks mitigate transmission and do not preclude gathering or daily living. There are no data that masks cause economic harm in any sector, but emerging data that removing them unfairly places a burden of isolation on the vulnerable,” she tweets. “With current viral uncertainty, known benefits of masking, as well as the relative lack of economic or societal harm, we ask our vulnerable to maybe assume too much risk to convenience the rest of us.”

The provincial government is also cutting back the flow of information about COVID in the province, replacing the daily update with a weekly report, starting March 4.

Health officials estimate there are 1,898 active cases of the disease in Nova Scotia, with 200 new lab-confirmed cases reported yesterday. But those numbers don’t reflect COVID’s true extent. Houston’s government recently stopped widespread testing and follow-up, saying that the pervasiveness of the Omicron strain requires focusing on vulnerable areas like hospitals.

Health officials also reported three new COVID hospitalizations yesterday, for a total of 49 people getting treatment in specialized units, including 11 in ICU. There are also 125 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 178 who contracted the disease in hospital.

Since the pandemic began, COVID has killed 191 people in Nova Scotia, and 36,161 across Canada.

The banal brutality of war
Overnight, Russia invaded Ukraine, a dangerous escalation of its long-simmering campaign against the Eastern European democracy.

It seems unimaginable that Europe is again experiencing war, after the ravages the continent endured in the last century.

Over the years, I’ve made a couple visits to the site of some of the First World War’s bloodiest battles, in Belgium and France. The physical and spiritual scars are still fresh, and it’s impossible not to think of them as fire and hell rains down on Ukraine.

I shared these reflections with Halifax Magazine in 2015.

Racists crash virtual event
A group of racists briefly disrupted a virtual African Nova Scotian Music Association Zoom event on Feb. 16, before organizers regained control.

Elizabeth Yeo is a vice-president with St. Francis Xavier University, which was one of the event’s presenters.

“After a few minutes it started up again and (we) resumed the celebration of the great culture and music of our African Nova Scotians,” she says. “At a time we were celebrating the culture and the contributions of African Nova Scotians to our province to have this happen, it is deeply, deeply angering and disappointing.”

Drake Lowthers has more for the Reporter.

Ron Turnbull. Photo: Steve Goodwin

Pictou County’s gold medallist
Ron Turnbull recently watched his daughter Blayre win gold in women’s hockey at the Beijing Olympics, and he’s still on a high, happy for the whole team’s success.

“They spent four years getting ready and were together just about every day,” he says. “I think they did what they wanted to do most of the time. They were outshot by the U.S. but they played them to the outside a lot. Top to bottom they were the best team out there.”

Steve Goodwin reports for the Pictou Advocate.

Tree trimming safely
If you have trees on your property, our wild winter weather has likely taken its toll on them. Before you get on the ladder and start trimming them, it’s worth making a plan to do it safely.

In his latest column for LighthouseNow, James Golemiec shares expert advice, and the story of a recent brush with death while performing routine yard work.

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