Roundup: N.S. pauses AstraZeneca use, Rankin finally offers paid sick time, Bridgewater police investigate anti-mask protest, Canso spaceport developer gets financing

Premier Iain Rankin. Photo: CNS

Nova Scotia has 1,621 known active cases of COVID-19, with 149 new cases and 119 recoveries reported in the latest government update. According to the government press release, workers have cleared the case backlog and numbers are now up-to-date.

There are now 73 people in Nova Scotian hospitals with the disease, including 14 in ICU.

As of May 11, health-care workers have dispensed 387,683 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, with 38,152 Nova Scotians getting the second dose that completes inoculation.

Photo: CNS

AstraZeneca pause
After months of urging Nova Scotians to vaccinate as soon as possible, the provincial government announced yesterday that it’s halting use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing growing concerns over rare instances of related blood clots. (Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says there have been no such complications in this province).

“There is a global study underway to determine if an individual who took their first dose of AstraZeneca can mix their second dose with either Pfizer or Moderna,” says Premier Iain Rankin. “That is an important piece of science we’re awaiting, and until that study is completed, we are putting a pause on the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

He adds that the change shouldn’t disrupt the inoculation schedule, as there are ample supplies of the other vaccines on hand, and many people were already cancelling their AstraZeneca appointments in favour of the other options.

Strang and Rankin had little comfort for people who have already received AstraZeneca and are worried about what will happen with their second dose, saying they’ll have to wait until the research is complete (which they hope will be in June), to find out what happens next.

Rankin relents on paid sick time
Ever since the pandemic began, public health officials have been urging Nova Scotians to stay home when they feel unwell, a request that often created dilemmas for workers who don’t get paid if they don’t work. Now, 14 months after COVID-19 first hit, the province is offering paid sick leave for workers without such coverage.

According to a government press release, the $16-million program will offer up to four days of paid sick leave (including time for testing and isolating while awaiting test results) for about 100,000 workers, covering people who can’t work remotely. The program covers wages up to a maximum of $160 per day.

“We want employees to stay home if they are feeling unwell and follow public health protocols to help reduce the spread of COVID,” Rankin says. “Paid sick leave means they won’t have to make a difficult decision between their health and the health of others, or their own financial well-being.”

In this Halifax Magazine feature, published in February 2020 just before COVID-19 hit Nova Scotia, Andrea McGuire explores the tough choices that contract and gig-economy workers face without paid sick time.

Photo: Keith Corcoran

Bridgewater police investigate anti-mask protest
Bridgewater police say they’re investigating after a photo from a recent anti-mask protest shows participants flouting public health laws by not distancing or masking.

“Our service did not support or offer encouragement for the rally,” says a press release from the Bridgewater Police Service. “While monitoring the rally, our officers did not observe any breaches of the Health Protection Act regulations that were current at that time … After BPS officers left the area to continue a separate criminal investigation, we subsequently learned from images on social media that social distancing regulations were breached. Those breaches are actively being followed up by investigators.”

But it’s unclear if the scofflaws will face legal consequences. “That will depend on what we can review off that original photo,” says Bridgewater Police Service deputy chief Danny MacPhee.

Keith Corcoran reports for LighthouseNow.

Financing for Canso spaceport
Maritime Launch Services, the company with the long-shot plan to build a spaceport and launch commercial rockets from Canso, N.S., has secured $10.5 million in financing for a launch vehicle and site construction.

“Today’s announcement … advances our initiative,” says president and CEO Steve Matier. “Along with the creation of the launch site, we are looking forward to hiring a talented team and contributing indirectly to economic growth, including local infrastructure improvements and increased tourism.” The Reporter has more.

Matier also thanks locals for supporting the project, but that support isn’t universal. Many worry about the environmental impact and question the economic spinoffs. Alec Bruce considers those views in this Halifax Magazine article, originally published October 2019.

Will the Women’s World Hockey Championships return?
Twice since the pandemic began, Nova Scotia has made and cancelled plans to host the Women’s World Hockey Championships, leaving some sports fans worried that when the event does finally proceed (it’s now slated for August), another province will be the host.

“The lone villain was COVID-19,” writes veteran sports insider Hugh Townsend. “The timing of the decision to not play—so close to the first puck drop—was nobody’s fault. It only took a few more days to see why the cancellation was absolutely necessary.”

In his latest column in the Pictou Advocate, the long-time sports insider explores the tough choices public health officials faced, and the consequences for fans and competitors.

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This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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