Roundup: Omicron in N.S. — public health restrictions return, storied farm changes hands, recording Pictou Co.’s history

Tim Houston. Photo: CNS

Plus: The pandemic that just won’t end — what is COVID doing to our mental health and how will we recover?

With soaring infection rates and 40 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Nova Scotia, the provincial government is reinstituting many public health restrictions.

“We don’t know enough about this variant to let things go,” Premier Tim Houston says in a press release. “I’m not taking chances with the lives of Nova Scotians or the ability of our health system to care for people. We need to act quickly to get things under control.”

Effective today, measures at schools include:

  • School sports are limited to team skills training only,
  • No assemblies or concerts,
  • No mixing of classes,
  • Essential visitors only,
  • Masks are required indoors and outdoors where people can’t distance,
  • Limited cafeteria access.

And starting at 9 a.m. on Dec. 17 (and lasting until at least January), the following restrictions will be in effect provincewide.

Distance and mask requirements

  • Distancing of two metres is required indoors and outdoors, except among people in the same household or a consistent social group of up to 20 people.
  • Places like fitness and recreation facilities, retail businesses, malls, museums, libraries, and personal services can operate at the maximum capacity possible with physical distancing.
  • Food and liquor-licensed establishments must have distance between tables and a limit of 20 people per table.
  • People must be seated to remove masks for eating or drinking. All other mask requirements for indoor public places remain, including wearing them when seated for other activities.
  • Masks are required in workplaces where people can’t distance, plus common areas, areas where people are serving the public, and areas with poor ventilation.

Gathering limits

  • Indoor and outdoor informal gatherings are limited to 20 people from the same household or consistent social group. Distancing and proof of vaccination are not required. Masks aren’t required except in indoor public places.
  • Gathering limits of 50 per cent of capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors and 250 outdoors apply to social gatherings, regular faith services, weddings, funerals and their associated receptions and visitation, special events, meetings, training, festivals, and event audiences hosted by a recognized business or organization.
  • A limit of 60 participants indoors and outdoors applies to sports practices, games, and regular league play. Tournaments are banned. Distancing isn’t required.
  • A limit of 60 participants indoors and outdoors applies to professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances. Competitions are banned. Professionals must have a plan for their workplace.
  • Children aged 11 and younger continue to be restricted from entering Nova Scotia to participate in sports and cultural events and from participating in them outside Nova Scotia.
  • Officials will consider customized plans for large venues such as Scotiabank Centre, Halifax Exhibition Centre, and Halifax Convention Centre.

Long-term care

  • Long-term care residents are limited to two visitors at a time.
  • Visitors can have quick close contact (like a hug) but must otherwise distance.
  • The requirement for visitors to wear masks and be fully vaccinated, except for end-of-life visits, remains.
  • Residents can only leave the facility for overnight visits if fully vaccinated.

Health officials reported 114 new cases of COVID in the latest update, including 40 confirmed cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Of the new cases, 55 are in the Central Zone, 52 in the Eastern, five in the Western, and two in the Northern. Six people are hospitalized, including two in ICU.

Citing a backlog of testing results from the St. Francis Xavier University outbreak, health officials haven’t released an active-cases count for several days. The outbreak has also spread into Parkland Antigonish, a seniors’ living community. Two residents and two workers at the retirement home have tested positive, as has a worker at the adjacent long-term care site. Jake Boudrot has more for The Reporter.

Dayna Lee-Baggley

Learning to live with COVID
Amidst the daunting prospect of another pandemic Christmas, many Nova Scotians are overwhelmed and disappointed.

“We all thought the vaccine was going to be our ticket out of this, that there would be an end, and it would be sooner rather than later,” says clinical psychologist Dayna Lee-Baggley.

She’s seeing the results in the COVID group therapy sessions she leads. “People are feeling disappointed,” she says. “There’s a good chance we’re going to have to figure out how to live with COVID … Had this been World War Three, we would have gotten rid of all kinds of expectations and just focused on the war effort. But what we’ve done is just added the stress of the pandemic on to the stress of everyday life. Many people are struggling.” 

From learning to live with COVID to a host of other issues, Janet Whitman looks ahead at what 2022 holds for Halifax.

Storied farm changes hands
Basil Oickle’s Garden Lots farm is best known as the base of operations for Lunenburg’s Trot In Time horse and buggy rides. After 25 years running the business, the 63-year-old is selling to John VanderBrugge and Donna Williams of St. Catharine’s, Ont. He plans to stay on during the transition, but is looking forward to giving up the commitment.

“You’re committed to the barn, twice a day, 365 days out of the year,” he says. “Whether you’re sick or not, you must go to work … I am just so overwhelmed and pleased Trot In Time buggy rides — the legacy — will continue.”

Gayle Wilson interviews him for LighthouseNow.

Recording Pictou County’s history
Growing up in Trenton spurred Don Cosh to compile the town’s history.

The result is a two-volume edition called The Way We Were. The first volume shares its overall history, while the second volume focuses on its sports history.

“I wrote my first book on Trenton 40 years ago, before computers,” Cosh says. “It was a lot of work to get information. We sold 1,000 copies. People were looking for copies but not enough to reprint it. I always wanted to do a more comprehensive history of the town. Even as a young kid, I felt I wanted to write, to write about things. Every town needs to have their history written, so I figured why wait for someone else to do it when I have the means to do it.”

Steve Goodwin reports for The Pictou Advocate.

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