Roundup: StFX outbreak triggers hundreds of new cases, Lunenburg calls for firefighter vax mandate, Christmas contest fuels Pictou charities

A ring from StFX. Students celebrating getting their X-rings triggered one of N.S.'s biggest COVID outbreaks.

Plus: How last summer’s events in Halifax are building a new generation of advocates for the unhoused

Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 total seems set for an abrupt jump, as health officials announced 129 new cases on Saturday and 111 on Sunday. They didn’t announce the total of known active cases (that’s set for later today), but barring hundreds of recoveries, it’s likely to climb dramatically.

Andy Hakin

St. Francis Xavier University is the source of the outbreak, connected to recent parties and events (some school-sanctioned), where many attendees flouted public health rules. As the disease continues to spread from the university, exposure notices and warnings are mounting in the wider community, with several local businesses affected. The Reporter has more.

University president Andy Hakin, who initially drew criticism for minimizing the seriousness of the outbreak and blaming “unauthorized events,” changed public-relations strategies over the weekend, offering Nova Scotians an apology.

“I have heard from our students, faculty and staff, their families, business owners, and residents,” he says in a Facebook post. “I understand the anger that is being felt after working together for so long … I am so sorry. None of this was intended.”

Hakin also announced over the weekend that he and two other senior administrators from the school are among the infected.

Premier Tim Houston and Dr. Robert Strang are scheduled to webcast an update today at 3 p.m.

Calls for mandatory firefighter vaccinations
Some members of the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg council wants the provincial government to make COVID vaccination mandatory for firefighters.

“There are some firefighters in the province that do have mandatory vaccinations,” Tom MacEwan, MODL’s chief administrator, explained to a recent council meeting, citing mandates in HRM and Cape Breton. “The voluntary firefighters are outside the scope of both the province and two regional municipalities.”

Keith Corcoran has more for LighthouseNow.

Christmas contest fuels Pictou charities
The deCoste Performing Arts Centre is hosting a tree decorating contest, with Westville, New Glasgow, and Pictou all contributing.

“Each (town) selected an organization of choice to raise money for, and patrons vote on their favourite trees with a monetary donation,” says deCoste marketing manager Jennifer MacLennan. “It’s all about giving back to the community. The community has been so generous to us with our library project.”

Raissa Tetanish reports for The Pictou Advocate.

Building a housing advocate
On Pauline Dakin’s street in Halifax there are homemade posters in a couple of windows — including at her house — that say, “Everyone deserves a place to live” and “Affordable Housing Now.” 

Her 25-year-old daughter and nine-year-old neighbour Alta got together to make those colourful placards before going to one of last summer’s housing protests. They’re stark reminders that housing has become something people of all ages and backgrounds worry about in Halifax.

Alta’s mom says her daughter can see a small park nearby which over the last year became home to people in a Mutual Aid shelter and some tents.

When it was cold, snowy, or rainy, Alta would look across to those emergency shelters and worry about the people living there without any of the usual comforts of home: heat, plumbing or electricity, family. Alta’s poster-making and activism grew from empathy. 

Both young women, like so many other Haligonians, are wondering how they’ll ever afford homes in their city, or even make rent.

See Dakin’s latest Unravel Halifax column.

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