Finding unity in a ‘New Normal” in issues that impact everybody.


#MLAMonday & #peopleB4politics & #NovaScotiaStrong

There has been little political discussion on Covid-19 and impacts to health and social resources despite increasing rates of illness, hospital overcapacities, and concerns on indoor air quality.  Our elected representatives have been mostly silent while over 1 person a day in Nova Scotia loses their life to a preventable infection.  It’s impacting education, employment, financial resources, and access to healthcare with an estimated 2.5% of residents currently affected by Long Covid. Covid is now the 2nd leading cause of death in Canada.

And yes, there are many issues of concerns these days, but all of them have been impacted by Covid-19, related business continuity (or lack thereof), and governments refusal to promote our collective resilience by adapting to a New normal.  There are few who would argues that kids need to be in school, that normal healthcare operations must be a priority, and that economic stability for both business and families is of critical importance.  Frankly MLA’s will discuss all these things without ever pointing to a failure to adapt to Covid-19 as the larger systemic issue. 

Instead, fingers are pointed at the Feds on issues that are in provincial jurisdiction (and despite Federal dollars provided to address Covid-19), while launching some excellent PR on the $351,000,000 surplus that was originally a -$585,000,000 deficit.  That is almost a Billion dollars that the NS government magically found in 6 months.  Where did that even come from?  Why has it not been invested in health or social resources for many falling through the gaps?  Why can’t we guarantee sick days?  Why are people paying out of pocket for healthcare that is supposed to be covered by MSI?   Why aren’t we better supporting small business owners that continue to close due to economic hardship?

What is particularly brilliant about this divisive PR and public discourse is that it is causing rifts amongst residents, as if we are somehow competing for resources funded by our own tax dollars.  I struggle with the concept that there is so much available surplus while Nova Scotians have been living through the worst wave of Covid-19 in terms of deaths, longer hospitalizations, rates of infections, even more precarious housing, interest rate increases, and inflation.  So instead of collectively looking for solutions that address multiple problems or asking our elected reps to lead, we are debating with each other.  It sure makes being a politician easier in some troubling times.

But what if these times didn’t have to be so troubling? 

What if people had the basic information to make informed choices on what kind of measures were good for their family?  What if people could afford to stay home while sick without being afraid of losing their housing? How is better indoor air ever quality a bad thing? How has housing, poverty, and healthcare issue gotten even worst while government claims these billion dollars to be an indication of a better economy?  Why aren’t we spending some of this $350,000,000 to help with these issues?  What happened to getting through this together and #NovaScotiaStrong?

What no one is saying is that good social health is good public health is good economic health.  These are not separate issues: they are all social determinants of health which is supposed to be the underlying premise of public health.  And all these important issues have been impacted by the pandemic and current refusal of government to stop testing Einstein’s theory of insanity.  The things we have all been doing in the last 6 months are not producing the results that we need to move forward as a community.  Our elected leaders need to step up to meet that challenge, and that starts with some hard conversations.

So, are you concerned about the impact Covid-19 has had on any of these issues?

  • Housing and food costs
  • Interest rate increases
  • Hospital overcapacities and backlog of critical health service
  • Insecure employment
  • Childcare issues
  • Lack of sick days
  • Air quality in public spaces
  • Inclusion and accessibility of services for those at high-risk
  • Impacts to mental health services
  • Repeated infections in frontline workers
  • Long Covid as a disability
  • Covid-19 and racial disparities
  • Critical issues with supply chains
  • The impact of climate change on emerging infectious diseases

Then email or call your MLA as part of #MLAmonday and tell them your concerns.  Ask them to start working on the critical issues that matter most to your community.  Their job is to put #peopleB4politics.

Or share your concerns and tag us on twitter @Covid19DataNS with the hashtags #MLAmonday and #peopleB4politics. Might as well tag @TimHoustonNS as well!

For anyone interested in how Covid-19 has impacted social determinants of health and health equity, I’ve started a page collecting reports and publications on the this. Feel free to contact our Twitter account if you have a paper to recommend!

Saltwire Article: Nova Scotia’s ‘living with COVID’ strategy backfires

SHIRA LURIE • Guest Opinion. The original article can be found HERE.

Shira Lurie is an assistant professor of history at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post and The Toronto Star. You can follow her on Twitter @ShiraLurie.

We once showed the world how to successfully live with coronavirus — so what happened?

In March, when Nova Scotia announced the removal of COVID-19 protections, Premier Tim Houston and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang explained that it was “time to move away from two years of crisis response” and learn to “live with COVID.”

Four months into this strategy and it is clearly not working. Half of all Nova Scotian COVID deaths have occurred after the government lifted protections — that’s over 200 people, including 35 primary caregivers. Case counts are up, wastewater levels of the virus are up, hospitals are overcrowded, businesses are short staffed, and we now have the second highest COVID hazard risk in the country.

We are not successfully living with COVID. But we once did.

For the first half of the pandemic, Nova Scotia was one of the few places where life continued in relative normalcy. In November 2020, the New York Times published a piece exalting the province as “a COVID-free world” that showed “beating back the virus is possible.”

“It’s baffling to watch the epidemic in the United States spin wildly out of control, knowing it could easily be different,” observed the author.

Nova Scotia created and maintained this oasis by keeping case rates low. The government utilized protections like mask mandates, widespread testing and quarantines to minimize transmission and so avoid the crushing exponential growth suffered elsewhere.

Rather than curtailing individual freedom, these measures enhanced it. While other provinces locked down, Nova Scotian schools and businesses remained open. While other places saw mass suffering and death, Nova Scotians remained relatively unscathed.

But when the government changed, so did the province’s pandemic approach.

In his first few months as premier, Tim Houston flirted with ending protections, like asymptomatic testing and mask mandates, but ultimately reversed course. Then Omicron hit in December and triggered an unprecedented spike in cases.

But rather than making a firm commitment to bending the curve, the government articulated a new tolerance for high case rates in the province. They then used this tolerance to lift protections, predictably fuelling further transmission, which they spun as acceptable. “The increase in positive tests and hospitalizations shows the impact of both a highly infectious strain of COVID-19 and the second phase of our reopening,” Dr. Strang acknowledged in March. But while “we have more community transmission,” he insisted that “none of this is unexpected.”

The fallout

The unchecked spread of COVID through the population has resulted in increased death and disease. It has pushed an already strained health-care system to the brink, with hospitals cancelling surgeries and reporting ER overcrowding, long wait times and closures. Staff shortages for other critical services, like transit, have resulted in route cancellations. And these short-term disruptions likely pale in comparison to the future social impacts of long COVID and post-COVID health issues that one in five people will experience, even after a mild case.

“The reality is, the more we let COVID control our daily lives, the longer we will see the negative impacts,” Houston has maintained. But lifting protections has clearly put COVID in control and the negative impacts abound.

Despite the government’s insistence, it’s obvious that life has not returned to normal. That’s because COVID is not the monster under the bed — the danger that recedes the less attention you pay it. It is the forest on fire; ignoring it only makes it less manageable.

Of course, new variants will continue to pose a challenge. But the only way through the pandemic is to return to the strategy of keeping cases low. It will dramatically reduce the excess suffering and death of Nova Scotians. It will relieve the pressure on health care and other services. It will save many people from the long-term consequences of this virus.

We have proven it is possible and we can do it again.

The opposite — the idea that society can function properly amid the unchecked transmission of a highly contagious airborne virus — is a fairy tale. And it won’t come true no matter how hard we wish it.

If we are going to live with COVID, we need to also live in reality.

As taken from the original article