It’s been one month since NS abandoned Covid restrictions in most public spaces. Excluding hospitals, schools, clinics, nursing homes and the like, people in our province do not have to wear masks—not on buses, not in malls, not in restaurants, not in bars, not in grocery stores.
Tim Houston, the Tory premier who has been in office for barely nine months, likes it that way. In fact he made sure it happened as soon as possible; every province was going to no-masks, no distancing and he refused to be left behind. He said it was time everyone fended for themself; time to take personal responsibility; time to well – time to grow up.
However, the New York Times (!) just released the statistics up to April 20. According to their go-to statisticians at Johns Hopkins University, the two most Covid-saturated provinces in Canada now are Nova Scotia and Ontario. As for BC (where I am presently on holiday), the sixth wave hasn’t really hit yet. BC has the lowest numbers in the country. The case numbers in Nova Scotia are way up. In fact, according to the Times, Covid cases have increased by 65%.
Today’s Halifax Examiner reveals that in NS’s Central Health Zone (which includes Halifax), more than 4,500 people are waiting for surgery – half are waiting for knee or hip replacements. This isn’t a minor issue. As a province with one of the highest median ages in the country , many seniors and people over 50 must wait – even years — for orthopedic surgery. This is a problem for two reasons: one has to do with the pain and immobility suffered by people who need hip and knee replacements. Delaying surgery for years affects a person’s ability to walk, climb stairs, garden, shop and even stand at the stove to make dinner. People in pain get less exercise, sit around more and don’t go out. Second, the person’s pain and reluctance to “get out there” (as the government ads exhort us to do) adds another mental health stressor at a time when Nova Scotians are awash with stress. Much of the stress comes from the effects of two years of enduring the Covid Pandemic. There are fewer in-person visits with friends and family; cancellation of public events has become a “thing”; and there is the very real worry about travel. In anyone’s books, delaying (or denying) important surgeries is a red flag.
No beds, no orthopedic operations
According to Jennifer Henderson’s recent report in the Halifax Examiner, the 30 beds that were devoted to serving orthopedic patients post-surgery in the Central Zone have been cut first to 12 beds. Now with Covid ramping up again, those dozen beds are needed for Covid patients. So there are no more beds for orthopedic cases that need overnight stays.
Last week 577 health care workers across Nova Scotia (out of 21,000 plus) were absent from work –because of Covid—either they had Covid, or a close family member was exposed to Covid, or something like that.
Somehow Houston and his gang at Province House refuse to look at the facts.
At least they won’t look at the facts that show thousands of ordinary Nova Scotians are suffering because of delayed treatments and surgeries. Sure this Covid “blip” will be over when the weather improves (think: June) – as the number of cases typically falls dramatically. But once again– the wait-list for surgery has grown hugely. Though Covid infections may not affect many in the summertime, older people who are wait-listed for orthopedic surgeries won’t be able to enjoy the summer, or even next fall let alone next winter as their pain and anxiety mount.
While Houston hopes for an early change of season (skip spring –let’s go directly to summer), which will change the Covid case numbers, he has also done something quite cynical.
In dismissing the need for a mask mandate, cancelling mandatory social distancing rules and refusing to limit the size of gatherings – Houston is ensuring that Covid’s hold is really an iron grip.
How difficult is it to simply wear a mask in public indoor spaces? Surely we have grown used to it. But no, the government wants to pander to people’s sense of inconvenience, even outrage, at any new Covid restriction.
Houston is sacrificing the health of the elderly, the disabled, the immune-compromised on the altar of small business and business in general. Now since March when the merry-go-round of capitalism has started again in earnest – Houston will not let the province step off– or even slow down.
In his view: coffee shops need their latte-drinkers; Tim Hortons’ needs its profits; malls need their shoppers; and gyms need their fitness buffs. It’s more than that: nightclubs, restaurants and bars want their patrons back; younger people need their good times and their social outlets. And fortunately for them, because of their age, they are the ones who can afford to be less cautious about catching Covid. But it is unfortunate for the rest of us.
For the first time in two years, the feds are allowing cruise ships to dock at Canada’s ports. 152 of them are set to dock in Halifax this season. That amounts to more than 50,000 passengers spending money in the Halifax area. After all, tourism is one of the top economic drivers of the province – in 2019 the industry generated revenues of almost $3 billion; it employed 39,000 people.
Houston listens to his master’s voice
But let’s get back to politics. It seems with Nova Scotia politicians it has always been thus: whatever they have to do to satisfy their small, medium and large sized business masters has to be done. Though now we know that every mask that is trampled under foot, every mask that is not worn on a bus or in a taxi, every wine and cheese reception, and every workplace that has ditched Covid protocols is making our people sick, sicker and yes –some fatally so. Are we learning to “live with Covid” or die with Covid?
Latest trends: From Apr 13-20, 2022. From the New York Times. Statistics the Times uses are from the Centre for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
|Cases daily average||Per 100,000 population||14 day change|
Featured Image above: Wisdom of the Universe, by Michif artist Christi Belcourt (2014). To read more about this Canadian artist see this. Wisdom is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario.