A Year Dominated Everywhere By Covid Reminds Us That We Are Fortunate To Live Here

Every year at this time the article includes a report on comments from readers.

The 2021 inbox received many suggestions for topics to be addressed including: how work would operate in a post-covid world; the pay arrangements for doctors; how the governments should be planning to pay for all their promises; attracting international students; various low carbon electricity sources including nuclear; and “the awful Christmas tree light display” at City Hall.

The list includes some worthy topics but most of them have not been addressed. Some may be covered in 2022.

An article about Trump’s enduring impact on Republicans earned both plaudits and disparagement from readers south of the border. One noted that “Unfortunately, politics has become so vitriolic, many hate each other for their views.”

Arguing that the proponents of a development at Owls Head should have a chance to make their case earned the expected derision from those who were offended by then Minister Rankin’s underhanded participation in the process, and others who would have opposed it no matter how the idea had been raised. In the end the opponents have had their way.

An April commentary bemoaned the feeble efforts of the Liberal government to bolster the number of tradespeople. If anything the article understated the problem.

In two June articles I argued for a faster reopening, pointing to the experiences of other provinces.  Most feedback was supportive: “I appreciated your somewhat contrarian viewpoint today on COVID reopening.” “I hope your piece in the Herald this morning lights a fire under Strang and Rankin.” “I agree completely with your analysis of the situation.”

There also was criticism: “Quite simply Mr. Black you’re all wet and out in left field.” In the longer term the critics were right. In June New Brunswick had a much better track record than Nova Scotia and was promising a full opening at the beginning of August. They did well until mid-September but since then their position on all counts rapidly deteriorated.

As Christmas neared last year case counts were consistently in the single digits. Nobody was in hospital because of covid. The first doses of vaccine were arriving. On December 18th there were fewer than 50 active cases.

Yet fear was in the air. The holiday season was marked by severe restrictions, particularly in Halifax where restaurants were closed from December 21st to January 10th. Travel between regions was limited.

The 2020 yearend article in this space concluded with a hopeful prediction. “This time next year we will be with as many friends and family as we want and sing Christmas songs as loud as we want, wherever we want. The season will be that much more joyful when we remember all the things we could not do this year.”

More knowledgeable sources had similar views. On December 12th American Presidential adviser Anthony Fauci acknowledged that the pandemic had lasted longer than he expected.

Case counts everywhere have been spiking distressingly for the past week. Early indications are that the vaccines are not very effective in preventing transmission from the Omicron variant. They do appear to be helpful in preventing severe disease, especially for those who have received a booster dose.

So far in Nova Scotia severity of infection has been low. There were 13 covid patients in hospital at the beginning of December, of which five were in intensive care. As of December 17th there were only seven reported to be in hospital, of which two were in ICU. Dr. Strang reported that there were just two hospitalizations so far from the outbreak.

Nova Scotians have been world leaders in vaccine take-up with over 95% of those 12 or older having received at least one dose, and younger children now being added. Boosters for health care workers and older Nova Scotians have exceeded 70,000 doses. That and the younger age distribution of the cases so far should dampen the pressure on health care resources.

This week marked an important milestone as the province’s population reached one million people. The growth in 2021 will be about 18,000 people, benefiting from both interprovincial migration and immigrants, many of whose arrivals were postponed in 2020. They will require more than 7,500 homes. Nova Scotia must pick up the pace of construction.

As we hunker down for another constrained holiday the choices of so many to become new Nova Scotians remind us that we are in one of the most fortunate corners of the planet. At a time when we are frustrated that this pandemic lingers so long, that is something to be thankful for this Christmas.


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