Spike in HRM cases impacts MODG

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
December 2 2020

“We need to flip the switch on COVID-19 right now,” said Premier Stephen McNeil last week after 37 people tested positive for the virus in one day.

And flip the switch he did with the province tightening restrictions on gatherings in the Halifax area and asking all Nova Scotians to stay away from the provincial capital, unless a trip is absolutely necessary.

The spike in COVID cases was not unexpected, but vigilance will ensure a full lockdown, like the one the province entered last March, will not be required once again. Local government, businesses and citizens in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) are all altering their plans to help alleviate the impact of the second wave of the pandemic.

Last week, the MODG announced that all of its organized public events would be cancelled until further notice. Angie Tavares, MODG director of recreation, told The Journal on Friday [Nov. 27], “We want to be sure; we don’t want to be responsible for an increase in our area. We want to stay ahead of things; we want our community to stay safe so we can hopefully have a somewhat regular Christmas.”

Tavares added that the cancellation of events was especially difficult for seniors. For some, it’s the only social outing they have, she said. “It’s really hard for us to make those calls but we’re doing it to keep people safe, so that hopefully in the new year we can come back strong and be together.”

Some local businesses have also changed their plans due to the upsurge of cases in Halifax. Operators of Quarry Cove Air B&B in Halfway Cove decided to close all bookings until at least the start of 2021. They had a reservation for 10 people from the Halifax area last week and contacted the guests to cancel the dates.

“With the recent surge [in COVID-19 case] we are not comfortable having people coming into the area when it is not essential,” said Quarry Cove’s operators.

Local crafters and artisans have also had their prime sales’ seasons disrupted. Many Christmas craft markets in the area have chosen not to run this year, but many of those who had planned to roll out their wares are pursuing different avenues for sales.

The Christmas Village Market in Whitehead was cancelled last week, following the lead of the MODG. Kristen Conway Sangster, a member of the Whitehead Community Association that hosts and organizes the sale, told The Journal in an online interview that, “Although disappointed, the vendors were very understanding, it seems most committed knowing the possibility of the risk in cancellation. The association members were heartbroken to cancel such an admired event. However, it felt necessary to follow in the direction of MODG and other community events that announced cancellation. It is extremely important to keep the health of our community … first and foremost. Hopefully, the Christmas Village Market 2021 will be the biggest of all.”

Some of the vendors that would have been at the Whitehead event have turned to marketing their products on social media, and local pop-up shop Curio Emporium will host a number of the vendors over the next few weeks. The small house at the end of Whitehead Rd. is the home of the Emporium, which is run by the Conway sisters.

The impact of increased cases in the province has also affected families in a significant way. Carmen Barron is very active in her granddaughter Bella’s life. She travels to Dartmouth biweekly to bring Bella to her home in Manchester, Guysborough County. This past weekend, in any normal year, they would have been celebrating Bella’s birthday with her Guysborough friends and getting ready to take their annual trip to Cuba.

Barron said of Halifax, “We’re avoiding it totally … It was a decision that she, and I and her grandfather — the three of us on FaceTime – made together. She was pretty stoic … but she was pretty upset, her mom said.”

Barron is now hoping that the next big event on the calendar won’t be disrupted by COVID.

“We’re not going to be picking her up again until the 23rd and that is only if everything is clear…. It certainly has impacted our family; having to open presents on Facetime and stuff like that.”

But Barron is quick to point out that despite these setbacks, “We’re lucky, we are so lucky compared to people whose grandchildren live out West. They don’t see them as often as we do…. You learn not to take anything for granted anymore, which is positive. You have to look for some of the positives.”