Masks, now more than ever

As we gawk at the absolutely shambolic response to COVID-19 south of the border, we Canadians smugly assume it’s largely because the Americans are locked in a culture war over wearing masks while – aside from a few yahoos – we wear them with pride.

Yeah, about that

Canadians are more likely than Americans to praise their government’s handling of COVID-19 and keep their hands to themselves in public, but less likely to wear masks when out of the house, according to recent polling data.

[…]

Nearly three in five Canadians – 58 per cent – reported as of June 11 that they were regularly wearing face masks when out in public.

This was one of the lower rates of face-mask usage, as only six of the 25 other countries surveyed reported less take-up of the masks: the United Kingdom (31 per cent), Australia (21 per cent) and the four surveyed Scandinavian nations, with Denmark at the very bottom at three per cent.

Even Americans reported being more likely to wear masks in public than Canadians. Since June 11, the American mask-wearing rate has risen from slightly above two-thirds to 71 per cent.

Americans who believe masks contain secret 5G antennae get all the media attention, but overall, our Yankee cousins have adopted mask-wearing at least as well as we have.

(An aside: can you imagine how awesome it would be if your mask really did have a 5G antenna? Cell phone reception would be great!)

So why is coronavirus spreading so quickly in the United States while Canada has kept its numbers low? Likely because Americans didn’t really take to masks until after it was too late. Texas made masks mandatory in early July, but by then its COVID-19 numbers were already skyrocketing.

Here in Halifax, most of the people I see in stores and on the bus or ferry aren’t wearing masks. (Halifax Transit is making them mandatory starting this Friday.) Even at Costco, where they’re handing out masks at the door, most shoppers don’t seem to be wearing them.

Our numbers have remained very low in recent weeks, but there are signs that COVID-19 is coming back in other provinces, especially Quebec and Alberta. It seems like only a matter of time before it re-emerges in Nova Scotia, and if people wait until then to mask up, it’s already too late.

Will COVID-19 get as bad here as it did in the United States? It’s unlikely – a universal health care system, less political polarization and a more sparsely distributed population should spare us that fate. But it doesn’t have to get as bad as it is in America to still be really, really bad.

If it’s close in Texas…

The FiveThirtyEight polling average for the Lone Star State has Joe Biden ahead of Donald Trump by the slightest of margins – literally, one-tenth of a percentage point – and one new survey gives Biden an even bigger lead:

Former Vice President Joe Biden has built a five-point lead over President Donald Trump in Texas as unease over Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic mounts, a new Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler poll has found.

Biden had 46% support to Trump’s 41%. If the general election were held today, the outcome could depend on the 14% of voters who were undecided or named someone else.

Biden’s lead, which comes after he and Trump were tied 43%-43% in The News and UT-Tyler’s April survey, is significant, if barely: The poll, conducted June 29 through July 7, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.24 percentage points.

The story behind Biden’s slight bulge is the softening of the Republican incumbent’s support among independents and “weak partisans,” said Kenneth Bryant Jr., a UT-Tyler political scientist who helped design the poll.

“While President Trump has and still enjoys near universal approval from Republicans, and overwhelming disfavor from Democrats, he has lost considerable ground among the folks in the middle, who may ultimately decide who wins Texas in November,” Bryant said.

For years, Democrats have been counting on demographic change to flip this deeply red state, so these results must be absolutely mouth-watering. But is Joe Biden really going to beat Donald Trump in Texas this fall?

Meh, probably not. Every year seems to be the year Texas votes Democratic, but it never happens. (Remember Beto O’Rourke? No? He was a big deal once, I swear.)

The thing is, Biden doesn’t need Texas to win the election. He just needs it to be close. Donald Trump, by contrast, cannot win re-election without holding Texas.

Trump’s fluke win – and for all the talk about what it means about the American character, I still say it was very much a fluke – came about because he pulled out razor-thin victories in Rust Belt states Hillary Clinton thought she had in the bag, like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Trump needs to win them again, and the polling is looking extremely bad for him in 2020.

The point is, Trump needs to throw everything he has at these states. But if he has divert desperately resources to Texas – not to mention other traditionally red states like Georgia and Arizona, where Biden is competitive – that hurts him in the swing states. It’s the political equivalent of Hitler sending troops to bail out Mussolini in he Balkans while he was planning his invasion of the USSR, and we know how that turned out.

(To be fair, Biden could make the same miscalculation and divert his scarce resources to states he’s unlikely to win, but my hope is that he learned from Clinton’s mistakes in 2016.)

As long as Biden keeps the pressure on in Texas, it throws the Trump campaign into further turmoil. And it could be a moot point anyway, with Trump also needing the state hardest hit by COVID-19 to win.

Meanwhile, he’s retweeting game show hosts who insist that the virus is a big hoax. That ought to play well in the Sunshine State. (“The virus that killed your grandparents is a scam. I’m Donald Trump and I approved this message.”)

Don’t panic about American travelers

A new poll says a staggering 81% of Canadians want to keep the Canada-US border closure renewed at the end of the month.

I can’t imagine why.

This chart should be used in every Joe Biden campaign ad.

We Canadians have flattened the COVID-19 curve, while infections south of the border are skyrocketing. This CNN report explains some of the reasons why:

Until the Americans get their act together, I agree wholeheartedly that the border should remain restricted to entry. That said, I’m detecting a hint of moral panic in the air about Americans who have entered the country.

On social media I’m seeing people call for locking down the border entirely, reporting American licence plates to the police, and many, many variations on an apocryphal story about American tourists visiting a restaurant and gloating to their waitress about how easy it was to lie their way across the border. Some drivers with American (or even out-of-province) licence plates are being harassed.

To be sure, here in Atlantic Canada, a small resurgence of cases have been linked to an American visitor who didn’t self-isolate. Some travelers from Minnesota to Ontario have been charged for not following quarantine rules. Needless to say, anyone coming here who doesn’t follow our rules should be punished for it.

But if there’s a massive surge of Americans coming here and blatantly flouting our rules, it isn’t yet reflected in our case numbers. Maybe next week will be different and we’ll start seeing COVID-19 cases in Canada take off, but so far it looks like most Americans coming here have been following the rules. Or, there just aren’t nearly as many coming here as social media would have you believe.

Part of the reason cases have exploded in Florida is because of complacency. The virus initially didn’t hit the state as hard as people expected, so Floridians let their guard down. (See this blog post, which aged like fine milk. If our cases do skyrocket in the coming months, and the outbreak is linked to Americans, we’ll know for sure that the Damian Penny curse is very real.)

I’m concerned that the same thing is happening here in Nova Scotia. Whenever I go out to stores or the gym, hardly anyone is wearing a mask. If you’re really worried about a new outbreak, covering your face is much more effective than looking for foreign licence plates.

The panic over “COVID parties”

Look, it’s possible that teenagers are having parties where they try to give each other COVID-19 and then bet money on who contracts it first. My kid has shown me what teenagers do on TikTok, so all bets are off.

“China imposes security law on Hong Kong, Page A13”

Wired magazine is extremely skeptical that this is actually happening – and points out that, ironically, stories like this get the Trump Administration and State governments off the hook for their disastrous mishandling of the pandemic:

This is not the first reporting on the spread of Covid parties, which are, in fact, neither happening nor spreading. Back in March, Kentucky governor Andy Beshear announced during a daily public-health update that one case in the state had been tied to a “coronavirus party.” “We ought to be much better than that,” he said. “We should forgive that person, but no more of these—anywhere, statewide, ever, for any reason.” His one-sentence anecdote, presented without any further detail, was dutifully passed along as news by CNNNPRThe Washington Post, and other outlets.

Then in April, The New York Times ran an op-ed from epidemiologist Greta Bauer, offering “seven reasons your ‘coronavirus party’ is a bad idea.” She’d heard “rumblings” that these events were going on, the piece explains, because some people think they would be better off with antibodies.

Rumblings had developed into rumors by the start of May, when a public health official in Walla Walla, Washington, claimed to have discovered, via careful contact tracing, that at least two patients had indeed attended “Covid parties” so as to “get it over with.” The local police chief told reporters that he wouldn’t rule out criminal charges for any other such events, but assured them that “we’re not going to overreact.” Two days later, the same public health official admitted she’d been wrong: “We have discovered that there were not intentional Covid parties,” she said. “Just innocent endeavors.”

The latest version of the tale, from Alabama, follows the same pattern as the others. It appears to be the product of a weird game of telephone mixed with loose talk from public officials and disgracefully sloppy journalism. On Tuesday, Tuscaloosa fire chief Randy Smith told the city council that his department had heard about parties “where students or kids would come in with known positives.” It sounded like just a rumor, Smith said, but “not only did the doctors’ offices help confirm it, but the state also confirmed they had the same information.”

You’ll notice immediately that Smith didn’t say anything about people trying to get sick, let alone betting on who could do it first. So why is everyone saying that’s what happened? The notion seems to have originated with McKinstry, who shared it with ABC News after the meeting. It’s not clear whether McKinstry had a source for this idea, and she did not reply to WIRED’s request for comment. The Alabama Department of Health responded with a statement that it “has not been able to verify such parties have taken place.” It’s not even clear that the fire chief had it right about kids going to parties while knowing they were sick. (The Tuscaloosa Fire Department did not reply to a request for comment, either.) But that didn’t stop the dogpile of national media outlets repeating and amplifying the Covid betting-pot story as if it were fact.

The University of Alabama has investigated and found no evidence that “COVID parties are happening. Neither has the state Department of Public Health, according to Birmingham’s WBRC television.

But the toothpaste is out of the tube now. Next, news outlets may get their teenager moral panics mixed up and start reporting that the COVID partiers are also performing Satanic rituals and listening to back-masked messages on Judas Priest albums telling them to commit suicide.

Who needs Facebook and Twitter to spread viral misinformation when “mainstream” media outlets are doing the same thing?

The virus doesn’t care what’s in your heart

Remember when coronavirus was a thing? NPR remembers.

President Trump this month will begin hitting the road once again to make his pitch for reelection in the 2020 White House race, despite the deadly coronavirus pandemic, which continues to wreak havoc on the lives and livelihoods of households across the country.

[…]

Public experts continue to warn against large gatherings of people, even as the country has begun in the past several weeks to reopen the economy. The coronavirus crisis has already killed more than 100,000 people in the United States — the highest number of fatalities of any country in the world.

Just imagine what a state we’d be in now if there had been, say, people by the thousands marching and chanting slogans all over the world for the past couple of weeks.

Oh, right.

Obviously, I don’t think there’s moral equivalence between a march to oppose police brutality and racism and a hate rally where the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief gets to rant about his real and imagined enemies for a few hours.

The virus, on the other hand, sees no distinction between the two. And if the same people who told us to lock down, but changed their minds and said we should march, then say we have to lock down once again, who is going to take them seriously?

Thomas Chatterton Williams, writing in a notorious right-wing, pro-Trump rag called (checks notes) The Guardian, says it’s not just the Trumpsters who have squandered their credibility for political points:

After two and a half months of death, confinement, and unemployment figures dwarfing even the Great Depression, we have now entered the stage of competing urgencies where there are zero perfect options. Police brutality is a different if metaphorical epidemic in an America slouching toward authoritarianism. Catalyzed by the spectacle of Floyd’s reprehensible death, it is clear that the emergency in Minneapolis passes my own and many people’s threshold for justifying the risk of contagion. 

But poverty is also a public health crisis. George Floyd wasn’t merely killed for being black – he was also killed for being poor. He died over a counterfeit banknote. Poverty destroys Americans every day by means of confrontations with the law, disease, pollution, violence and despair. Yet even as the coronavirus lockdown threw 40 million Americans out of work – including Floyd himself – many progressives accepted this calamity, sometimes with stunning blitheness, as the necessary cost of guarding against Covid-19.

The new, “correct” narrative about public health – that one kind of crisis has superseded the other – grows shakier as it spans out from Minnesota, across America to as far as London, Amsterdam and Paris – cities that have in recent days seen extraordinary manifestations of public solidarity against both American and local racism, with protesters in the many thousands flooding public spaces.

[…]

What are we to make of such whiplash-inducing messaging? Merely pointing out the inconsistency in such a polarized landscape feels like an act of heresy. But “‘Your gatherings are a threat, mine aren’t,’ is fundamentally illogical, no matter who says it or for what reason,” as the author of The Death of Expertise, Tom Nichols, put it. “We’ve been told for months to stay as isolated as humanely possible,” Suzy Khimm, an NBC reporter covering Covid-19, noted, but “some of the same public officials and epidemiologists are [now] saying it’s OK to go to mass gatherings – but only certain ones.” 

Public health experts – as well as many mainstream commentators, plenty of whom in the beginning of the pandemic were already incoherent about the importance of face masks and stay-at-home orders – have hemorrhaged credibility and authority. This is not merely a short-term problem; it will constitute a crisis of trust going forward, when it may be all the more urgent to convince skeptical masses to submit to an unproven vaccine or to another round of crushing stay-at-home orders. Will anyone still listen? 

Trump, and his fellow populists around the world, didn’t just come out of nowhere. The past few years have been marked by increasing mistrust of almost every kind of authority. If we can’t trust our public health officials, either, we’re in even bigger trouble than we know.

Ironically, people who support the BLM marches and oppose Trump’s rallies do have a credible argument on their side: the protests are outside while Trump events are held indoors, where the coronavirus may be more easily transmitted. That, and not some fanciful idea about the virus skipping over people who have good intentions, could actually work.

Save the Strand!

My favorite store in the entire world might be in trouble because of COVID-19:

The Strand Book Store in New York City has stood as a source of pride for the Bass family for 93 years. With its famous slogan “18 Miles of Books,” the Manhattan shop has weathered the Great Depression, survived 9-11, and gone to battle with Amazon (AMZN) — all without a single layoff.

That all changed in March, when owner Nancy Bass Wyden, the granddaughter of founder Benjamin Bass, made the painful decision to cut nearly 200 jobs because of the coronavirus.

“We shut everything down. We shut our store down, we shut our website down, we shut our warehouses down, because we were very concerned about the safety of our employees and the customers,” Wyden told Yahoo Finance. “We went from over 200 employees to 12 employees to conserve the payroll.”

More than two months later, the Strand is still in limbo: A little more certain about its next few months with loans secured through the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), but uncertain about its long term viability, given business lost from a sudden economic shock.

The store partnered with a third party seller to revive its online business, but Wyden worries if health concerns will trump the bookstore experience when she reopens.

“There’s probably going to be a mandate on how many people can be on each floor, how many people can come to events, having to distance people six feet apart … everybody’s going to wear a mask,” Wyden said. “I wonder about those components because people love to come in the store and just get lost in the stacks, and they love to browse, and I just worry is that going to get in the way of people having that freedom to browse here as long as they want to.”

Hopefully they’ll make it. No trip to NYC is complete without visiting the Strand and leaving with a book or ten.

You can buy items from them online, though shipping to Canada isn’t cheap. In the alternative, it might be nice to divert a book purchase you were going make from Amazon to a neighborhood bookstore instead.

Was Florida Man right all along?

Weeks after some Sunshine State beaches reopened and got #FloridaMorons trending on social media, Florida has suffered around 43,000 COVID-19 infections and 2,000 deaths. Not good, obviously, but not nearly as bad as predicted – and not even close to the carnage wrought by coronavirus in New York.

And yet, as Renuka Rayasam and real-life Florida Man Marc Caputo note in Politico, New York is hailed as a model of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic while Florida is dismissed as an apocalyptic wasteland:

First, let’s just come out and say it: [Florida Governor Ron] DeSantis looks more right than those who criticized the Sunshine State’s coronavirus response. According to the latest Florida figures, fewer than 2,000 have died, and around 43,000 have been infected. That’s a fraction of the dire predictions made for Florida when spring breakers swarmed the beaches, and those numbers are dwarfed by similarly sized New York, which has seen 12 times more deaths and nearly eight times more infections. (Check out POLITICO’s coronavirus tracker for more.) More people reportedly died in New York nursing homes than in all of Florida.

The polling disparity: DeSantis is actually polling worse than [NY Governor Andrew] Cuomo in their respective states, and the Florida press is wondering why. Part of that is style. Cuomo has a smooth delivery, a deep and calming voice and an attitude that projects he can answer any question. DeSantis sometimes comes across as peevish and defensive, has made a misstatement or two and was mocked for struggling to put on a mask. But most of the difference between DeSantis and Cuomo is due to politics. DeSantis governs a politically divided state. Cuomo is a scion of Democratic royalty in a deeply Democratic state.

Yes, there’s media bias, too. Cuomo also has something else DeSantis doesn’t: a press that defers to him, one that preferred to cover “Florida Morons” at the beach (where it’s relatively hard to get infected) over New Yorkers riding cramped subway cars (where it’s easy to get infected). In fact, people can still ride the subways for most hours of the day in New York, but Miami Beach’s sands remain closed. Maybe things would be different if DeSantis had a brother who worked in cable news and interviewed him for a “sweet moment” in primetime.

DeSantis can’t quite take a victory lap, however. For one, he can’t take all the credit. He deferred to local leaders early on as they issued closure orders in places like Miami-Dade County — the most populous in the state, and the one with the most coronavirus cases — which shuttered dine-in restaurants and nightclubs two months ago.

And, for all of the relatively OK news about coronavirus infection and death rates, there’s a looming problem associated with coronavirus and Republican rule of the state: Florida’s horrendous unemployment compensation system, which can’t handle the volume of claims and, critics charge, was designed to discourage people from getting government help….

Florida’s warm climate could be a factor, for all we know. Either way, while it’s far too early to declare COVID-19 beaten in Florida, it’s certainly true that the worst predictions simply haven’t come true, and that media figures who pushed that narrative should admit their error and resolve to be more careful in the future.

(Note: they won’t.)

By October, if Florida has still been spared the worst, I expect the Vaccine Denier in Chief to make this media failure a part of his rambling stump speech. And for once, he’ll have a point.

Flim-Flamdemic

It took a couple of years after 9/11 for the pseudo-documentary Loose Change to come out. But in 2020, with nineteen years of technological advances and the rise of social media, a conspirozoid movie about the COVID-19 pandemic is going viral just months after the virus appeared.

So…yay?

A slickly produced 26-minute video called Plandemic has exploded on social media in recent days, claiming to present a view of COVID-19 that differs from the “official” narrative.

The video has been viewed millions of times on YouTube via links that are replaced as quickly as the video-sharing service can remove them for violating its policy against “COVID-19 misinformation.”

In it, filmmaker Mikki Willis conducts an uncritical interview with Judy Mikovits, who he says has been called “one of the most accomplished scientists of her generation.”

Never heard of her? You’re not alone.

Two prominent scientists with backgrounds in AIDS research and infectious diseases, who asked not to be identified over concerns of facing a backlash on social media, told NPR that they did not know who she was.

And who is the esteemed Dr. Mikovits? You guessed it: a crank.

When Judy Mikovits co-wrote a 2009 research paper that linked the mysterious condition known as chronic fatigue syndrome to a retrovirus that came from mice, thousands of sick patients hoping for relief rallied behind her. The scientific riddle was solved, they thought.

Less than two years later, those hopes were dashed when follow-up studies failed to replicate the findings and the respected journal “Science” retracted the paper. Researchers posited that the study’s inaccurate conclusions were the result of contamination of the lab samples, and the theory that a virus might be the source of the still-mysterious condition died.

But Mikovits’s conviction that her theory was correct, and her belief that the top scientific minds in the United States conspired to ruin her career, never faded.

She has now accused the scientific establishment of conspiracy again. In a film called “Plandemic,” and in a recently published book that topped the Amazon bestsellers chart this week, she makes a bizarre and false claim: that the doctors and experts shaping public policy in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic have silenced dissenting voices and misled the public for sinister reasons.

She falsely claims that wealthy people intentionally spread the virus to increase vaccination rates and that wearing face masks is harmful.

[..]

After her legal mess, Mikovits wrote her first book with anti-vaccine advocate Kent Heckenlively in 2014, called “Plague.” Their second book, “Plague of Corruption,” was published by Skyhorse Publishing this year and was listed as No. 1 on Amazon’s bestsellers list as recently as Friday morning, beating out presales for Stephanie Meyer’s upcoming addition to the massively successful “Twilight” series.

Much more about the film’s half-truths, errors and blatant lies here. Unfortunately, I’ve seen several people who should know better (and also many idiots) sharing the movie on Facebook.

The best-case scenario is that this kind of burns out like the “9/11 Truth” movement did. But considering that “Doctor” Andrew Wakefield still has followers despite being as discredited as it’s possible to be discredited, the virus troofers are likely to plague us for years to come. No pun intended.

In Australia they think they know the culprit. (To be fair I’m also in favor of arresting Bill Gates, but for Windows 95.)

Newfoundland closed

My home province has responded to COVID-19 with a travel ban that might make even Donald Trump think they’ve gone too far:

On April 29, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a Special Measures Order ordering that, effective May 4, 2020, the only individuals permitted to enter the province are those who are:

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador;

Asymptomatic workers and individuals who are subject to the Updated Exemption Order effective April 22, 2020; and

Individuals who have been permitted entry to the province in extenuating circumstances, as approved in advance by the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

All other individuals are prohibited from entering Newfoundland and Labrador.

Police have been given the power to detain and remove people from the province, though early reports about police being allowed to enter homes without a warrant are being walked back.

Even during a global health emergency, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms still applies. Veteran Newfoundland blogger Edward Hollett, a former special assistant to premier Clyde Wells, raises some serious questions about whether this is constitutional:

In response to a reporter’s question about the constitutionality of the ban, health minister John Haggie replied on Monday that section 13 of the public health protection law says any measures imposed during an emergency should be limited to what is necessary. 

That reply did not address the question of whether or not the ban violates the guarantee under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Nor did the minister provide an explanation of why a ban on entry to all non-residents, except for specific exempt individuals who are also free from other restrictions, was necessary.

Section 6 (2) of the Charter provides that every Canadian has the right to “move to and take up residence in” another part of Canada.  On the face of it, this section would not confer on Canadians the right to travel but to travel related to residence.  The people covered by this section of the Charter and potentially abused by the travel ban would be any people who own property and who lie in the province periodically. 

Haggie also said other provinces had adopted similar travel bans. 
They have not.  

[…]

Potential issues with the Newfoundland and Labrador ban:

Potential constitutional violation. (Section 6(2))

Absence of explanation or justification (potential violation of Public Health Promotion and Protection Act)

Unparalleled scope and type of travel restriction (complete ban on non-residents).

No description of potential reasons for exemption that could be granted by Chief Medical Officer. (Lack of transparency and clarity)

No provision for travel related to child-custody or similar orders.

No allowance for emergencies.

Of these, the first two are the most serious.  The order may be unconstitutional.  Someone should challenge it in court.
More likely, the ban is excessive and unnecessary.  This has both political and legal dimensions. Politically, the government owes a duty of transparency to the public to explain why it is taking a measure as draconian as banning all travel to the province by non-residents.

As much as it pains me not to be able to get home this summer, I’m not going as far as Hollett and agreeing that this policy is unnecessary. To paraphrase an old Amercan saying, the Charter is not a suicide pact. But I would like to see the courts weigh in on this, and I don’t think people should just accept it uncritically.

On a related note, the Royal St. John’s Regatta has been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War. Sadly, this year, people in St. John’s won’t know the joy (or agony) of Regatta Roulette.

Co-parenting during the pandemic

It’s the question I’ve been asked more than any other since the age of social distancing began: how does this affect parenting time with my children?

The answer, as reported in the Chronicle Herald:

While safety precautions must be kept in mind, court orders and agreements for parenting time must be followed by both parents:

Shared parenting can be done safely during the pandemic by following public health guidance, says a Nova Scotia family law expert.

“As long as both parents follow the public health directives they should continue to comply with their parenting orders and agreements,” said Rollie Thompson, a Dalhousie University law professor.

The province’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang created unnecessary confusion for co-parents on March 31 when he said in his daily briefing that children should remain in one home during the COVID-19 lockdown, Thompson said.

Strang backtracked the next day, acknowledging he was offering a public health perspective and reminded parents to follow court orders and parenting arrangements. He said parents could get advice from a lawyer or Nova Scotia Legal Aid and “if possible and safe to do so … should develop a plan with the understanding that moving about in the community and going from house to house does increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19.”

“I think Dr. Strang should stick to public health and stay away from family law,” said Thompson.

Thompson, an expert in family law, co-wrote the federal government’s Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. He said that the vast majority of co-parents in the province can be counted on to follow the social distancing rules. That includes moving kids from one parent’s home to another.

Thompson’s advice to co-parents and their kids is to follow four instructions during the pandemic:

– continue to comply with parenting orders and agreements;

– comply with public health directives to protect your health;

– when health or other unexpected problems arise, be flexible to do what’s in the best interests of your children;

– and above all, work together and avoid conflict.

[…]

The Nova Scotia Judiciary said that existing court orders around parenting time continue to be in effect during the COVID-19 crisis. Jennifer Stairs, a spokeswoman for the judiciary, said those orders — including those involving custody, access, contact and parenting — could be negotiated as long as all parties involved agree.

Unfortunately, I’ve already been forced to deal with several cases where a parent either believes the COVID-19 pandemic means they can’t allow their child to spend time with the other parent, or where they’re using it as an excuse to deny access.

If this is happening to you, contact your lawyer immediately. If you aren’t yet represented by counsel, Nova Scotia Legal Aid may be of assistance:

Nova Scotia Legal Aid is offering help for parents trying to wade through the confusion. Lawyers will process emergency family matters for people who qualify for legal aid. Free twice-weekly online chats are also being offered on the Nova Scotia Legal Aid website. Lawyers will be manning the online discussions on family law issues. They are scheduled Tuesday and Thursday, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Those who don’t qualify for legal aid can access family summary advice at all courthouses through scheduled telephone appointments.