Because the COVID-19 pandemic lingered and the death toll increased, Nova Scotian Judy Aymar noticed how the province’s leaders now not offered condolences when recent deaths were announced.
“These are real people,” she said. “These are individuals who at one point of their lives, they built families, they built communities and so they helped construct the province. Why have they turn out to be a statistic and never an individual?”
The province’s COVID-19 briefings once began with updates on how many individuals had died and would come with condolences from the premier and chief medical officer of health.
The province says 753 people have died from COVID-19 — including 27 that were announced Thursday. The median age of death through the Omicron wave is 84.
Aymar, a 76-year-old retired social employee from Upper Tantallon, said Nova Scotians pride themselves on helping and supporting people during times of loss.
But she’s nervous.
“Why have we, as Nova Scotians, accepted this silence?” said Aymar. “Why are we so silent that seniors are still dying and why aren’t we giving them dignity and acknowledgement and a thanks for all that they did?”
The Nova Scotia government didn’t reply to a request for comment by publication time.
Higher COVID death rates for seniors
In accordance with the province’s January epidemiology report, Nova Scotians 70 and older have a death rate from COVID-19 that’s 280 times higher than those under 50.
Aymar said she thinks the province must have a day of acknowledgement — not a vacation — to pay tribute to individuals who have died from COVID-19 and the contributions they made.
With COVID-19 restrictions lifted in Nova Scotia, seniors are particularly vulnerable, said Robert Huish, an associate professor at Dalhousie University whose expertise includes global health ethics.
“It’s almost full reliance on the vaccine and on people’s own willingness to mask up or decide to stay at home, so it’s moved from that collective duty to individual alternative and responsibility,” he said.
Huish said fatigue sets in with public health campaigns, and it’s reached that time with COVID-19.
“It moves to, ‘Me, well, I got to deal with myself,’ and never to fret about other people, despite the fact that just a short while ago that is all we were nervous about,” he said.
Bill VanGorder, the senior Nova Scotia spokesperson for CARP — formerly the Canadian Association of Retired Individuals— said his organization stays concerned.
“COVID-19 shouldn’t be over,” he said.
VanGorder said the group recommends masking in public settings, but said “we’re hearing from older folks that by some means they feel like they’re being stigmatized a bit by wearing masks.”
He’d like for the province to extend its messaging around COVID-19 and for the media to do more reporting on the pandemic.
VanGorder said when COVID-19 was within the headlines each day, it created “huge stress and anxiety” for quite a lot of older people.
“That wasn’t thing either, but now … we appear to have gone the opposite way and we’re not hearing as much about it as we used to, so there’s got to be a blissful medium in there somewhere,” he said.
VanGorder said the province could get more information within the hands of seniors through the Seniors Advisory Council of Nova Scotia, which represents greater than 100,000 older Nova Scotians.