Lock North Preston so that “our little little community is not wiped out”

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In and around North Preston, Nova Scotia, the oldest and largest black community in the province, signs are appearing: people are on their guard against COVID-19.

There are reviews of homes for the elderly, families with babies and people with health conditions. “During the shutdown of COVID19, PLEASE NO VISITORS,” reads the poster, which highlights a stop sign.

Last week, Robert Downey toured his hometown with his girlfriend, Natteal Battiste, and distributed 250 to those who needed it most. Downey didn’t need an address list because he knew exactly where to go – North Preston is so closely linked.

“I was greeted with so much love and so many happy people were so grateful,” he said in an interview. The notices were created using a poster app, he said, “so we decided to put these signs up for people who didn’t have the tools to do it.” “

Robert Downey lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, but is from North Preston, Nova Scotia. He is one of nine children. (CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil was criticized this week for naming North Preston as one of the communities where he said that some people flouted COVID-19 rules, including celebrating parties.

But the actions of Downey and others are examples of how seriously the coronavirus is taken in the Prestons, the neighboring black communities on the outskirts of Halifax that include North Preston, East Preston, Cherry Brook and Lake Loon.

Community political and health leaders have formed a COVID-19 response team that is working with public health officials to deal with a frightening situation.

Although authorities do not publish the number of infections in specific communities, test clinics set up this week at the North Preston Community Center, along with Elmsdale, a predominantly white community, indicate that these are hot spots where the disease is “active”.

Registration for the assessment clinic was complete on Wednesday and Thursday, said Nzingha Millar, a member of Preston’s intervention team.

“It is a testament to how passionate people are about protecting themselves and others in their community, and are in fact neither reckless nor careless,” she said.

North Preston is celebrated because it is closely related, neighbors know each other and multigenerational families live together. (Paul Adams for CBC)

The group of cases can be linked to some of the most valuable qualities of the community.

There are many large families, and it is not uncommon for several generations – from babies to grandparents – to live together under one roof. If there is a quarantined house, separate bedrooms or bathrooms for the sick may not be possible.

The community response team said that emergency housing is necessary for multigenerational families who must self-isolate, as well as accelerated financial support. McNeil said he had asked the community to prepare a request for what was needed.

Prime Minister Stephen McNeil said he had no intention of naming and shaming the Prestons, mostly black communities, when he spoke of them Tuesday as a COVID-19 hot spot. But many of these communities took offense when McNeil accused people of not listening to public health warnings. 3:42

Community support cannot come soon enough for Colter Simmonds, whose hometown is North Preston. At his mother’s home in Lake Loon, he stuck a handwritten sign on his door to warn people that the house is locked. It’s his way of protecting his mom, a senior who was recently discharged from hospital.

He said he knew a few infected people and that he had left the grocery store to show their support while maintaining physical distance. He urges everyone to change their Easter tradition by avoiding family reunions and to be kind to those who isolate themselves.

“We will work together to overcome the situation so that our small, small community is not wiped out,” said Simmonds. “It can happen because we are so close to each other, but also in family and relationships. “

Verena Rizg is a nurse practitioner in Halifax. (Laura Roy)

The COVID-19 spectrum in North Preston sheds light on marginalized communities who are more vulnerable to the virus due to health and social factors, said Verena Rizg, nurse practitioner in Halifax.

She said black communities in the Halifax area are at “increased risk of not surviving this situation” due to medical conditions linked to social factors.

While people without underlying medical conditions also die from COVID-19, people with co-morbidities are dying in greater numbers, she said.

She said that higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes in black communities are directly linked to social factors such as the lack of a grocery store and limited public transportation – which is the case in North Preston. This makes it more difficult for residents to get healthy food.

“It is important to simply recognize that communities who are pushed to the margins of society are at even greater risk of having higher death rates,” said Rizg, who is black. “The black community of Nova Scotia is in danger for this.”

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