String of 492 felt hearts installed outside Province House to recognize COVID-19 deaths

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The 492 white and red hearts were strung up on the fence on Hollis Street outside Province House in Halifax on Tuesday by a group called Protect Our Province Nova Scotia. (Preston Mulligan/CBC - image credit)
The 492 white and red hearts were strung up on the fence on Hollis Street outside Province House in Halifax on Tuesday by a group called Protect Our Province Nova Scotia. (Preston Mulligan/CBC - image credit)

A string of nearly 500 felt hearts are hanging outside Province House in Halifax on Tuesday, each representing a person who died of COVID-19 over the past two-and-half years in Nova Scotia.

The 492 white and red hearts were strung up on the fence on Hollis Street by a group called Protect Our Province Nova Scotia ahead of a meeting of the province's Standing Committee on Health.

The group, also known as PoPNS, is a community initiative that aims to reduce COVID-19 transmission by encouraging people to continue practicing public health measures.

Susan Joudrey, a spokesperson for the group, said members wanted to create a memorial.

Preston Mulligan/CBC
Preston Mulligan/CBC

"We really felt we hadn't had the opportunity to adequately acknowledge all the loss of the pandemic," Joudrey told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia on Tuesday.

"So we're hoping that the installation will encourage people to recognize that loss that we've experienced and remember those people who have gone missing in our community and in our families."

The "heartstrings" were put up at noon on Tuesday. Joudrey said she had contacted some MLAs and members of the Standing Committee on Health ahead of the installation and received positive responses.

She expected the hearts to stay up for at least a few hours.

Joudrey said the art installation is divided into white hearts and red hearts — 234 white hearts to represent deaths caused by the virus before most public health restrictions ended on March 21, 2022 and 258 red hearts to represent the deaths after restrictions were lifted.

"It's kind of a visual way of both remembering those that have been lost, but reminding people that those protections that we've learned about for the last two years really do make a difference and are important for protecting each other," she said.

The hearts are then broken up into five sections, each named for a pertinent quote from provincial leaders from a specific period during the pandemic.

The first section is titled "Stay The Blazes Home" and represents March 1, 2020 to Aug. 31, 2020. The section has 65 white hearts, which includes the deaths of the 53 residents of the Northwood long-term care facility.

The second section is titled "Caring, community, and common sense" and represents Sept. 1, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021. There are no hearts in this section as there were no deaths related to COVID-19 during this time.

The third is titled "Not out of the woods." It represents March 1, 2021 to Aug. 31, 2021 and has 26 white hearts.

The fourth section, titled "Learn to live with it" represents Sept. 1, 2021 to Feb. 28, 2022. It has 107 white hearts.

The fifth and final section is titled "This is not unexpected." It represents March 1, 2022 to Aug. 22, 2022 and has 34 white hearts, for victims who died before restrictions ended, and 260 red hearts.

Preston Mulligan/CBC
Preston Mulligan/CBC

"It's quite alarming, to be honest. One of our members in particular came up with this kind of visual representation and as we were piecing it together it was really stark, I think in part because we've lost some of the public briefings and some of the communication around what's happening with the pandemic," Joudrey said.

"And so to see it kind of laid out — the first two years of white hearts, which are spaced out quite a bit — and then this last part which is double the number … visually is quite alarming."

Joudrey said the group would like the government to return to regular COVID-19 briefings and recognize that deaths are still happening each week. Last week, the province reported eight deaths from COVID-19.

She said some people may not realize the impact the virus is still having on the province, so the installation is a reminder.

"I just hope that people do take the time to think about the last two-and-a-half years and maybe how it impacted their own lives and the things that we can do as a province to move toward being better to each other and protecting each other."

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