Nova Scotia

Stop shaming young people for recent COVID-19 outbreak, says TikTok star

Halifax's Max Taylor said social media is full of people denouncing his 18-35 age group for going to bars and restaurants and potentially spreading the virus. He wants the shaming to stop.

'The more we shame them, the less tests are going to get done,' says Max Taylor

Max Taylor, 22, took to Twitter this week to ask people to stop shaming young people like him. (Robert Short/CBC)

Max Taylor has a message for fellow Nova Scotians — stop shaming young people for the recent COVID-19 outbreak.

The 22-year-old TikTok star from Halifax, and recent mayoral candidate, said social media is full of people denouncing his age group for its part in the province's growing number of cases.

"Let's encourage testing of our young people, because the more we shame them, the less tests are going to get done," Taylor told CBC's Mainstreet on Thursday.

Premier Stephen McNeil and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang have said they're concerned that the 18-35 age group is spreading the virus through social interactions, largely by going to bars and restaurants at night in downtown Halifax.

McNeil has singled the age group out, saying it's like they're "living as if COVID doesn't exist."

"They are going out when they are feeling sick. They are going out in large groups and frankly different groups and are not distancing," the premier said during a news briefing last week.

Taylor doesn't think that kind of messaging helps.

"The more we shame, the less encouragement goes for them to get tested and so I think we just need to continue to give people support and say, 'Hey, go get tested,'" he said. 

He said he doesn't condone large house parties but he wonders why McNeil is pointing the finger at people who visited businesses that his government allowed to stay open until recent days.

New study looking at shame and stigma during pandemic

2 years ago
Duration 3:08
A researcher at Dalhousie University has launched a survey to study the problem of pandemic shaming and stigma. Colleen Jones reports.

"When it comes to the systems in place for young people to go out until 2 a.m., the province put those out there and no one's talking about that. We're simply talking about the fact that young people went out," he said. 

On Tuesday, the same day the province announced 37 new cases, bars and restaurants in the Halifax area were told to close to in-person dining for the next two weeks.

This came after two off-campus Dalhousie University students tested positive for the virus over the weekend and a house party on Edward Street with about 60 people was shut down by police. 

A spokesperson for the province told CBC News that of the 118 cases reported in November as of Tuesday, 85 were people between the age of 18 and 35.

People waiting hours at rapid-testing sites

Rapid-testing sites aimed at asymptomatic young people have been established, the most recent on Morris Street in Halifax. 

Taylor said he was at the rapid-testing site this week and it took a couple hours of standing in line before he received his negative test result.

Andrew Henteleff, right, was one of hundreds of young people waiting in line at the rapid-testing site in downtown Halifax on Thursday. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

"I think that it's also our responsibility to be out here and following the guidelines and getting tested to make sure that we're doing the most we can," Andrew Henteleff said as he waited in line with a few friends for his rapid COVID-19 test.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease specialist at Dalhousie University, is helping to run the new rapid-testing sites.

She said it appears most people getting tests are in the 18-35 range, but there are also people who are younger and older.

She said the people showing up for testing are eager to do their part. 

A worker administers a rapid COVID-19 test at a rapid-testing event at Dalhousie University on Tuesday, Nov. 24. (Robert Short/CBC)

"I wasn't expecting the number of people who consistently said, 'This is part of how I feel I'm doing my bit in COVID.' Wow, really, really impressive," she told CBC's Mainstreet.

COVID-19 stigma survey underway

A professor at Dalhousie University launched an online survey to collect stories from people in the province who've experienced shame and stigma related to the pandemic.

In the early stages of the pandemic, the people getting shamed were those who appeared to be of Asian descent, said Dr. Bob Huish.

An online survey has been launched to hear from people in the province who have experienced pandemic-related stigma. (Colleen Jones/CBC)

"But since then, we've seen other groups come forward. People who are not from Nova Scotia, who are driving cars without Nova Scotia plates, as well as frontline workers in the pandemic," he said.

Now, young people are another group coming forward about their experiences with being shamed.

Huish said when people feel stigmatized, it can lead to mental health challenges and societal division.

"When people are meant to feel responsible or blamed for something as globally inclusive as a pandemic, all we're doing is creating further wedges," he said.

With files from Colleen Jones, CBC's Mainstreet