**** HEALTH/WELLNESS Media Release
Phase 5 Starting with Cautious Approach
Phase 5 of Nova Scotia’s reopening plan is starting October 4 with a cautious approach. While most restrictions will be lifted, some will be maintained, and border restrictions will be added for people coming from Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Some notable aspects of Phase 5 include:
— masks will continue to be mandatory in indoor public places
— physical distancing and gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization will be lifted
— the informal gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors will remain in place
— proof of full vaccination will be required for non-essential events and activities
“The Delta variant has impacted our epidemiology. The fourth wave is taking its toll across the country and it’s now in Nova Scotia,” said Premier Tim Houston. “We can lift some restrictions with the added protection of the proof of full vaccine protocol and our high vaccination rates, but masking and limits for informal gatherings need to stay in place. We’re taking a cautious approach so we can keep moving forward, even in the midst of the fourth wave.”
Starting at 12:01 a.m. on October 4, proof of full vaccination will be required for people who are 12 and older to participate in discretionary, non-essential events and activities that gather people together, such as going to restaurants, movies, sports events, theatre performances, social events and the gym.
Based on conversations with people in many sectors in the past week, some changes have been made in the list of places where proof of full vaccination will be required. For example, proof of vaccination will not be required for general library access but will be required to participate in library programs that bring groups of people together. It will apply to dining in at fast-food establishments, but not to takeout, delivery, drive-thru or food courts.
Proof of vaccination will not be required under the provincewide protocol for employees of businesses and organizations that offer these events and activities, but it will be required for their volunteers. Businesses and organizations are encouraged to set their own vaccination policies. Any policies should take legal and ethical implications into consideration. People who are not fully vaccinated need to be able to access essential services.
The proof of full vaccination protocol and resources for businesses and organizations where it applies are available at: http://novascotia.ca/POV
Effective at 8 a.m. on October 4, everyone coming to Nova Scotia from other Canadian provinces and territories will need to complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form. Their isolation will be based on vaccination status and testing. People who were fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arriving do not have to isolate, but testing is recommended. People who are not fully vaccinated must isolate for at least seven days and get two negative test results in Nova Scotia to stop isolating after seven days. They must be lab-based tests, not rapid tests.
“Our border measures have been integral to our success in managing the pandemic to date, and we need to strengthen them right now given the fourth wave activity, particularly in the Atlantic region,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “The proof of full vaccination requirement will be another important tool to keep Nova Scotians safe through the fourth wave. I want to thank the businesses and organizations who have helped us implement public health measures throughout this pandemic. Please be kind when they ask you to show your proof – the law will require it, and they will have to check before you can participate in discretionary events and activities.”
— people with a valid medical reason that prevents vaccination can get an exception letter from their physician or nurse practitioner to show instead of proof of full vaccination
— a small number of Nova Scotians who participated in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials have already been sent an exception letter to show instead of proof of full vaccination
— children who turned 12 between January 1 and October 4 this year will have until Dec. 31 to attend events and activities while they get vaccinated; children who turn 12 after October 4 will have three months from their birthday
— youth who are 13 to 18 years old and have proof that they received one dose of vaccine can participate in sport, recreation, arts and culture programming and have until October 26 to get their second dose
— the provincial state of emergency will continue to be in effect until further notice
Vaccination Mandate Covers Healthcare, Long-Term Care Workers, Paramedics, Teachers, Others
Tens of thousands of Nova Scotians working in healthcare and education must be vaccinated under a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate announced today, September 29.
“Despite having a highly vaccinated population, the pandemic is still having deadly consequences in the fourth wave,” said Premier Tim Houston. “There have been three deaths in the last week alone and we need to do whatever we can to make sure other families don’t have to grieve their loved ones. Too many Nova Scotians have chosen not to get vaccinated, and some of them work with Nova Scotians most at risk from COVID-19. It is time to get tough.”
The new vaccine mandate applies to:
— Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK Health Centre
— workers in long-term care facilities (licensed and unlicensed) and home-care agencies (publicly and privately funded)
— public school teachers, pre-primary and other school-based staff, regional and board office staff, and those providing services in schools, including cafeteria and school bus services
— Hearing and Speech Nova Scotia
— workers in residential facilities and day programs funded by the Department of Community Services Disability Support Program and adult day programs funded by Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care
— workers in Department of Community Services facilities and those providing placements for children and youth in the care of the Minister of Community Services (excluding foster family placements)
— paramedics, LifeFlight nurses and some other staff at EHS
— physicians and other service providers to the above organizations; for example hairdressers and contractors
“Our vaccination rate is not increasing as fast as we need, and we are seeing the impact of the fourth wave on those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated. There are thousands of appointments available for vaccination right now. Don’t wait – book today,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.
Employees must show proof of vaccination. If not fully vaccinated (zero or one dose), they must participate in a mandatory education program. They have until November 30 to be fully vaccinated.
If an employee is not fully vaccinated by November 30, they will be placed on unpaid administrative leave. Government will not provide employers with any additional funding to cover administrative leaves of absence related to vaccine status.
Full vaccination will be a hiring condition for new staff.
The vaccine mandate allows for a medical exception for staff who are unable to be vaccinated. However, the medical reasons required for an exception are very specific and limited. An exception letter can only be issued by a nurse practitioner or physician.
All workplaces are encouraged to develop their own vaccine policies.
“An individual’s personal decision not to get vaccinated has tangible implications – life and death consequences – for others. The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union supports the advice of public health officials regarding mandatory vaccination policies.”
– Janet Hazelton, president, Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union
“Nationally 12 Unifor members have lost their lives to COVID-19 that was contracted in the workplace. Unifor fully understands the importance of mandatory vaccination policies guided by public health officials and experts to protect individuals and others around us.”
– Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic Regional Director
— The new policy covers more than 80,000 employees
— 58,763 eligible people in Nova Scotia have not had any doses of the COVID-19 vaccine
Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 webpage: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus
New Take-Home Test Kits for Pre-primary to Grade 6
Families of children in pre-primary to Grade 6 in Nova Scotia’s public school system will receive free COVID-19 rapid testing kits in a move to enhance health and safety for unvaccinated children and their families.
Over a thousand volunteers are putting together 80,000 rapid test kits for the pilot program, called Test to Protect Kids. The pilot program will see Nova Scotia provide 320,000 rapid tests to make testing more accessible to families and support early detection of COVID-19.
“We’ve heard from parents that they are concerned about their younger children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated,” said Becky Druhan, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development. “These take-home tests are one way to provide families easier access to testing for children with symptoms and an added layer of protection on top of the core public health measures that exist in our schools.”
Within the next few weeks, schools will distribute the nose swab testing kits to families who want them. Each package will contain four take-home rapid COVID-19 tests with a set of instructions on how to complete the test.
Public Health wants families to use the test:
— if it is difficult for a family to get to a COVID-19 testing site and the child has symptoms of COVID-19, or
— if a child only has one mild symptom and does not need a lab-based PCR test, and
— if parents and guardians are comfortable doing a shallow nose swab on their child
“Throughout the pandemic we have seen that schools are not a significant source of the spread of COVID-19 cases,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “However, by improving access to testing for children with symptoms, we have a better ability to detect a case early before they have the chance to potentially expose others to the virus in a school setting.”
Schools will provide parents and guardians more information about the pilot program early next week.
— at-home tests can be used on people aged 3 and older with mild COVID-19 symptoms
— rapid COVID-19 tests are less accurate than a PCR test which means if the rapid test is negative, it needs to be repeated in 48 hours. If the rapid test is positive, it must be confirmed with a PCR COVID-19 test, which can be booked at https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en or by calling 811
A list of the primary assessment centre locations and hours can be found online at: https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirustesting
A list of the upcoming rapid pop-up testing locations and hours can be found online at:
A list of schools with exposures is available online: https://backtoschool.ednet.ns.ca/school-exposures
Nova Scotia’s reopening plan: https://novascotia.ca/reopening-plan/
COVID-19 testing appointments: https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en
Government of Canada: https://canada.ca/coronavirus
Government of Canada information line 1-833-784-4397 (toll-free)
The Mental Health Provincial Crisis Line is available 24/7 to anyone experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis, or someone concerned about them, by calling 1-888-429-8167 (toll-free)
Anyone with a non-crisis mental health or addiction concern can call Community Mental Health and Addictions at 1-855-922-1122 (toll-free) weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Kids Help Phone is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free)
For help or information about domestic violence 24/7, call 1-855-225-0220 (toll-free)
For more information about COVID-19 testing and online booking, visit: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/symptoms-and-testing/