Province Announces Mandatory Masks on Public Transit and Easing of Visitor Restrictions in Long-Term Care Homes / Nova Scotia Health, IWK to require patients and visitors to wear masks in health care facilities

The Covid Chronicle

**** HEALTH/WELLNESS Media Release

Province Announces Mandatory Masks on Public Transit and Easing of Visitor Restrictions in Long-Term Care Homes
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Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced today, July 17, that some visitor restrictions in long-term care homes are being eased and non-medical masks will become mandatory on public transportation.

“Few Nova Scotians have felt the impacts of COVID-19 like those who live and work in long-term care,” said Premier McNeil. “Although visitor restrictions were put in place to protect some of our most vulnerable, we know they have taken a toll. While safety remains our top priority, it’s time to bring some normalcy back into the lives of those in long-term care.”

Changes to the province’s directive to long-term care homes will allow for more visitors outdoors, limited indoor visits, and some return to activities. Effective July 22, the following changes can be implemented by long-term care facilities:
— both indoor and outdoor visits will be allowed with limited numbers of visitors and scheduled appointments. Residents and visitors must wear masks and observe physical distancing, except for limited physical contact like a hug
— residents and staff can gather in groups of 10 or less for dining, recreation or socializing without physical distancing. Groups should remain consistent and visitors cannot join
— sightseeing bus trips for groups of up to 10 people (including residents, staff and driver) are allowed. Residents and staff cannot get off the bus and thorough cleaning before and after each trip is required
— licensed hair salons within long-term care homes can reopen to serve residents only

Individual long-term care homes can decide which of these changes they will implement, based on operational considerations and the availability of appropriate space. Adult Residential Centres and Regional Rehabilitation Centres licensed by the Department of Community Services will also implement indoor visits under the same guidelines.

Starting July 24, it will be mandatory for drivers and passengers to wear a non-medical mask on public transportation. Children under two and people with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are exempt. Passengers are asked to use their own masks as much as possible. Government will help public transportation services with supplies of masks for people who can’t bring their own.

Public transportation includes:
— municipal transit buses and ferries
— school buses
— community transit vehicles
— private taxis and shuttles

“Wearing a non-medical mask is important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when physical distancing is difficult, along with all the other public health measures,” said Dr. Strang. “By making masks mandatory on public transportation, we are taking a first step in this priority environment as we continue to look at the epidemiology and mask use in different settings.”

Quick Facts:
— information about wearing a non-medical mask can be found at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/staying-healthy/#masks

Additional Resources:
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)

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)

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**** NSHA Media Release

Nova Scotia Health, IWK to require patients and visitors to wear masks in health care facilities

Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Centre will be requiring patients and visitors to wear a non-medical mask when entering hospitals and other health care facilities, beginning Tuesday, July 21, 2020.
“We take the health and safety of our patients, employees and physicians very seriously. Requiring people to wear masks adds another layer of protection that will help reduce transmission of COVID-19 and is consistent with evolving evidence and advice from public health experts,” said Nova Scotia Health president and CEO Dr. Brendan Carr.
IWK CEO Dr. Krista Jangaard said the two organizations have been monitoring the situation closely and are constantly evolving in their response to COVID-19.​
“As we plan for a potential second wave, we want to ensure a consistent approach across all hospitals and health centres in the province,” she said.
This requirement does not apply to hospital inpatients, children under two years of age, or staff working in non-clinical areas, once they have arrived in their workspace where they are able to maintain physical distance from others.​ Staff and physicians working in clinical areas are already required to wear a procedure mask.
Patients, visitors and essential support people wearing their own non-medical mask need to continue to maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet) from others where possible, continue frequent hand washing, practice respiratory etiquette, and avoid touching their mask and face.
“We must also stress that masks are not a replacement for physical distancing,” said Dr. Shelly McNeil, chief of infectious diseases, Nova Scotia Health, Central Zone. “Physical distancing and good hand hygiene are the most effective ways to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 and must continue to be practiced while in our facilities.”
All visitors will continue to be screened upon entry. Visitors with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, on self-isolation or being tested for COVID-19 due to recent travel or potential exposure to the virus will not be permitted to enter.

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