Starting on Thursday October 12, Nova Scotians will have to mask when they are going to a Nova Scotia Health facility in the province.
Nova Scotia Health announced changes to its medical masking policy on Tuesday. In a news release, the health authority wrote that medical masks will be required by anyone in the following settings:
- Upon entry to Nova Scotia Health facilities and in common/public areas such as hallways, elevators, staircases, and cafeterias.
- All clinical care areas where patients, clients, families and essential care partners/caregivers are present.
- All inpatient and ambulatory care settings.
The authority said the changes were made in response to the increase of cases of COVID in the community and the upcoming flu and respiratory illness season.
Masks will be available at the public entrances to hospitals and other medical facilities. Anyone with COVID symptoms is asked not to visit Nova Scotia health hospitals or medical facilities.
Nova Scotia Health announced in early September that it was dropping its masking and screening protocols. Those changes included removing COVID screeners from entrances at hospitals, as well as dropping the mandatory masking policy for anyone entering hospitals and clinics, as well as in common, day-surgery, and clinic areas.
Health authorities discussed masking policy last week
In a briefing last week, chief medical officer Dr. Robert Strang said health authorities were in discussions about masking policies. At that time, Strang said he didn’t think a general masking policy would apply to everyone unless the province saw significant increases in the levels of COVID, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), offering this explanation:
Right now, given the amount of virus we have around, what I outline is that people should consider, based on an assessment of their own health, where they’re going to be, the number of people around, whether it’s indoors versus outdoors, who you might be around, people at high risk, whether you might want to wear a mask or not.
But again, where it’s most important to wear a mask is if you have cold or flu symptoms and you cannot stay at home until you’re feeling better, then it’s critically important that [sic] those times people wear masks.
Also at that briefing, Strang said only those Nova Scotians in high-risk categories should get a PCR test for COVID-19. He said anyone with cold or flu symptoms didn’t need to test for COVID, but should follow other measures, including staying home when sick, masking if out in public, frequent handwashing, and using proper cough and sneeze etiquette.
Strang told Nova Scotians not to be alarmed by the rising number of COVID cases in the province, saying public health looked to regions in the southern hemisphere for patterns in respiratory illness. Strang said those regions only had modest increases in cases of COVID and other respiratory illness.
The Halifax Examiner contacted Nova Scotia Health to ask if patients and staff at hospitals and clinics are being tested for COVID-19, and if those data are being tracked. Jaimee Dobson, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Health, sent this response:
All patients being admitted to hospital or presenting for care in an Emergency Department or clinic are screened for symptoms or other risk factors for viral respiratory infections and if symptomatic or risk factors are identified, infection control measures are implemented (such as masks and eye protection for healthcare workers) and the patient is tested for respiratory viruses.
Health care team members are expected to monitor for symptoms, stay home from work if ill, and do a rapid antigen test for COVID-19 or book a PCR. Rapid antigen tests are readily available for all NS Health team members. If they test positive for COVID-19, they are not permitted to work for 7 days. If negative for COVID-19, they may return to work once feeling better.
Data is captured for both streams.
We do not anticipate changes to our testing protocols for staff or patients at this time.
COVID and influenza vaccines are available throughout this month. You can go to this website to book an appointment. You can receive both vaccines at the same appointment.