Jump to sections in this article:
Increasing CCA pay
Easing of restrictions
Overview of today’s numbers
Vaccination
Testing


Increasing CCA pay

Premier Tim Houston at the COVID briefing, Feb. 9, 2022. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Continuing care assistants (CCAs) in Nova Scotia are getting a big raise.

Effective tomorrow, all CCAs will see their pay increase by 20-25%, announced Premier Tim Houston at today’s COVID briefing.

“It is clear that Canada’s health care system is significantly underfunded,” said Houston. “Canada’s health care system has struggled to meet the needs and treat COVID patients and non-COVID patients.

“It’s clear that we have more to do as a government,” continued Houston:

In Nova Scotia, one necessary step to increasing capacity is with us working with the long term care sector to open more beds as quickly as possible. The biggest issue that we have in opening more beds in long term care is that there’s not enough workers, so there are people in hospitals that could be better cared for in long term care. There’s space in long term care, but they don’t have the staff to open those beds. So this is this is something that we can do.

And the fact that they don’t have enough staff is happening at the same time that there are hundreds of continuing care assistants in this province who are trained and amazing at what they do, but they aren’t working in their chosen field. And I don’t blame them

We know the important work you do and we know that we have work to do to show that to you. So this week, our government is taking an important step to reiterate the incredibly important role you play in our health care system. You’ve been underpaid by almost every metric possible to look at it. I heard loud and clear last night on a call with hundreds of CCAs some of the issues that they’re facing, and that compensation was a big part of that. So I want them to know that today we’re taking steps to fix that issue.

I’m happy to announce that we will be increasing the pay for every CCA in this province and we will make Nova Scotia a pay leader with with the raises that we’re putting forward. It’ll work out to approximately 20 to 25% increase for CCAs and we’ll work through those details with you. But it is effective tomorrow.

So my message to those of you who have who have felt undervalued to the point that you left the profession: Please come back and we need you now more than ever. We want you. We need you, we value you and we respect you.

“For most full-time CCAs, this is an annual increase of close to $9,000 a year,” reads a provincial press release.

The pay raise comes at a cost of $65 million, which will bring all CCAs in the publicly funded system up to the new wage scale. Collective bargaining continues for future pay scales.


Easing of restrictions

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID briefing on Feb. 9, 2022. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Also at today’s briefing, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announced a three-phase easing of COVID restrictions.

“We anticipate that each phase will last about a month,” said Strang. “This will give us time to monitor how things are going and make adjustments if necessary, at a high level.

“In Phase 1, which starts 12:01am, February 14th, will allow events again, increased gathering limits and business capacity limits and remove border restrictions. And in Phase 2, gathering and capacity limits will increase again, and in Phase 3, there will be no more gathering or capacity limits, and we will also lift physical distancing requirements. And for now, masks are still required in indoor public places, and proof of vaccination is still necessary for discretionary activities. And we will let our evolving epidemiology guide us when we can safely change these two components.

The details for Phase 1, which starts Monday, are spelled out in a press release:

Border Restrictions

  • all border restrictions for domestic travellers entering Nova Scotia will be lifted; there will be no isolation requirements or Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form
  • international travelers will continue to follow federal rules.

Gathering Limits

  • the informal gathering limit indoors and outdoors will be 25 people from the same household or close social group; physical distance and proof of full vaccination are not required; masks are not required except in indoor public places
  • the formal gathering limit for gatherings and events hosted by a recognized business or organization will be 50 per cent of capacity indoors and outdoors
  • examples of formal gatherings include festivals, special events, social gatherings, regular faith services, wedding ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and associated visitation, receptions, meetings, training, and spectators at sports events, performances and movie theatres.

Sports, Arts and Culture

  • professional and amateur sports participants (like players, coaches and referees) and arts and culture participants (like actors, performers and directors) are limited to 60 indoors and outdoors
  • they can have practices, training, regular league games, rehearsals and performances; tournaments are not allowed
  • physical distance is not required; masks are recommended when possible indoors and outdoors
  • spectators are allowed following the formal gathering limit.

Faith Services, Weddings and Funerals

  • regular faith services, weddings, funerals and associated receptions and visitation hosted by a recognized business or organization follow the formal gathering limit
  • performers follow limits for arts and culture participants and masks are recommended for choirs; congregational singing is allowed, but masks are required
  • proof of full vaccination remains in place for weddings, funerals and associated receptions and visitation
  • there is an exception – funerals with up to 25 people without proof of full vaccination are permitted, but masks and physical distance are required.

Fitness, Recreation and Leisure

  • fitness, recreation and leisure businesses and organizations can operate at 75 per cent capacity
  • these limits apply to fitness facilities like gyms, yoga studios, pools and arenas; to recreation and leisure activities like dance and music lessons, indoor play places, arcades, shooting ranges, dog training; and to museums and libraries
  • personal training is allowed with as much physical distance as possible
  • day camps and before and after school programs can operate with groups of up to 30 campers, staff and volunteers.

Businesses

  • retail businesses and malls can operate at the maximum capacity possible with physical distance and masks
  • personal services like hair salons can resume offering services that require removing masks; they can already operate at the maximum capacity possible with physical distance
  • food establishments and liquor-licensed establishments can operate at 75 per cent capacity; they must have physical distance between tables and there is a limit of 25 people per table; they must stop dine-in service by midnight and close by 1 a.m.; takeout, drive-thru and delivery can operate later; performers follow the limits for arts and culture participants.

Education

  • enhanced public measures, such as classroom cohorts and not allowing non-essential visitors, will remain in effect in all schools
  • singing and use of wind instruments can resume
  • schools will follow the community guidelines on sports, arts and culture, but spectators will only be permitted after school hours.

Long-Term Care

  • residents can have any two visitors at a time – they no longer need to be the same two visitors
  • visitors must still wear masks and be fully vaccinated, except for end-of-life visits
  • even if they are fully vaccinated, residents can only leave the facility for medical appointments or for a drive in a facility or visitor’s vehicle with no stops and no contact with other people outside the facility
  • only residents who are eligible and have had a booster dose can access service providers for recreational activities and personal services like hairstyling
  • facilities may continue to have residents in consistent groups for dining and activities.

I asked Strang today about some details about moving towards COVID becoming endemic. Our exchange:

Bousquet: Dr. Strang. I wonder if you can help us, the public, kind of think through the death issue, recognizing that we’re doing this balancing act between the costs of restrictions and the risk of death from COVID. Still, it does strike some as complex. You’re announcing easing of restrictions on the same day that five people died. Twenty-five people have died since the last briefing. Are we to expect another 25 to die in the next two weeks, and on the path to endemic, there will be some level of ongoing death, I suppose. And what does that look like in the long term?

Strang: I’m not going to speculate on what that looks like in the long term. Part of moving to living with COVID is accepting that in fact, we now have another respiratory virus that for some people will, because of age and underlying health conditions, may put them at risk of severe disease ending up in hospitalization or may contribute to their death. That is no different than what we have with influenza or a whole range of other infections. We have to return to for a longer term sustainability. For COVID, most people when they’re vaccinated are at low risk of severe disease. There are some people that are a much greater risk. So for me, what this calls on, we have to lift the restrictions. And we’ll be talking more about this in the coming days over the next week or so, [but] for those who remain at increased risk, what do they need to do to keep them building layers of protection? And for the rest of us, what are our obligations about starting with us getting vaccinated, us taking more precautions when say we want to visit an elderly relative or a friend or somebody that may be in our classroom that has an underlying health condition? What things are we prepared to do to make sure that they have some layers of protection around them? But I think it’s a fundamental point that we need to make that it can’t be all about just ourselves. We have to be aware that there are others around us in our communities that are at increased risk, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s flu, whether it’s a whole range of other things. And that I would like to think that we what we’ve learned from COVID is that we need to be more aware of how all of us can contribute to protecting those who are most vulnerable. And that, to me, is the fundamental piece that we need to understand around vaccination. Vaccination is what you do to protect others around you, and I want those who aren’t vaccinated to hear that.

Bousquet: Along the same sort of lines… on the march towards endemic, there’s been a limiting of those who have access to PCR tests. And I’m wondering, given the lower numbers now of positive cases and testing, could PCR testing be opened up to a broader part of the population? Or is that just something that’s going to decrease over time as well?

Strang: So we’re actively looking at — today is about restrictions — we’re actively looking at the other components of our response, whether it’s testing, our case and contact management, and surveillance, which goes along hand-in-hand with testing. So we’re looking at that and we’ll be talking more about how we evolve those into this living with COVID, along with lifting restrictions. And so we’ll have more to say in the days and the next couple of weeks around how we evolve our testing strategy.


Today’s numbers

Five more Nova Scotians have died from COVID-19. The deceased are:
• a woman in her 60s who lived in the Northern Zone
• a woman in her 70s who lived in the Western Zone
• a woman in her 80s who lived in the Eastern Zone
• two women in their 90s who lived in the Central Zone

In total, 164 Nova Scotians have died from COVID, and 54 since Dec. 3.

The province is today reporting a total of 367 people in hospital who either now have COVID or once did have COVID, as follows:
• 91 admitted because of COVID symptoms, 16 of whom are in ICU. Those 91 range in age from 0 to 95 years old, and their average age is 63;
• 135 admitted to hospital for other reasons but who tested positive for COVID during the admissions screening or who were admitted for COVID but no longer require specialized care;
• 141 who contracted COVID in the hospital outbreaks

The vaccination status of the 91 is:
• 22 (24.2%) have had 3 doses
• 32 (35.2%) have had 2 doses but not 3
• 1 (1.1%) has had 1 dose only
• 36 (39.6%) are unvaccinated
Note that less than 9% of the population (including all children under 5) are unvaccinated.

Additionally, the province announced 365 new cases of COVID-19 today. The new cases are people who received a positive PCR test result from a Nova Scotia Health lab; it does not include people who tested positive using a take-home rapid (antigen) test.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases break down as:
• 117 Central
• 59 Eastern
• 82 Northern
• 107 Western

Based only on PCR testing, the Dept. of Health estimates there are 3,232 active cases in the province, but the actual number is much higher.

Long-term care outbreaks

There is a new long-term care outbreak at Seaview Manor in Glace Bay, where 6 staff have tested positive (no reports of residents testing positive).


Vaccination

Yesterday, 6,386 doses of vaccine were administered:
• 299 first doses
• 1,764 second doses
• 4,323 third doses

In total, 2,163,770 doses have been administered:
• 878,094 first doses
• 815,161 second doses
• 470,515 third doses

As of end of day yesterday, 91.5% of the entire population have received at least 1 dose of vaccine:
• 6.5% with 1 dose only
• 36.4% with 2 doses but not 3
• 48.6% with 3 doses
• 8.5% unvaccinated

Appointments for boosters are now open to people 18 and over for whom 168 days have passed since their second shot.

Vaccination appointments for people 5 years of age and older can be booked here.

People in rural areas who need transportation to a vaccination appointment should contact Rural Rides, which will get you there and back home for just $5. You need to book the ride 24 hours ahead of time.


Testing

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 2,718 PCR tests yesterday, with a positivity rate of 13.4%.

If you test positive with a rapid (antigen) test, you are assumed to definitely have COVID, and you and your household are to self-isolate as required.

Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Wednesday
Halifax Central Library, noon-4pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm
Bridgetown Fire Hall, 11am-3pm
Windsor Legion, 11am-3pm

Thursday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Annapolis Roya Legion, 11am-3pm
Kinsmen Community Centre, 11am-3pm
Sydney Mines & District Community Centre, 11am-3pm

Additionally, a “limited number” of rapid tests are now being distributed to libraries. Call your local library to see if they’ve received any.

You can volunteer to work at the pop-up testing sites here or here. No medical experience is necessary.


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Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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