Takeaways from this article:

• Phase 5 of reopening begins Monday, lifting gathering limits for bars, restaurants, concerts, etc, but gathering limits remain for informal gatherings

• Indoor mask mandates remain, and travel restrictions extended to people coming from PEI and Newfoundland & Labrador

• Proof of vaccines required to enter restaurants, bars, sporting events, etc

• Full vaccination will be required for teachers and school employees, health care workers, and others

• Third dose policy adopted

Premier Tim Houston, Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID-19 briefing, September 29, 2021 Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Jump to sections in this article:
Phase 5 of reopening
Proof of vaccines
Vaccine mandates
Schools
Third doses and booster doses
Overview of today’s cases
Vaccination
Demographics
Testing
Potential exposure advisories

Phase 5 of reopening

Phase 5 of Nova Scotia’s reopening plan will begin Monday,  October 4, but with modifications, as follows:

• masks will be mandatory in indoor public places

•  physical distancing and gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization will be lifted but informal gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors will remain in place 

•  border restrictions will be applied to people travelling from PEI and Newfoundland & Labrador based on vaccine status (the same policy that already applies to all other provinces)

There’s no end date on masking and gathering limits, but “they’re not long-term,” Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang told reporters at a briefing this afternoon.

Strang said that the modelling suggests that with the above policies in effect, the Fourth Wave should dissipate by the end of October and into November, but time will tell. “I look at three month horizon,” he said.

Proof of vaccination

Starting at 12:01am on Oct. 4, proof of full vaccination will be required for people who are 12 and older to participate in “discretionary, non-essential events and activities, such as going to restaurants, movies, sports events, theatre performances, social events and the gym.”

To enter such venues, people will have to show proof of vaccination and ID. More details here.

The Canadian proof of vaccination will be available to Nova Scotians starting on Oct. 1.

Everyone who is vaccinated will be able to download the Canadian proof of vaccination on October 1, by going to novascotia.ca/proof.

The Canadian proof of vaccination will have a QR code, but unfortunately the app that can read it, called the VaxCheckNS app, will not be available until Oct. 22.

“That QR code will support a number of things that are going to come in play, but it’s also the QR code that the federal government intends to use for international travel,” said Tracey Barbrick, the province’s associate deputy minister of the COVID-19 Immunization Strategy. “They haven’t announced an effective date of that, but they had have said fall. So that QR code, given that every province and territory is going to comply, will allow them to use your own proof of vaccination.”

“The intention is on October 22nd, Nova Scotia will have produced a free app that can be downloaded by anyone that wants it, including ourselves, for that matter, if you want to scan your own for some reason or another,” continued Barbrick. “And that that that app will be called VaxCheckNS. And what that will allow you to do is scan for a business to scan that QR code with having nothing else except the QR code, and they will get either a checkmark or an X confirming that you’ve been fully vaccinated, or not.”

Once the app is available, it will immediately read the code people have downloaded onto their phones, but they’ll still be able to use the paper forms if they want.

Vaccine mandates

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Additionally, there will be vaccination mandates for a variety of jobs, by Nov. 30: 

  • Public School teachers and all school staff
  • paramedics, LifeFlight nurses and some other staff at EHS
  • workers in facilities and those providing placements for children and youth in the care of the Minister of Community Services (excluding foster family placements)
  • Nova Scotia Health and IWK.
  • workers in long-term care and home care
  • Hearing & Speech Nova Scotia
  • residential facilities and day programs funded by the Department of Community Services Disability Support Program
  • physicians and other service providers to the above organizations; for example hairdressers and contractors

There are medical exceptions to the vaccine mandates, but very few people fit into this exemption —  fewer than 2,000.

Schools

There has been known transmission at four schools, Strang said.

“I know, for instance, there’s one school where there’s a family with a group of siblings in two different schools,” said Strang. “All of them have shown up as cases in the school. But the transmission, we know, was in the home. I was told today by the the the team that there are four schools that we’re clear there’s transmission within the school.”

A few more schools have multiple exposure advisories, but it’s not believed that transmission occurred at the school.

Schools with enhanced Public Health Measures are Champlain Elementary School in Granville Ferry; École Mer et Monde in Halifax; Duc d’Anville Elementary in Halifax; Prospect Road Elementary in Hatchet Lake; Charles P Allen High in Bedford; Halifax West High; and Ross Road School in Westphal.

Strang said there have be no children hospitalized in the Fourth Wave.

As noted above, teachers and all school staff will be required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 30. After Nov. 30, those who are still unvaccinated will be placed on unpaid administrative leave, and vaccination is a hiring condition.

Asked why there weren’t similar vaccine mandates for day care workers, Strang said “that was really a decision with [the Department of] Education. Again, we’ve said this is where we’re going to start and we [might] broaden the list. We believe that, you know, this will bring a significant chunk of people not yet vaccinated, vaccinated. Certainly their awareness within the Department of Education was that they didn’t see that there was a significant need at this point in time to include daycares.”

Families of children in pre-primary to Grade 6 will receive free COVID-19 rapid testing kits for symnptomatic testing. Over 1,000 volunteers are putting together 80,000 test kits (four tests per kit) for the pilot program, “Test to Protect Kids.”

“The purpose of this is to make symptomatic testing more accessible and support very early detection of COVID-19 in an unvaccinated school-aged population,” said Strang. “So starting next week, the kits and detailed information about how to use those kits will start to be made available to families through the Regional Centres for Education and see it, CSAP.

Each child with symptoms will have to take two tests.

In a statement released this afternoon, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union supported the new school policies:

The NSTU has strongly encouraged members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and agrees in principle with the proposed vaccine policy announced today for school staff. There are certain details from the policy that have yet to be developed, and we are looking forward to engaging with Government and Public Health over the coming days to gain more clarity.

We are also pleased that mandatory masking will remain in place inside schools and that rapid testing kits will be provided to students. We are similarly encouraged that public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools resumed yesterday.

With rising case numbers in schools and within the population of children who are ineligible to get vaccinated, clarity about what triggers additional Public Health measures in the buildings where students gather to learn each day is of paramount importance. Parents, teachers and school staff have worked extremely hard to keep their students and children safe, and they want to make sure the appropriate steps are being taken. Public Health needs to proactively outline the standards it is using to determine additional protections to keep parents, students and staff from losing confidence in the safety of schools.

Schools remain the largest daily gathering of unvaccinated Nova Scotians. It only makes sense to provide them with extra protections that exceed what’s required in the community at large. We want to thank Government and Public Health for their ongoing efforts to keep Nova Scotians safe during this pandemic and look forward to continuing a positive dialogue with them in the best interest of students and their teachers.

Third doses and booster doses

School buses are seen in the parking lot of a hockey arena in Dartmouth on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. — Photo: Zane Woodford

As of Oct. 15, the following people can get an additional mRNA dose:

•  people who need it for work-related travel

• immunocompromised people — there are around 10K people in this group

A booster (or third) mRNA shot will be made available for long-term care residents, but six months must have passed since their second dose/  

“I know a lot of people are concerned about this one because NACI released the recommendations probably two weeks ago now,” said Barbrick. So NASSE recommendations [ immunocompromised people are] for active treatment for cancer, solid organ transplants, cardio therapy or stem cell transplant, moderate to severe primary immunodeficiency, HIV and active treatment with certain immunosuppressive therapies. [There will additionally be] lots more information because we actually have a fairly standard drug list that’s used for these conditions.”

More details about who can get the third dose and how to get it will be made available before Oct. 15.

Overview of today’s cases

Nova Scotia announced 41 new cases of COVID-19 today, Wednesday, September 29.

By Nova Scotia Health zone, the new cases are:
• 32 Central Zone
• 3 Eastern Zone
• 4 Northern Zone
• 2 Western Zone

Due to the large number of new cases under investigation, the Dept. of Health is no longer providing details about mode of transmission (i.e., travel, close contact, or under investigation). The department similarly stopped reporting mode of transmission during the third wave.

The department repeated that “there are signs of community spread among those in Central Zone aged 20 to 40 who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities.”

There are now 224 known active cases in the province. Twelve people are in hospital with the disease, two of whom are in ICU. Twenty-one people are considered newly recovered, which means they are no longer contagious and not necessarily that they aren’t sick.


Vaccination

Yesterday, 2,910 doses of vaccine were either administered or newly recorded — 1,808 second doses and 1,102 first doses. A total of 1,505,975 doses of vaccine have been administered, of which 724,772 were second doses. As of end of day yesterday, 80.4% of the entire population (including young children) have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 74.6% have received two doses.

I am no longer providing a secondary calculation of vaccination rates reflecting military vaccinations because I understand that the province is gradually inputting those figures into its own database.

People 12 years old and older can also book a vaccination appointment 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.


Demographics

By age cohort, the new cases break down as:
• 11 are 11 years old or younger
• 3 are aged 12-19
• 17 are aged 20-39
• 5 are aged 40-59
• 4 are aged 60-79
• 1 is aged 80 or over

The active cases across the province are distributed as follows:

Central Zone
• 103 in the Halifax Peninsula/Chebucto Community Health Network
• 50 in the Dartmouth/Southeastern Community Health Network
• 20 in the Bedford/Sackville Community Health Network
• 0 in the Eastern Shore/Musquodoboit Community Health Network
• 4 in the West Hants Community Health Network
• 7 not assigned to a Community Health Network
Total: 184

Eastern Zone
• 6 in the Cape Breton Community Health Network
• 0 in the Inverness, Victoria & Richmond Community Health Network
• 2 in the Antigonish & Guysborough Community Health Network
Total: 8

Northern Zone
• 13 in the Colchester/East Hants Community Health Network
• 1 in the Pictou Community Health Network
• 6 in the Cumberland Community Health Network
Total: 20

Western Zone
• 8 in the Annapolis and Kings Community Health Network
• 4 in the Lunenburg & Queens Community Health Network
• 0 in the Yarmouth, Shelburne & Digby Community Health Network
Total: 12


Testing

Nova Scotia Health labs completed 5,720 PCR tests yesterday. This does not include the antigen tests administered at the pop-up testing sites.

As part of the Phase 5 plan, Public Health is increasing its lab capacity to handle up to 7,500 PCR tests each day.

You do not need a health card to get tested.

Pop-up testing (antigen testing) is for asymptomatic people over 16 who have not been to the potential COVID exposure sites (see map below); results usually within 20 minutes. Pop-up testing has been scheduled for the following sites:

Wednesday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate, 10am-2pm

Thursday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm

Friday
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm

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

You can also get PCR testing at the Nova Scotia Health labs by going here. Appointments can be made for the IWK, or for various locations in each of the health zones (appointments may not be available at each site).


Potential exposure advisories

Nova Scotia Health issued several potential COVID exposure advisories last night.

We’ve collected all the active advisories for potential COVID exposures on bus routes and flights here. I’ll be adding schools to the map tonight.

The updated potential COVID exposure advisory map is below; you can zoom in and click on the coronavirus icons to get information about each site.


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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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  1. Given that the Phase 5 that begins on October 4 is so different from the Phase 5 provided in the original plan, I would be very interested in seeing what our new Premier and his team have put together as a plan to move beyong Phase 5 to a time when alll restrictions are lifted, even if it can only be hypothetical at this point in time. There will always be those who will not get the shots (and I will readily admit that my arm will not be jabbed again in 2021 and probably won’t be jabbed in 2022 either), but we need to know what metrics might result in a loosening or a tighening of restrictions.

    For example, NB is using people in hosptial. When the number is above 25, things are tigethened up; when it is below 25, things are loosened up (and the mask mandate is goine). For those who don’t know me, my story around the whole issue of masks was published on this site back in May 2020 (before we even had a mask mandate). I still struggle to wear one for more than a biref period of time; although if I’m really engaged in whatever I am doing (and it isn’t too hot or muggy outside, or too stuffy inside) I can now go almost an hour before I just gotta get that piece of cloth off my face.

    I was so looking forward to getting to decide for myself whether or not I needed to wear a mask when I entered a public place – to actually feeling like I had some power and control again. Instead, there are more hoops to jump through just to go and enjoy a meal out with friends – and like so many others who have done all we can,I’m really tired of doing everything I’m told and not getting anything in return. I still, though, which some find contradictory, don’t support mandatory shots for anyone in any industry, nor do I support a proof of vaxx policy. I firmly believe everyone should be able to make the decision they deem best for their cirucumstances and that they should still be free to enjoy all life has to offer.

    It is so much fun being this human known to the world as Vel, with all her quicks and idiiosyncrciies.

  2. I am concerned that they are not reporting whether new cases are amongst unvaccinated people or not. Seems to me it would be extra encouragement to stop the holdouts and get them jabbed.