Government eases more public health restrictions

HALIFAX: The provincial government has decided to ease more public health restrictions surrounding long-term care facilities and out-of-province rotational workers.

Last week, the province announced it is allowing designated caregivers to help care for and support long-term care residents.

“With new cases of COVID-19 remaining low in Nova Scotia, we can continue to ease some of the necessary restrictions,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “Designated caregivers will now be able to help support the daily care and well-being of residents.”

Designated caregivers can be family members, spouses, friends or other support people. They must be associated with specific caregiving tasks like personal care support, mobility or help with eating, and have an established caregiving relationship with the resident prior to COVID-19.

Long-term care facilities will work with residents, families and substitute decision-makers to identify up to two designated caregivers per resident but only one designated caregiver may visit at a time.

The facilities will train caregivers on public health requirements, including masking, good hand and respiratory hygiene, and facility procedures, as well they will provide medical masks for caregivers to wear while with residents.

Long-term care facilities will also establish processes to screen caregivers upon entry and to easily identify caregivers onsite.

Individual long-term care homes will work to implement these changes while considering the unique situations of residents and caregivers. Potential caregivers will make arrangements with individual facilities for training and visitation.

“Residents of long-term care and their families have faced immeasurable difficulties during the first wave of the pandemic and throughout the summer,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “Today’s changes will allow some people more access to help care for their loved ones, but this must not be the province’s only response on long-term care. The Liberals must make improvements to staffing and facilities for everyone who lives in the nursing homes of Nova Scotia.”

The NDP has been calling for, at minimum, a legislated requirement for residents to receive 4.1 hours of care support per day since 2018. The NDP tabled the Care and Dignity Act in September 2018, but the Liberal government has refused to call the bill for a vote.

Also last week, the province announced it is easing some self-isolation requirements for out-of-province rotational workers when they return to Nova Scotia.

A rotational worker is someone who has a set schedule where they alternate between living in Nova Scotia and working outside the province, such as an Alberta oil worker.

The changes are only for rotational workers who are residents of Nova Scotia who travel to another province or territory in Canada to work. They do not apply to rotational workers who work outside of Canada.

“While self-isolation is important, we know it isn’t always easy, particularly for those who travel back and forth from Nova Scotia to other parts of Canada to work,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “These Nova Scotians play a vital role in our communities and our economy. We want to ensure that the self-isolation requirement does not negatively impact the health, well-being and family lives of rotational workers, so we are making changes.”

Effective immediately, rotational workers are allowed to interact with people who live in their household. Maintaining physical distance from household members is not necessary unless the rotational worker becomes unwell. Household members do not need to self-isolate unless they become unwell.

Workers are also permitted to spend time outside on their own property; going for a drive; going for a walk, run, hike, bike or ATV ride for exercise and recreation off their property (if they encounter people from outside their household, they must wear a mask and maintain a distance of two metres); visiting a park, beach or other outdoor public space (if they encounter people from outside their household, they must wear a mask and maintain a distance of two metres); spending time at their cabin or vacation home (or a rental location) within the province, following the same rules as if at home; dropping off and picking up household members at school, work or recreational activities without getting out of the vehicle; no-contact pick-up of groceries or other items purchased on-line without getting out of the vehicle; attending a drive-in theatre without getting out of the vehicle; and going through a drive-thru at a restaurant or bank

Effective September 14, workers are allowed to attend necessary (urgent and routine) medical appointments. This includes appointments with physicians and nurse practitioners, dentists, optometrists and other regulated health professionals where in-person treatment is required.

However, the following activities continue to be restricted: entering public places (e.g. schools, grocery stores, shopping malls, banks, religious institutions, restaurants/bars); attending indoor and outdoor gatherings; visiting people from outside their household; allowing people from outside their household to visit them on their property or in their home; or volunteering or working in any capacity that requires them to be in contact with people outside their household.

“There are many rotational workers in the province and exempting all of them from the requirement to self-isolate could significantly increase the risk to Nova Scotians,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “We have expanded the list of allowable activities that focuses on the mental and physical well-being of rotational workers while ensuring we minimize the risk of transmission within Nova Scotia.”