Editor’s note: The following article was revised from the version which appeared in the July 29 edition of The Reporter.
HALIFAX: Although Nova Scotia has gone weeks without new COVID-19 cases, the province renewed the state of emergency and mandated the use of non-medical masks in indoor public places
In a press release, the provincial government said the state of emergency was extended to August 9 to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians and ensure the safe reopening of businesses and services.
“We can’t become complacent, COVID is a reality and we’re going to have to learn to live with it,” Premier Stephen McNeil told a media briefing. “As we prepare to open up our province further, we must continue to be vigilant to minimize the impact of the second wave of COVID-19.”
On July 24, McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced that non-medical masks will become mandatory in most indoor public places starting July 31.
“We all need to be open to wearing a non-medical mask in most indoor public places,” the premier said. “This is how we can protect each other and support our local businesses as we learn to live with COVID-19.”
According to the province, indoor public places include: retail businesses; shopping centres; personal services businesses such as hair and nail salons, spas, body art facilities, except during services that require removing a mask; restaurants and bars, except while people are eating or drinking; places of worship or faith gatherings; places for cultural or entertainment services or activities such as movie theatres, concerts and other performances; places for sports and recreational activities such as a gym, pool or indoor tennis facility, except while doing an activity where a mask cannot be worn; places for events such as conferences and receptions; municipal or provincial government locations offering services to the public; common areas of tourist accommodations such as lobbies, elevators and hallways; common areas of office buildings such as lobbies, elevators and hallways, but not private offices; public areas of a university or college campus, such as library or student union building, but not classrooms, labs, offices or residences; and train or bus stations, ferry terminals and airports.
“You can take off your mask for eating and drinking, but … when you’re entering a restaurant, waiting to be seated, going to the washroom, or getting ready to leave, you must be wearing your mask,” Dr. Strang confirmed on July 24.
Children under two are exempt, as well as children aged two to four when their caregiver cannot get them to wear a mask. People with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are exempt. Schools, daycares and day camps continue to follow their reopening plans.
People are asked to use their own masks and the government will help with initial supplies of masks for people who cannot bring their own.
Dr. Strang said Nova Scotia has to be fully prepared for a second wave of transmission, likely in the fall.
“The evidence on non-medical masks has evolved throughout the pandemic and public health direction has evolved along with it,” Dr. Strang said. “Non-medical masks are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.”
Like the premier, Dr. Strang said Nova Scotians will have to learn to live with the reality of COVID-19.
“We need to continue to understand that we are living with COVID for now and for a number of months, if not years to come.”