Province lays out re-opening plans

HALIFAX: A week after announcing the softening of some public health measures, the province explained how they plan to roll back more restrictions.

During a press briefing on May 8 in Halifax, Premier Stephen McNeil announced that all schools in Nova Scotia will remain closed until September, but at-home learning will continue until June 5 and teachers will work until the end of June to finalize student assessments.

“Hang in there, you only have a little bit longer,” the premier said to teachers and students.

For daycare operators, McNeil said the goal is to open by June 8 but the timeline for them to resume will be determined in consultation with the sector.

“For our Grade 12 students, I want you to know that we will celebrate your graduation at a time when it is safe to do so,” education minister Zach Churchill said.

Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, reviewed the decision-making and consultation processes provincial officials will be using before lifting some of the measures they implemented in March.

“We must take a slow and methodical approach if we are to safely bring Nova Scotia back to normal,” said Dr. Strang. “No decisions have been made. We are working on a reopening plan that balances public safety with the need to increase economic and social activity. The first phase is still some weeks away.”

He said Nova Scotia’s reopening will depend on advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the status of COVID-19 in the province, consultation with sectors, and the ability for people and businesses to continue to follow public health measures. Each phase could last a minimum of 28 days and the readiness to reopen and to move onto the next phase will be assessed weekly.

“What we announced last weekend, we call the pre-phase, it was a necessary opening up of some outdoor spaces,” Dr. Strang explained. “The full phase 1 is coming soon.”

Those who have been and will be consulted are: restaurant and drinking establishments; business associations; private campgrounds; the cosmetology association; personal care services; fitness establishments; unregulated health professions; regulated health professions; golf courses; casinos; licensed childcare providers; and art and cultural organizations.

Phase 1 will involve allowing: some businesses to open; daycares to operate; more outdoor activities; urgent health care services to resume; the size of social gatherings to increase; and essential cultural gatherings (like funerals) to take place.

According to Dr. Strang’s presentation, phase 2 could include a larger gathering size and opening businesses deemed low-risk. The third phase could mean increasing gathering size again and re-opening moderate-risk businesses/workplaces. Phase 4 could include opening highest risk settings, with another increase in gathering sizes. The final phase will involve re-opening all businesses, but will depend on vaccine availability.