HALIFAX: With no new cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia for more than 14 days, provincial officials lifted more public health measures late last week.
Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced that effective July 3, some gathering limits will increase.
“In the two weeks we’ve been away from these briefings, we’ve had no new cases of COVID,” the premier said during the June 26 briefing. “And that’s why we are now able to begin to open up our province even more.”
If a recognized business or organization is planning an event outdoors, 250 people can attend with physical distancing rules in place. For an indoor event, the limit is 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 200, again with physical distancing.
Gatherings not run by a recognized business or organization, for example a family event in the backyard, are still subject to the 50-person maximum limit with physical distancing unless in a close social group of 10.
“This is to protect you, if you are the host of a family event in your community,” the premier explained. “It shouldn’t be up on you, as an individual, to monitor people’s behaviours. Business and event planners get paid to do that, that is why they have a higher gathering limit.”
The expanded gathering limits apply to social events, faith gatherings, weddings, funerals and other cultural events, and arts and culture events like theatre performances, dance recitals, festivals and concerts. Guidelines for these types of events are available at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/docs/Events-theatres-and-venues-COVID-19-prevention-guidelines.pdf.
For participants and officials at sports events, Dr. Strang said they are maintaining the level at 50 people.
“There can still be groups of 10 in closer contact within that large group of 50 but each of those sub-groups needs to be distancing from each other,” Dr. Strang said. “Any sideline or bleacher spectators are included in the total of 50 people at a sporting event.”
People can continue to gather in close social groups of up to 10 without physical distancing. People in a group are not required to be exclusive but they are strongly encouraged to maintain a consistent group. People should not gather in random or spontaneous groups of 10.
“At any single event, you should only be in one single close social group,” Dr. Strang explained.
Businesses that are too small to ensure physical distancing can still have no more than 10 people on their premises at a time with as much physical distancing as possible.
Restaurants and licensed liquor establishments can now operate at 100 per cent capacity and serve patrons until midnight with appropriate distancing between tables. Patrons must leave by 1 a.m. They must continue to follow their sector plans.
Private campgrounds can operate at 100 per cent capacity. They must continue to follow their sector plan.
Public pools can re-open with physical distancing for lane swimming and aquafit classes, and one or more groups of 10 for other activities based on pool size. They must follow the Nova Scotia Lifesaving Society plan for change rooms and washrooms. It will take municipalities and other public pools time to prepare for reopening.
People living in homes funded by disability support programs can resume going out into their communities, although it may take time for homes to make arrangements.
“We ask that Nova Scotians be kind and understanding as they begin to re-engage with our wider community,” McNeil stated.
Dr. Strang now recommends that all Nova Scotians wear a non-medical mask in places where distancing cannot be maintained, such as in stores, on public transit, or at gatherings. The exceptions are children under two or anyone who has a medical reason for not wearing a mask.
“However, as we increase the risk for the virus to reappear, as well as a step to strengthening our preventative measures and normalizing the use of non-medical masks, before any reappearance does happen, we’re now changing that recommendation,” Dr. Strang told the briefing. “Unless you can be 100 per cent sure that you can maintain distance, then you should be having a non-medical mask.”
Dr. Strang said this recommendation is about the greater good.
“Wearing the non-medical mask doesn’t protect us, the mask wearer, it protects other people in case we have the virus and we’re not aware of it because we may not be sick,” he noted. “Wearing a mask is really a way of showing that we care about other people. And we ask them to wear a mask to show that they care about us.”
As for seniors living in Long-Term Care facilities, McNeil added that he and Dr. Strang hope to loosen visitor restrictions soon.
“We are working on a plan to open up our Long-Term Care facilities but we are not there yet,” he added.