Nova Scotia makes masks mandatory on public transit and in hospitals

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang
Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang.
Ed Halverson - QCCR - LiverpoolNS | 17-07-2020

Anyone taking public transportation in Nova Scotia is now required to wear a non-medical mask.

During Friday’s COVID-19 update, the province’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Strang, announced that effective July 24, wearing masks will be mandatory when riding municipal buses and ferries, school buses, community transit vehicles and in private taxis and shuttles.

“We’re taking this first step with public transit because it’s essential for many people. Many people have to use the bus to function in our communities. Buses are clearly a closed environment and there have been some cases linked with being on a bus.”

Drivers will also be required to wear a mask and the only exceptions will be made for children under two years of age and those with a valid medical reason.

Strang says there are no fines or punitive measures for those who refuse to wear a mask as he emphasized wearing a mask is not just about protecting yourself.

“Don’t look for excuses to not wear a mask. We have to work together to deal with COVID. We have to work together to keep each other safe. So for heaven’s sake, it’s not too much to ask people to wear a mask in places when they’re around other people for a short period of time.”

This mandate comes a day after the Nova Scotia Health Authority and IWK announced they are going to require all patients and visitors to hospitals and health care facilities to wear a non-medical mask effective Tuesday, July 21.

This requirement does not apply to hospital inpatients, children under two years of age, or staff working in non-clinical areas able to maintain social distancing.

Families with loved ones in long-term care have reason to celebrate as Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Strang announced changes to their directives around visitors.

Beginning Wednesday July 22, residents can now receive visitors both indoors and outdoors, staff and residents can gather in groups of ten, residents can participate in sightseeing tours and hair salons located in the facilities are once again allowed to open to serve residents.

As before, it will be up to the individual homes which of the changes they will implement.

Concerns have been raised by many people across social media that wearing a mask will create or further exacerbate lung problems.

Dr. Strang says the vast number of Nova Scotians are able to wear masks and there are very few medical reasons not to do so.

“”The Canadian Thoracic Society clearly states that there is no evidence that wearing a non-medical mask worsens a chronic lung condition such as asthma or chronic obstructive lung disease.”

He recognizes that wearing a mask can make some people anxious but says there are practical ways of overcoming that anxiety such as wearing one for a few minutes at a time in the safety of your own home.

Strang says his department will be putting together a list of coping mechanisms which will be posted to the government COVID-19 website in the coming days.

Reported by Ed Halverson 
Twitter: @edwardhalverson