Students may only have to wear masks for a week once schools open across the province on Sept. 7.
Premier Designate Tim Houston and Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang announced the schools reopening plan Monday.
Students will be required to mask up for the first week but with the province projected to move into the fifth phase of the COVID-19 reopening plan on Sept.15, that requirement could be short-lived.
Phase five of the reopening plan assumes the epidemiology is good and 75 per cent of Nova Scotians will have received their second doses of vaccine.
Strang says as a result, rules around mandatory masks and social distancing will be lifted.
“I’m sure there are mixed views on this. Some will be thrilled to get rid of masks and others will be nervous to stop wearing them and that’s totally normal. It’s time to start living more with COVID,” said Strang. “Even if we see rising case numbers that would have previously meant province-wide restrictions, our vaccine coverage means that we can carry on with only border restrictions and maybe, if necessary, targeted local restrictions.”
Despite the impending easing of restrictions, Strang says it’s not time for Nova Scotians to let their guard down.
“But we also need to keep practicing the good habits that help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and quite frankly, will also help reduce the spread of influenza and a range of other organisms that cause other respiratory and other gastro-intestinal illnesses. So staying home when you’re sick, washing your hands regularly, coughing and sneezing into your elbow and regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces are important whether restrictions are in place or not,” said Strang.
He added that Nova Scotians need to accept that a fourth wave of COVID-19 is coming.
“We will get the fourth wave here. We will get some cases. We may get little clusters in unvaccinated populations,” said Strang. “How we minimize the impact of the fourth wave, it really is, the key driver there is our vaccination rate.”
Strang was also asked how businesses can restrict admittance to individuals based on their vaccination status.
The chief medical officer of health says he has been advising private businesses to ensure that whatever policy they decide to put in place does not discriminate against people or infringe on their rights.
In his first appearance at a COVID-19 briefing since winning a majority in last week’s election, Houston echoed Strang’s remarks and added his government will not be issuing vaccine passports.
“There was some talk towards the end of the campaign about a Scotia-pass concept. That was not something that bubbled up from public health,” said Houston. “So the province is contemplating phase five re-opening with restrictions removed.”
Houston also announced that due to a steep uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases over the past couple of weeks, anyone travelling from New Brunswick who has not been double vaccinated will have to quarantine, beginning Wednesday.
Houston says his government plans to continue to follow public health advice in order to make the best decisions for Nova Scotia around COVID-19.
“The reality is being cautious has kept this province safe and we will continue to be cautious.”
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