N.S. makes masks mandatory on public transit, eases visitor restrictions in long-term care homes

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Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health for Nova Scotia, announced Friday at a press briefing that some visitor restrictions in long-term care homes are being eased and non-medical masks will become mandatory on public transportation.

“Few Nova Scotians have felt the impacts of COVID-19 like those who live and work in long-term care,” said Premier McNeil.

“Although visitor restrictions were put in place to protect some of our most vulnerable, we know they have taken a toll. While safety remains our top priority, it’s time to bring some normalcy back into the lives of those in long-term care.”

READ MORE: No new coronavirus cases reported in Nova Scotia Friday

The province said changes to the province’s directive to long-term care homes will allow for more visitors outdoors, limited indoor visits, and some return to activities.

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According to the government, effective July 22, the following changes can be implemented by long-term care facilities:

  • Both indoor and outdoor visits will be allowed with limited numbers of visitors and scheduled appointments. Residents and visitors must wear masks and observe physical distancing, except for limited physical contact like a hug.
  • Residents and staff can gather in groups of 10 or less for dining, recreation or socializing without physical distancing. Groups should remain consistent and visitors cannot join
  • Sightseeing bus trips for groups of up to 10 people (including residents, staff and driver) are allowed. Residents and staff cannot get off the bus and thorough cleaning before and after each trip is required.
  • Licensed hair salons within long-term care homes can reopen to serve residents only

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“Individual long-term care homes can decide which of these changes they will implement, based on operational considerations and the availability of appropriate space,” the province said in a statement.

Adult Residential Centres and Regional Rehabilitation Centres licensed by the Department of Community Services will also implement indoor visits under the same guidelines.

Mandatory masks on public transit

The premier also announced that starting July 24, it will be mandatory for drivers and passengers to wear a non-medical mask on public transportation.

Children under two and people with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are exempt.

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“Passengers are asked to use their own masks as much as possible. Government will help public transportation services with supplies of masks for people who can’t bring their own,” the province said.

Public transportation includes:

  • Municipal transit buses and ferries
  • School buses
  • Community transit vehicles
  • Private taxis and shuttles

“Wearing a non-medical mask is important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when physical distancing is difficult, along with all the other public health measures,” said Dr. Strang.

“By making masks mandatory on public transportation, we are taking a first step in this priority environment as we continue to look at the epidemiology and mask use in different settings.”

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