Nova Scotia

As N.S. focuses on calling international visitors, Florida woman awaits first call

The Nova Scotia government is struggling to check up on visitors from outside Atlantic Canada to ensure they are self-isolating for 14 days when they enter the province. A Florida woman who arrived 10 days ago says she hasn't heard from the province.

Louise LeBlanc-Cornelissen has been in Nova Scotia for 10 days, but province hasn't checked up on her

Louise LeBlanc-Cornelissen travelled from Florida to Nova Scotia more than a week ago. She has yet to receive a call from the province to question whether she is self-isolating. (Submitted by Sandy Forbes)

Earlier this month, 84-year-old Louise LeBlanc-Cornelissen flew into the Halifax airport from Florida, a hotspot for the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. Ten days later, she's still waiting for the province to check up on her.

"I would like for the Health Department to check up on everybody, especially coming from Florida," she said. "You would think that they would call to see where these people are."

On July 6, Premier Stephen McNeil said people entering the province from outside Atlantic Canada would have to fill out a form and provide contact information. He said the government would call every day to ensure they were following the rules.

But on July 17, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said the province would be prioritizing calls, especially to those coming from the United States, due to "capacity issues."

"Our first priority is people who are international travellers, and as we get through the 14 days we may back away from a daily call for everybody," he said.

Raeanne Rivard, her husband and three children are self-isolating in a family cottage on a lake in Queens County, N.S. They have received calls about self-isolating for eight of the 10 days they've been in the province, although initially the government had a stranger listed as her husband in their files. (Nancy Sherry)

LeBlanc-Cornelissen grew up in southwestern Nova Scotia and still has a home in East Pubnico. Her family, anxious to get her to the safety of Nova Scotia, had everything waiting for her in preparation for self-isolation. She said she's been diligent about following the rules and has spent her time doing housecleaning.

Her son-in-law, Sandy Forbes, said he's worried the province isn't checking up on all visitors.

"It's very worrisome this is taking place and that they say they're going to be checking up on international travellers when obviously they're not," he said. "What's the point of making the Atlantic bubble if you're just going to throw everything out the door?"

Ramona Polukosko and her daughter arrived July 9 from Calgary to spend time with elderly relatives after they complete their 14 days of self-isolation on the South Shore.

"I have not been called once to make sure I'm self-isolating," she said.

'I believe Nova Scotia should be testing everyone,' says visitor

Polukosko is taking precautions by not leaving the property where she's staying.

She went for a COVID-19 test before leaving Alberta and wishes she could get tested here. However, the government has told her she cannot be tested unless she displays a symptom.

"I believe Nova Scotia should be testing everyone. Everybody should be allowed to get a test," she said.

CBC News asked the Nova Scotia government to provide the number of people who have come into the province from outside the Atlantic bubble since mandatory forms were implemented at all entrance points. It also requested the number of people making the calls to ensure people are self-isolating.

Response from the province

The province did not provide any numbers. Instead, it sent along a statement.

"Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services (SNSIS) is now engaged in managing the mailbox used to receive border tracking forms," wrote spokesperson Heather Fairbairn.

"As well, dedicated resources from both 811 and SNSIS are supporting the outbound calling process. We continue to adjust staffing and refine our internal processes to address the volume of calls that may be needed, as well as placing a priority focus on calls to those involving international travel."

Elsewhere on the South Shore, Raeanne Rivard, her husband and three children have been self-isolating at a family cottage since arriving from Alberta on July 10.

The Nova Scotia government has said it will only test people who have symptoms of COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

She has received a call eight of their 10 days in the province, although the province initially identified another person with a different name as her husband.

She said they're following the rules and are "in the middle of nowhere," so there's no place for them to go. However, she worries people in more populated areas might become complacent.

"If you're staying in the city and you're not getting a call, I could see how it might flip and you might just say, 'I'm going to the store. Nobody will notice.' I can see that happening," she said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days she helps consumers navigate an increasingly complex marketplace and avoid getting ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca

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