Does your favourite shop still want you to mask up? The N.S. 'COVID Safer' list might know
Online list helps inform customers of businesses, spaces that have opted to keep restrictions in place
This week, Donalda Martin-Gagnon of Dartmouth, N.S., went back to her favourite Chinese restaurant for the first time in two and a half years.
"People were still masking, still social distancing, and it was great," she said.
Martin-Gagnon lives with multiple sclerosis, which puts her at a higher risk of severe illness from any virus. For months of the COVID-19 pandemic, she rarely left her house. It just wasn't worth the risk.
"The last few years have been scary for the people living with autoimmune disease or chronic illness," said Martin-Gagnon, who facilitates an MS support group in Dartmouth.
"It has been the most terrifying years of my life because you're so scared to leave your home."
But like other pandemic-weary people, Martin-Gagnon is tired of staying home, and wants to live a more normal life. She said now that the provincial government's mask and vaccine mandates have been dropped, it comforts her to know that some businesses have kept their own rules in place.
Because of this, she said the "#COVIDsafer" list started this week on Twitter by infectious diseases specialist Dr. Lisa Barrett is a "game changer." The list features businesses and places that are doing things like continuing to mask, sanitizing, social distancing, or imposing gathering limits.
Tell us about places and spaces that are <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVIDsafer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVIDsafer</a> - we know there are leaders among our Nova Scotia businesses and communities who are giving our vulnerable and essential workers <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVIDsafer?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVIDsafer</a> options for going out. Tell us who they are and we will help spread the word :-) <a href="https://t.co/KbnCS73pXW">pic.twitter.com/KbnCS73pXW</a>—@LisaBarrettID
"I'm not going to go to a big concert where everybody is not masked," Martin-Gagnon said. "Maybe I'll go to this little store where everybody's got masks on, and having sort of that knowledge at your fingertips on the internet is a game changer for people that are already isolated because of the disease or the condition that they live in."
Barrett said the list started as a response to questions from people in the community. She said with daily case rates in Nova Scotia at an all-time high, some people are looking for safer options.
"Maybe businesses are out there and they're being pretty community-minded and want to have safer spaces for people who may be vulnerable or essential workers who really, really need to stay COVID-free right now," Barrett said.
Barrett said the list will be maintained by Test To Protect volunteers on dedicated social media pages and will be linked on the Test To Protect website.
She noted it will be curated by the community, and the places on the list won't be verified by officials.
Barrett said the response has been largely positive so far, but she wants to counter the idea that the list will be used for shaming or excluding businesses that no longer have extra COVID-19 protocols in place.
"I think there's some people who think that this is a fearful thing, that it's living in fear," she said. "It's aware, smart, COVID living. People are still going out. They're not sitting in their house. And in order to let them get out, in fact, not be fearful, we're offering some safer choices."
Martin-Gagnon said it's not about fear, but about respect.
"The fact that people are still willing to put masks on again, they're doing it for the greater good and their community. And that is so greatly appreciated," Martin-Gagnon said.
"People are living and they're respecting their fellow person."
- A previous version of this article stated that COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in Nova Scotia were at an all-time high. That statement was incorrect. The story has been updated to clarify that daily case rates are at an all-time high.Apr 09, 2022 5:13 PM AT