Masks to be mandatory in most indoor public spaces in Nova Scotia
'This is how we can protect each other and support our local businesses,' says Premier Stephen McNeil
Starting at the end of the month, Nova Scotians will be expected to wear non-medical masks in most indoor public spaces.
"This is how we can protect each other and support our local businesses as we learn to live with COVID-19," Premier Stephen McNeil said at a news conference Friday.
The policy will take effect Friday, July 31.
Indoor public places include:
- Retail businesses.
- Shopping centres.
- Personal services businesses, such as hair and nail salons, spas, body art facilities, except during services that require removing a mask.
- Restaurants and bars, except while people are eating or drinking.
- Places of worship or faith gatherings.
- Places for cultural or entertainment services or activities, such as movie theatres, concerts and other performances.
- Places for sports and recreational activities, such as a gym, pool or indoor tennis facility, except while doing an activity where a mask cannot be worn.
- Places for events, such as conferences and receptions.
- Municipal or provincial government locations offering services to the public.
- Common areas of tourist accommodations, such as lobbies, elevators and hallways.
- Common areas of office buildings, such as lobbies, elevators and hallways, but not private offices.
- Public areas of a university or college campus, such as library or student union building, but not classrooms, labs, offices or residences.
- Train or bus stations, ferry terminals and airports.
Non-medical masks are already required for passengers and drivers using public transit, as well as private taxis and shuttles. That measure took effect today.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang said that if people are ever in doubt about the rules around masks, they should wear one.
"Wearing a mask, along with all the other core public health measures, is how we will minimize the impact of a second wave of COVID-19," Strang said Friday.
People are expected to provide their own masks, but Strang said the government will help with supplies as needed.
Exemptions apply to children under two. Children up to four can be exempt if their caregivers cannot get them to co-operate with putting a mask on. Masks can be removed temporarily for identification checks, ceremonial reasons and services like beard trims and facials.
"There are very few valid medical reasons to not wear a mask," Strang said.
He said anxiety is the primary reason for a medical exemption, but he encouraged people to start by practising at home or in another safe space to get used to wearing a mask. Strang said there is no evidence that masks can worsen chronic lung conditions, including asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease.
Masks will not be enforced. Strang said the province is taking a "co-operative approach," and he asked that people not make assumptions or pass judgment when they see others not wearing masks.
Nova Scotia has only one active case of COVID-19 and no new cases have been reported in nine days. Public health is still investigating the source of infection for the case that was reported on July 15. Strang said sometimes the source of individual cases is never determined, which highlights the importance of maintaining basic preventive measures like handwashing.
"Even though we're at low risk now, it's not zero risk," he said.
Opening to the rest of Canada
Despite speculation that the premier would announce a loosening of border restrictions on Friday, Nova Scotia is maintaining its 14-day self-isolation order for travellers outside the Atlantic bubble, for now.
But McNeil said Friday that he was worried about the economic impact of border restrictions, and suggested domestic travellers would soon be allowed to travel freely into the province.
McNeil said mask-wearing is the added protection Nova Scotia will need to open to the rest of the country.
"We need to learn to live with COVID until there is a vaccine," he said. "We can't stay closed forever."
He said Nova Scotia's $2-billion tourism industry has taken a major hit because of the pandemic, and it's an industry that Nova Scotia can't afford to lose.
"I'm afraid if we don't safely open up to the rest of Canada, most of our tourism businesses will have to shut down," McNeil said.
"We need to find the courage to welcome our fellow Canadians."
Time to play ball
Strang also announced Friday that baseball and softball players would soon be able to start their season. Baseball Nova Scotia has been waiting for Public Health approval to play since June.
Strang said Friday he'd found a "solution" that would allow for time-limited contact between athletes, including in other medium-contact sports. He gave few details, and said Sport Nova Scotia would be contacting affected sport organizations next week.
People with one or more of the following COVID-19 symptoms are asked to visit 811's website:
- Fever (chills, sweats).
- Cough or worsening of a previous cough.
- Sore throat.
- Shortness of breath.
- Muscle aches.
- Nasal congestion/runny nose.
- Hoarse voice.
- Unusual fatigue.
- Loss of sense of smell or taste.
- Red, purple or bluish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers that do not have a clear cause.