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Rotational workers get conflicting information on self-isolating from N.S. government

Click to play video 'N.S. rotational workers frustrated with mandatory isolation rule' N.S. rotational workers frustrated with mandatory isolation rule
Nova Scotia is now the only province in the region that forces rotational workers to self-isolate for two weeks when they come home and those workers say, their frustration has reached its peak. Elizabeth McSheffrey reports – Sep 10, 2020

Nova Scotians who work outside the province have been completing their self-isolation under two different sets of rules, both given to them by the provincial government.

According to an email from the office of Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer, rotational workers under quarantine may go outside on their own properties, “go for a walks, bike rides or drive,” and spend time at their cabins or vacation homes in the province, as long as they’re maintaining a safe physical distance.

The email, obtained by Global News, has been circulated to some out-of-province workers who have sought clarification from the Department of Health and Wellness, and is in direct contrast to instructions on the province’s website stating out-of-province workers “must not leave the home or property” while under quarantine.

READ MORE: Nova Scotians who work away from home frustrated, confused by self-isolation rules

Workers say the inconsistent information is confusing and frustrating, and has led to different qualities of life for individuals who are supposed to be following the same set of rules during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“I’m not interested in going into any public places, but to be able to go for a walk or a ride on my bike would be a major improvement,” said Nova Scotian navigational officer Sheldon Carter, who isolates for two weeks after every two-month rotation on the Great Lakes.

He didn’t know about the government email, and had been following directions posted on the website.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia’s active coronavirus cases drops to two

“Last thing I want to do is go home and leave my house when I’m not allowed to,” said oilsands worker David Andrews, adding that he has now inquired with the Health Department in an attempt to get the same emailed response giving him permission to go for a walk.

“If that’s the case that should be made fully aware to everybody, not just people that are inquiring about it.”

The Nova Scotia government confirmed the veracity of the email obtained by Global News, stating that it had been circulated to some rotational workers. A spokesperson declined to comment, however, on inconsistency between that email and the province’s online instructions, or to elaborate on which set of rules workers should be following.

READ MORE: Resource sector workers call on Nova Scotia to follow N.B.’s lead on coronavirus self-isolation

The email was not written by Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, but a worker in the ‘Support to COVID-19 Response’ division of his office. Global News is not identifying the author, as they could not be reached for comment.

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These concerns from workers come on the heels of hints from Dr. Strang that Nova Scotia may change its self-isolation requirements for rotational workers. As it stands, Nova Scotia is the last province inside the Atlantic bubble to keep the two-week quarantine rule, with few exceptions.

“We’re actively working to perhaps have a modified isolation for them,” Strang told reporters on Wednesday. “So we’re looking at that and we’re going to bring some information to the premier in the very near future.”

READ MORE: Families concerned long-term caregiver changes won’t be implemented, and N.S. can’t enforce them

Out-of-province workers in the province have been expressing their frustration for weeks, upset that their peers from other provinces — like New Brunswick or P.E.I. — don’t have to isolate at all, or only isolate until they get a negative COVID-19 test result, respectively.

They’ve outlined the extensive measures their workplaces have taken to protect them from COVID-19, and say they pose minimal risk.

“I would agree with isolation if they would prove to us that we’re actually the ones bringing in COVID to the province,” said millwright Ronald Archibald. “But they won’t tell you any of that, they’ll tell you there’s a travel-related case but they won’t tell you anything else.”

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Public health officials investigating possible COVID-19 reinfection – Sep 9, 2020