Even when rotational workers have received both doses of their COVID-19 vaccine, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer says they’ll still have to complete two weeks of modified quarantine when they come home.
Dr. Robert Strang confirmed the policy in a press briefing on April 1, when asked by Global News whether Nova Scotia might consider following in New Brunswick’s footsteps — allowing vaccinated rotational workers to roam free at home.
“We still don’t have any science that if you’re immunized, you can’t still be an asymptomatic spreader,” he explained. “So when I asked New Brunswick about what is the evidence behind their loosening up, they say, ‘We don’t have any evidence to reassure ourselves.’
“They’re willing to take a risk to accommodate a bit more freedoms for their rotational workers.”
The news is frustrating some rotational workers in Nova Scotia, many of whom have been stuck in a cycle of self-isolation since March 2020.
Halifax resident Jennifer Hutton, who travels often as an IT professional, said all rotational workers within the Atlantic bubble should follow the same set of rules.
“If we’re going to have a bubble within the Atlantic provinces, then we need to have consistent rules within the Atlantic provinces,” she said.
“So we can’t have people flying in from Alberta, Quebec or Ontario or wherever they fly in from, into New Brunswick and then be able to come and kind of … vacation freely in Nova Scotia, when I do the same thing and if I’m vaccinated, I have no less restrictions.”
Hutton said she recognizes there isn’t enough data on whether vaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19, and added that there aren’t enough checks in place to ensure New Brunswickers who arrive in Nova Scotia by road haven’t recently been outside Atlantic Canada.
David Alexander, a Falmouth resident and chef who works in Alberta camps, also called for a more streamlined approach before the Atlantic bubble pops. He said he would prefer not to isolate after he’s fully vaccinated, but understands why Nova Scotia is taking that approach.
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“I don’t, it’s just that COVID fatigue is starting to really wear people down.”
Other rotational workers reached by Global News were unwilling to be named in this article to avoid additional stigma in their communities, but expressed similar frustration with inconsistency throughout the Atlantic bubble.
When it opens, they said Nova Scotians who are travelling could end up exposed to a vaccinated rotational worker — something Strang has not approved at home.
Nova Scotia’s Health Department was unavailable to comment on this story on the holiday Monday. New Brunswick, similarly, did not return a request for comment.
Right now, vaccinated rotational workers in New Brunswick do not have to self-isolate, as long as it’s been two weeks since they received their second vaccine dose. Until more New Brunswickers are vaccinated, however, those workers must still get COVID-19 tests on the fifth and 10th day of their return.
In P.E.I., rotational workers coming home must be tested for COVID-19 three times within 11 days but may leave self-isolation upon receiving their first negative test result. Twenty-one days after receiving their first vaccine dose, they may be eligible for a self-isolation exemption.
In Nova Scotia, rotational workers must self-isolate for the full two weeks, with limited modifications that allow them to get outside or drive with their families. They must test for COVID-19 three times during that period and continue isolating no matter the result.
“It’s hard. We moved to Nova Scotia to be closer to family and if anything, it’s almost like we’re further away,” said an Annapolis Valley resident whose husband is a heavy equipment operator in Alberta. Global News agreed not to name her to avoid community backlash.
“They want the mass public to go out and get vaccinated, but then nothing changes for them … There has to be some give.”
Rotational workers in New Brunswick and P.E.I. are already being vaccinated. In Nova Scotia, they’ll be vaccinated along with their age groups — “the fastest way” to get a shot, according to Strang.