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‘People need to understand their actions matter’: Frontline workers urge people to follow public health restrictions

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WATCH: Front line workers are doing everything they can to help COVID-19 patients - and they're making a plea to the public to follow health orders and stay home – May 2, 2021

The number of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia has been rapidly rising, along with the number of cases in hospital.

In one week, the province has gone from 263 active cases and five people in hospital, to 822 active cases and 34 people in hospital, including six individuals in the intensive care unit.

“They can go from feeling not so good to very sick very, very quickly,” said Janet Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union.

Read more: N.S. reports 133 new COVID-19 cases, growing number of hospitalizations

While hospitals saw very few COVID-19 patients in the first two waves, this third wave — which has seen spread of the variants — is hitting people harder, and it’s targeting people of all ages.

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“The majority of these COVID patients are in their twenties, thirties and forties,” said Hazleton.

“People need to understand it’s an awful disease and if it gets hold in someone, they could die.”

“Just because you’re 20 doesn’t mean you’re not going to die if you get COVID.”

Already during the third wave, the country has seen deaths in younger populations. Last week, a person in their twenties died in New Brunswick, and a 13-year-old girl in Brampton, ON. recently died due to COVID-19.

As frontline workers do everything they can to take care of those in hospitals, Hazleton says there’s growing frustration that some people still aren’t taking this pandemic seriously.

Over the weekend, Halifax Regional Police have responded to a number of COVID-19-related calls, ultimately handing out 27 tickets over Friday and Saturday night to those not complying with the public health protection act. Each of those fines is $2,000.

“Watching all of the activity and the fines is very discouraging. People need to understand their actions matter,” said Hazleton.

Hazleton says hospital staff are already stretched thin with nurses having been redeployed to help with vaccination and testing efforts. She says if hospitalizations continue to climb, they will have to pull nurses from those efforts to care for patients.

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“COVID patients require a significant amount of care,” said Hazleton.

“They require a lot of mental care, but also physical. It’s stressful.”

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Nova Scotia health-care workers steel themselves for influx of COVID-19 patients – Apr 30, 2021

Infectious disease expert Dr. Lisa Barrett agrees that what differentiates the third wave from the previous two, is the presence of the variants.

She says not only are more people in hospital now, but they’re sicker and younger.

“And not just people with other medical problems, there’s folks here who were sitting at home feeling pretty well right before this,” she said.

“Some of them are on ventilators, many of them are having great difficulty breathing.”

Barrett says people need to do their part by staying home, not gathering in groups and getting tested.

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Read more: 17 ticketed for large gatherings in Halifax as province reports record-breaking COVID-19 cases

She says she knows people are getting tired of the restrictions, and that’s what concerns her.

“If you’re together with other people right now, that’s a huge risk factor. You need to stay home get vaccinated and get tested please because most people in the community right now don’t even know they have this virus.” she said.

“You don’t have to be disobeying the rules to be a carrier at this point. There’s a lot of virus around.”

She adds that even vaccination isn’t a ticket to act careless.

“Many people seem to be getting a vaccine one day and going out and behaving as if they’re protected the next day, and unfortunately, I’m seeing some of them in hospital,” she explained.

“Please stay home, I can’t tell you how important that is for the next week. I do not want to meet any more Nova Scotians in hospital.”

— With a file from Rebecca Lau

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