All 11,000 employees of the Nova Scotia government will need to get their COVID-19 vaccine by Nov. 30, the province announced Wednesday.
This comes after mandatory vaccinations were already announced in other sectors, such as health care, education, child care and corrections.
“I know that not everyone supports these public safety measures that we’ve taken, but this isn’t about each of us as individuals,” said Premier Tim Houston during a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday.
“We have to think about what it takes to keep our community safe, our friends, our neighbors, our entire province. That’s the Nova Scotian way. So if you haven’t yet, please get vaccinated.”
Employees who are not fully vaccinated by the end of November will face employment consequences — which includes unpaid administrative leave — unless they have received an employer-approved exemption.
Houston also said all MLAs must get the vaccine in order to enter Province House.
Nova Scotia’s proof-of-vaccination policy went into effect this week, which means people who are aged 12 and older must show their proof of vaccination in order to participate in non-essential events and activities that gather people together, such as going to restaurants, movies, sports events, theatre performances, social events, and the gym.
Houston implored people to not harass public-facing staff tasked with enforcing this policy.
“We all know how ridiculous this type of behaviour is,” he said.
“If you don’t want to wear your mask, if you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your choice. But your choice has ramifications and there are no excuses for taking it out on anyone, particularly those that are just trying to do their job.”
He said people who are frustrated with the policy should take it out on him rather than employees. “Flip me the bird while I’m walking down the street or yell at me,” he said.
Celebrating Thanksgiving safely
During the news conference, Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, noted that the province is heading into the Thanksgiving long weekend.
“And it is a time to be thankful,” he said. “In many parts of our country, families cannot be together because of COVID.”
One of those places is neighbouring New Brunswick, which has limited Thanksgiving gatherings to single-household contacts for the entire province amid a surge in cases.
New Brunswick is also imposing “circuit-breaker” measures for the next two weeks among hotspots in Zone 1 (Moncton region) as far north as and including Sainte-Anne-de-Kent, Zone 3 (Fredericton region) in the upper Saint John River valley north of and including Florenceville-Bristol, and all of Zone 4 (Edmundston region).
Non-essential travel in and out of these areas is not allowed and residents must limit their contacts within their household bubbles.
In Nova Scotia, Strang said people can gather with friends and family this weekend, “but let’s do that safely.”
He said people should avoid travelling to the affected areas of New Brunswick. As well, he said people should be mindful of the 25-person indoor gathering limit and said people should stay home if they feel unwell. Strang also said people who are unvaccinated should not travel.
He encouraged Nova Scotians to enjoy the holiday and be “kind and caring” to anyone they cross paths with.
“Family and connections are more important now than ever before,” he said. “We have spent too much time apart during the pandemic.”
Schools stay open
Strang said during the briefing that the province is “not at a point” where they need to close schools.
He noted that COVID-19 is a “mild illness” for most children — even with the Delta variant — and said vaccination rates in children aged 12 and over are “very high.”
“Like everything with our COVID response, our approach to school cases is about balance. We need to balance the rare risk of severe illness in children with their overall wellbeing, which is impacted by not being in school,” he said.
“Our goal is to keep students learning in classrooms if at all possible. It’s critical to their learning and their emotional, social and psychological wellbeing.”
He said of the 32 schools with cases, eight involve spread to another person within the school and most of the cases are coming from the wider community.
He said there are no schools where there has been large amounts of spread within a classroom or spread beyond a classroom.
Strang said there are “layers” of protection in place, which includes masking, distancing and staying home when someone feels unwell. He asked that parents not keep their kids out of school unless they are identified as a close contact.
“If we have two or more cases that are likely to be from transmission within a school, we do apply enhanced Public Health measures for that school,” he said.
Houston added that he knows people are concerned about schools and said that if Public Health deems that schools need to close, they will.
1 death, 25 new cases
The province announced 25 new cases and one death from COVID-19 on Wednesday.
The person who died was a woman in her 70s in the Central Zone. She was the 98th person in the province to die from the disease, and the fourth person to die since Aug. 1.
Of the 25 new cases, 20 are in the Central Zone, where the province continues to say there is community spread, mainly among people aged 20 to 40 who are unvaccinated and participating in social activities.
Two are in the Northern Zone, two are in the Western Zone and one is in the Eastern Zone.
Fifteen people are in hospital with COVID-19, including five in ICU.
There have been 18 new recoveries since Tuesday, leaving an active case count of 254.
Nova Scotia Health completed 4,645 COVID-19 tests on Tuesday.
In a release, the province said four schools were notified of a COVID-19 exposure on Tuesday.
“It is important to note that an exposure associated with a school does not mean there is spread within the school or that the initial case was first exposed to the virus in the school,” it said.
“As always, all staff, parents and guardians are notified of exposures if a positive case (student, teacher or staff) was at the school while infectious.”