Although most COVID-19 mandates have been lifted, the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia recommends that both staff and patients continue to wear masks in pharmacy settings.
“We want to make sure we’re keeping both sides safe,” said Diane Harpell, chair of the board of the association and the owner of Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Dartmouth.
Monday was the first day that Nova Scotians were no longer required to wear masks in public spaces, though masking is still required in health-care settings, seniors residences and in schools.
“We may not be specifically on that list, but we do lump ourselves within health-care settings, so that’s where the recommendation came from,” Harpell said.
“We are an essential primary health-care provider, we do a lot of health-care services in Nova Scotia for our population.”
Some businesses may also choose to require masks.
Harpell said the first Monday without provincial restrictions went well.
“It just felt like another day through this pandemic,” she said.
“Every patient that came in yesterday while I was working had their mask on. I wore mine the same way as I usually do, and so did our staff, and so it felt a little normal.
“We’ll have to see how things go for the rest of the week.”
She said masks are especially important during close patient encounters – things like immunizing, assessing, and prescribing – which make up a large portion of their work.
Keeping masks would help keep both pharmacy staff and their patients safe, said Harpell.
“There’s a risk that I’m going to have the virus and pass it to a client that is immunocompromised or at-risk, so I want to make sure I have that protection on to prevent that from happening,” she said.
Harpell said she doesn’t know how long pharmacies will keep mask-wearing in place, but said they have seen the “benefit” of having masking in pharmacy settings over the last two years.
She noted that in addition to COVID-19, masks can also help prevent the spread of other illnesses like colds and flus.
“I think you’ll see masks continue in pharmacy settings for quite a while, even beyond COVID,” she said.
During this transition period to a new normal, Harpell has a request for the public: be kind.
“We never closed our doors through all of this,” she said.
“We’re doing our best to stay healthy, keep you healthy, and provide the health care that you need here in the province. So please be kind.”