COVID-19 FAQ for Families and Members of the Public
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Is Nova Scotia Health limiting visitors to hospitals to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses?
Yes. Nova Scotia Health has put visitor restrictions in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. For the most current visitor restrictions, please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus-home/nsha-visitor-restrictions
Are all patients entering an IWK/Nova Scotia Health facility required to wear a mask?
We ask everyone who shows up to their scheduled appointment or visit to wear a mask. Patients and visitors will be asked to remove their personal mask and replace it with a medical mask when they are screened at the entrance. This change is in response to the presence of variant strains of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, and evidence of the effectiveness of proper medical masks over some cloth/personal varieties, which poses a risk of transmission to patients, staff and visitors.
There is emerging evidence that these variant strains are more transmissible person-person and can spread rapidly when introduced into a population.
This decision was made to reduce the risk of transmission within the hospital and keep patients, health care workers and all Nova Scotians safe
Does this apply to everyone entering a Nova Scotia Health site?
This change does not apply to hospital inpatients, children under two years of age, or staff working in non-clinical areas where they are able to maintain physical distance from others. Staff and physicians working in non-clinical areas where they are able to maintain physical distance from others are not required to wear a mask while at their office or workstation. However, staff should be wearing a mask on entry to the building until they arrive at their office or workstation and in public areas such as elevators and lobbies. Staff and physicians working in clinical areas are required to wear a medical mask.
Do visitors/essential support people have to wear a mask while in the patient’s room?
Masks should be worn in patient rooms as maintaining physical distancing from patients, staffs, and others is difficult in these spaces.
Will Nova Scotia Health provide masks to those who do not have them?
Yes. We strongly encourage patients, visitors and essential support people to bring their own masks, however if they do not have one with them, one will be will be provided.
What are medical reasons a person could not wear a mask?
The vast majority of Nova Scotians are able to wear a mask. There are very few valid medical reasons to keep someone from being able to wear one and they are mainly related to anxiety. The Canadian Thoracic Society states that there is no evidence that wearing a mask worsens a chronic lung condition such as asthma or COPD. For some people with chronic breathing conditions, wearing a mask can make them feel that they cannot breath properly, which can create anxiety. There are people with mental health conditions for whom wearing a mask creates anxiety. There are also people with cognitive or developmental disabilities who are unable to wear a mask.
We will not be asking for a medical certificate. If someone tells us they are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons we will take them at their word.
What should I do if I have travelled outside of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador?
The Province of Nova Scotia, under the authority of the Health Protection Act, is requiring anyone who has travelled outside of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador to self-isolate for 14 days upon return, even if you are symptom-free. View information from the Government of Nova Scotia on how to self-isolate.
If you think you should get tested for COVID-19, complete a COVID-19 self-assessment.
How do I know if I should get tested for COVID-19?
Complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment or call 811 to speak with a nurse if in the past 48 hours you have had, or you are currently experiencing:
- Fever (i.e. chills/sweats) OR Cough (new or worsening)
- Two or more of the following symptoms (new or worsening):
- Sore throat
- Runny nose/nasal congestion
- Shortness of breath
If you don’t have symptoms, you can still complete a COVID-19 Self-assessment and schedule an asymptomatic test.
Where are COVID-19 assessment centres located?
Don't go to a COVID-19 assessment centre without an appointment. You can find the most up-to-date list of COVID-19 assessment centres at http://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirustesting
What should I do if I know someone who is not following the direction related to self-isolation after travelling outside of Nova Scotia?
Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang recommends that when possible, you have a conversation with the person about why they are not self-isolating – for instance, do they need help getting groceries or medications so that they can stay home?
If you encounter an individual, group or business that is blatantly ignoring or going against protective measures such as self-isolation (when they meet the criteria) or social distancing, you can contact your local law enforcement agency through their regular non-emergency line to report it.
How can I help protect myself and others from exposure to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses?
To protect yourself and others from exposure to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:
- Stay at home when experiencing flu-like symptoms.
- Wash hands thoroughly and often.
- Use cough/sneeze etiquette – cough/sneeze into a tissue or into your elbow, not hands – discard tissue in waste basket and clean hands with sanitizer or soap & water immediately.
- Frequently clean high-touch surfaces like counter-tops, keyboards, phones, light switches and doorknobs, etc.
- Schedule a test using the COVID-19 self-assessment
For more information staying safe during COVID-19 visit: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/staying-healthy/
What do I know if a person or business is not following rules for self distancing or self-isolation under the Health Protection Act and Emergency Management Act?
Police enforce orders under the Health Protection Act and Emergency Management Act. If Nova Scotians and businesses do not practice social distancing, self-isolation or follow other directives under HPA, they could face fines of $1,000 for individuals and $7,500 for businesses.
If you are aware of someone not following provincial direction, have a conversation with them first – they may need help. If a call to police is needed, please call a non-emergency number for the police that serve your community. Do not call 911.
Up-to-date information is always available at: novascotia.ca/coronavirus – please provide to anyone who you think may have questions about self-isolation, physical distancing, etc.
Is Nova Scotia Health reducing access to some services to prevent the spread of illness and ensure there is capacity in the system?
Many programs and services were suspended to support our response to COVID-19. While we need to continue to respond to COVID-19 by testing, contact tracing and caring for COVID-19 patients, as of May 25, 2020, Nova Scotia Health is starting the process of reintroducing services.
The reintroduction of programs and services will be a gradual process and will take some. Patients are being contacted directly with appointments. For information on service reintroduction please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/servicereintroduction
There will continue to be service interruptions and information is available here: www.nshealth.ca/temporaryclosures.
As much as possible, Nova Scotia Health is contacting scheduled patients and clients directly to notify them of cancellations.
If you have further questions please contact your health care team or clinic. Our teams are experiencing high call volumes and will do their very best to answer your call in a timely manner.
We thank you for your patience at this challenging time.
Are surgeries being cancelled?
During COVID-19, urgent, emergency, time-sensitive cancer surgeries, and transplant surgeries continue to be provided. As we begin the process of service reintroduction, we are slowly increasing the number of surgeries that can be completed as day and outpatient surgeries.
Surgeons continue to assess and prioritize patients daily. Patients will be contacted directly when their surgery is scheduled. For more information, please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/servicereintroduction
If my appointment, surgery or procedure is cancelled, how soon will it be rebooked?
Nova Scotia Health has started the process of reintroducing services cancelled due to COVID-19. When your appointment, surgery or procedure will be rebooked is difficult to say at this time. Patients who were cancelled are getting priority as we reintroduce services. The focus is on day surgeries and outpatient appointments and procedures. Patients will be contacted directly when they have been rescheduled.
Can I travel between provinces for medical treatment?
Yes. Although Nova Scotia is in a state of emergency, if you are receiving medical treatment such as chemotherapy in a neighbouring province, you are exempt from these restrictions in inter-provincial travel for the purposes of receiving your medical treatment.
Why isn’t anyone saying where in the province COVID-19 cases are?
Public Health investigates confirmed cases to identify and notify people who may have come in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Information/details about locations and circumstances of identified cases would only be provided publicly if there was a need and benefit to support efforts around contact identification. The Government has created a website that shows the total number of positive tests by Nova Scotia Health's zone. www.novascotia.ca/coronavirus/data
All Nova Scotians should be practicing measures like social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning of high-touch surfaces to help prevent the spread of the virus. Anyone returning to Nova Scotia from outside of Nova Scotia or Prince Edward Island must self-isolate for 14 days.
Should I (or my children) go ahead with scheduled immunizations as planned?
You should continue to see your family practice for prenatal, newborn, and well-baby check-ups (vaccinations). For individuals without a health care provider, Public Health offers various immunization services (as per the Routine Immunization Schedule) across Nova Scotia. You will need to call your local Public Health office to register for immunization services, as walk-in appointments are not possible.
Should I make and/or wear a mask to protect myself or others from COVID-19?
The Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness (DHW), following the announcement by the Public Health Agency of Canada, has recommendations and requirements (beginning July 24) around wearing masks.
Nova Scotia Health is now requiring patients, visitors, and essential support people to wear a non-medical mask when in hospitals and other health care facilities.
Patients (and their essential support person) who enter a NSHA facility will be screened at the door. Those who have respiratory symptoms will be given a medical mask at that time. If they are wearing their own non-medical mask, they will be asked to use a medical mask provided to them, after completing hand hygiene.
Patients/visitors/essential support people wearing their own non-medical mask need to continue frequent hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and avoid touching their mask and face. Masks alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19; their main role is to protect others from your own respiratory secretions.
How can I help?
Thanks to the many Nova Scotians who have come forward with many generous offers to support health care workers. Here’s how you can best direct your offers:
You issued a news release about a potential public exposure and I may have been exposed during that time period. What should I do?
Anyone who may have been exposed at the location on the dates named should follow the directions given in the notification.
I’m expecting a baby, what do I need to know about coming to the hospital?
Most prenatal services and clinics will continue. In keeping with Nova Scotia Health’s visitor restrictions, no support person is permitted to attend prenatal appointments with an expecting mother. For the most current visitor restrictions, please visit http://www.nshealth.ca/temporaryclosures
- Two support people are permitted with you during labour. Your support person cannot rotate or change through the labour process. This includes post labour, while you recover and transition to when you are discharged.
- Your support people cannot been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive or be a suspected case.
- If your support people leave for any reason they will NOT be permitted to re-enter. Please ensure both you and your support people have everything you need during and post labour, including personal care items for you and your baby. Please remember to bring your car seat.
- One support person is also permitted for those coming to a facility for early labour assessment outside of a scheduled appointment (i.e. emergency situation)
Please note: All visitors, including support people, are asked to follow Nova Scotia Health's COVID-19 visitor restrictions and therefore may be screened by staff before entering any NSHA facility. Children who are not patients are not permitted in NSHA facilities at this time.
(*modified from the IWK Health Centre)
(Last updated: Jamuary 25, 2021)