Nova Scotia Health & IWK Health update on COVID-19 response
Nova Scotia Health and IWK Health are entering a new phase in continuing to keep patients and staff safe from COVID-19. This comes in response to recently announced guidance from the province.
All Nova Scotia Health and IWK employees (including employees who work from home), and onsite medical staff are still required to complete and provide proof of their primary series COVID-19 vaccination and are encouraged to obtain all future recommended booster doses. Medical and human rights exception processes remain in place.
Nova Scotia Health and IWK are high-risk settings because of the patient populations we serve. That’s why the COVID-19 vaccination requirements for our team members are different than the public health recommendations for the general population. Our goal is to protect the safety of Nova Scotia Health team members, patients, learners, visitors, and essential care partners by mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Current evidence shows the best protection against COVID-19 infection and re-infection is from hybrid immunity. Hybrid immunity occurs when an individual has their primary series COVID-19 vaccine plus natural infection.
Data continues to demonstrate the primary series of COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe disease, hospitalization, and death. This protection increases with booster doses.
Nova Scotia Health & IWK Health will move to optional masking in non-clinical areas of Nova Scotia Health & IWK Health facilities. These include areas in which there is no contact with patients, families, or essential care partners/caregivers. Continuous masking requirements will remain in place for all other areas for staff, physicians, patients, visitors, and learners.
The COVID-19 Network (which includes a representative from IWK Health and two patient/family advisors) undertook a review of masking requirements. It was determined that these changes will continue to support the protection of our most vulnerable patients, while allowing flexibility with otherwise healthy individuals where face-to-face interactions enhance program delivery.
Masking will continue to be required in the following areas:
o Upon entry to Nova Scotia Health & IWK Health clinical facilities and in common/public areas such as hallways, elevators, staircases, gift shops and cafeterias.
o All areas in which clinical care is provided where patients, families, clients, and essential care partners/caregivers are present.
o All inpatient and ambulatory settings.
o During delivery of programs or services in private homes with people who are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease.
o During meetings where meeting rooms are located within clinical care spaces.
Masking is recommended, but not mandatory in the following settings:
o In exclusively non-clinical Nova Scotia Health & IWK Health buildings/areas where no patients/clients/families are present (e.g., administrative buildings/boardrooms).
o During the delivery of programs or services in non-Nova Scotia Health facilities such as schools, community centres etc. at the discretion of the health care worker in consultation with the patient/client. A point of care risk assessment should be completed to determine if services should be delivered without a mask.
o During the delivery of programs or services in private homes with people who are generally healthy and not at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease (for example, Public Health enhanced home visiting program, and Early Intervention Programs). Masks should be worn during the initial encounter but may be removed at the request of the patient/client/family following a point-of-care risk assessment.
Further recommendations may be made after considering the epidemiology of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses in the general population and in Nova Scotia Health & IWK Health facilities, as well as health care worker absences due to COVID-19.
Nova Scotia Health is also entering a new phase in the response to COVID-19 by providing targeted testing opportunities across Nova Scotia.
With increased availability of rapid tests in over 200 community locations, and decreased demand for PCR tests, testing centres that have served the population well over the past three years are gradually closing.
Nova Scotia Health & IWK Health are reminding the public of the importance of getting tested for COVID-19 to help protect themselves and loved ones, as well as when and how to access testing. Anyone with symptoms should get tested, but especially those 60+ or immunocompromised. All Nova Scotians should have a box of rapid tests in their homes for when someone starts experiencing symptoms.
If you are experiencing ONE or more symptom(s) of COVID-19, you have two options:
- Take a rapid test. If you have a positive rapid test, complete the ‘Report & Support’ form by phone (1-833-797-7772) or online. If you test negative, repeat the test 48 hours later to be sure. You can pick up a rapid test from participating public libraries, your local MLA office, or Access NS or Feed NS if you’re using in-person services or from a Public Health Mobile Unit when visiting in your community.
- If eligible, book a PCR test and complete the ‘Report & Support’ form by phone (1-833-797-7772) or online. PCR tests will continue to be offered at, a variety of health care facilities across the province or through Public Health Mobile Units. The Public Health Mobile Units also offer drop in visits (no appointment required).
For more information on testing, visit www.nshealth.ca/coronavirustesting