Infectious disease expert says Nova Scotians should continue masking in public spaces

Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Lisa Barrett says, given the amount of COVID-19 virus circulating in the community, masks should continue to be worn in public spaces and recommends the Nova Scotia government reinstates the rule.

“I am not a big fan of mandates,” said Barrett. “But right now the other part of science, the behavioral science folks tell us that if we think masks are important in public spaces, than we are going to have to make it a rule.”

Barrett and a number of epidemiologists and disease physicians from across Nova Scotia are recommending the government bring back the mask mandate in public places, at least while the cold and flu season remains.

Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Iain Rankin has been calling on the Houston government to summarize posting daily COVID-19 data and to hold a briefing as soon as possible.

“I don’t think a rushed video after question period yesterday is a way to show your government is listening to medical experts,” said Rankin.

On Wednesday, a government video was posted on social media, showing Premier Tim Houston and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang talking about the current COVID-19 situation and continuing to live with viruses.

Houston starts the video by acknowledging COVID-19 is still present.

“Let’s be clear, COVID-19 is present and all around us,” said Houston. “There’s a lot of COVID-19 going around. And it’s stubborn and it’s not going anywhere.”

Houston also acknowledges that cases are high right now and expects them to continue to rise over the coming weeks. He says eventually, numbers should begin going back down.

As for a briefing, Houston says he has no further COVID-19 briefings scheduled with Strang and adds COVID-19 reporting will continue on a weekly basis.

“I don’t know that the elected officials are the best place to answer questions on trends and epidemiology,” said Houston. “But we’re working closely with public health.”

Barrett says having more COVID-19 data and information available right now would be beneficial. She suggests the latest information and data is like having another tool in our COVID-19 safety kit.

“Knowledge is power and making sure we don’t lose track of easy things, that’s smart COVID living, not denial COVID living,” said Barrett. “More information is useful right now to remind people where we are.”

In terms of testing and COVID-19 presence, Barrett says the infection rate right now has never been higher during the pandemic.

“We changed our criteria around testing and it (the positivity rate) went up to 11 or 12 per cent,” said Barrett. “And now we’ve gone from that range into the 30s. That’s an exceptional amount of virus in the community.”

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill says public health could hold a briefing on its own – without the premier – and points to it being done in other jurisdictions throughout the pandemic.

“We know that in province after province, the briefings that have been held throughout the past two years you would never see the premier,” said Burrill. “Of course, this is something that public health could do and I think there is a real interest in that.”

Late Wednesday, the province sent out a notice to media that Strang and Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shelley Deeks would hold a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday.

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