‘Watchful waiting’: NS healthcare professionals cautious as state of emergency ends

As of midnight Sunday, the state of emergency is over in Nova Scotia and most pandemic public health measures are no longer the law.

But not much will change for those working in healthcare, and some of those workers are approaching the lifting of mandates — with caution.

For registered nurses Bev Dixon and Maria Collier, it’s been a long two years since the COVID-19 ward opened at the Halifax infirmary.

“We’re tired, but very, very resilient,” says Dixon, the unit’s healthcare manager. “And we keep coming to work, showing up, and caring for the patients.”

“But I’m much more at ease,” adds Collier. “It’s not new things, so we’re adjusting well, but it’s very exhausting at the same time.”

Out of the 38 Nova Scotians in hospital with the virus as of March 17, three are in the Halifax COVID-19 unit.

Dixon says there will always be beds available for COVID-19 patients.

“We do expect a little spike, with the lifting of restrictions come Monday,” she says, “but we are ready for it.”

As of midnight, the province will no longer mandate the wearing of masks, physical distancing, or gathering limits.

Schools, however, became an exception late Friday — with the province extending mandatory masking for students, staff, and school visitors until mid-April.

Masking will also remain in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Dixon and Collier plan to keep wearing their masks outside the workplace too.

“I’m going to stay diligent, follow the public health guidelines,” says Dixon. “

“If I can’t socially distance properly, I’ll make sure I have a mask on and maintain good protocols that have been advised through public health,” says Collier.

For the province’s physicians — the move away from mandatory measures — means making decisions for a period the head of Doctors NS calls “watchful waiting.”

“How to navigate our office, who’s going to be masking, how we’re going to keep people apart,” says Doctors NS president Dr. Heather Johnson. “We’re going to be following public health data for what happens with cases, what restrictions mean for people.”

With 379 healthcare staff off work as of Friday due to a COVID-19 diagnosis, exposure, or awaiting test results, the province’s top doctor says keeping healthcare stable, is another reason to keep following public health recommendations.

“Certainly it’s one of the factors that continues to put pressure on the delivery of healthcare, and we have to keep an eye on that,” Dr. Robert Strang told reporters at a news conference late Friday.

On Friday, Strang also said one mandatory public health measure will remain in place as of Monday — the requirement to isolate for seven days after testing positive for COVID-19.

That measure is currently part of the province’s restored order under the Health Protection Act, which states it is in place “until notice is provided by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. “

According to the legislation, that Act is separate from the province’s State of Emergency declaration, which ends officially at 11:59 PM Sunday.

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