Premier Tim Houston and chief medical officer of health Robert Strang during Wednesday's briefing.

A Valentine for Nova Scotians as COVID restrictions will be eased February 14

Strang unveils three-phase reopening plan at Wednesday's briefing, and Houston announces pay raise for continuing care assistants in nursing homes.

Nova Scotia’s three-phase reopening plan begins Valentine’s Day, with expanded capacity at restaurants, bars, salons and stores. The gathering limit will be bumped from 10 people to 25, and festivals, performances, and arts and culture events can go ahead with 50 percent of a venue’s capacity.

“It’s time to change our perspective and our approach. We’re no longer trying to contain the virus, it’s here and likely will be for a long time,” chief medical officer of health Robert Strang said during Wednesday’s COVID briefing with the premier. He says Nova Scotia has surpassed the worst of the omicron wave, with fewer positive test results and a drop in cases at long-term care homes. The province is focused on preventing severe illness as opposed to viral spread.

“It’s time to accept that we will have ongoing spread as we ease restrictions, but we will rely on our high level of immunity to protect us as much as possible from severe illness,” Strang said.

At the same time, Nova Scotia’s COVID death toll continues to rise. There have been 25 deaths in the last two weeks, including five new deaths reported Wednesday. Premier Tim Houston and Doctor Strang extended their condolences to the families.

click to enlarge “It’s time to accept that we will have ongoing spread as we ease restrictions, but we will rely on our high level of immunity to protect us as much as possible from severe illness,” Doctor Strang said. - COMMUNICATIONS NOVA SCOTIA
Communications Nova Scotia
“It’s time to accept that we will have ongoing spread as we ease restrictions, but we will rely on our high level of immunity to protect us as much as possible from severe illness,” Doctor Strang said.

“Part of moving to living with COVID is accepting that we now have a new respiratory virus. For some people, because of age and underlying health conditions, it may put them at risk for severe disease, hospitalization or may contribute to their death,” Strang said.

Houston said it’s time to move towards more normalcy, because “the more we continue to let COVID control our daily lives, the longer we will see the negative impacts [of the restrictions], particularly on our children and seniors.”

The reopening plan timeline says about a month after Feb 14, if epidemiology and hospital numbers permit, the province will further ease restrictions into phase two, which comes with 100 percent capacity in public spaces. The third phase, set for another month later, comes with the end of gathering limits. According to current thinking, masks are still expected to be required indoors in this final phase, but that could change.

click to enlarge "We need you now more than ever," Houston told CCAs in Nova Scotia. “We want you, we need you, we value you and we respect you." - NS COMMUNICATIONS
NS Communications
"We need you now more than ever," Houston told CCAs in Nova Scotia. “We want you, we need you, we value you and we respect you."

Nursing home staff get a raise

In order to find staff to support the opening of 500 new long-term care beds, Nova Scotia is giving continuing care assistants an immediate raise of 20-25 percent. This will raise salaries from the $36,529-to-$39,443 range to the $44,660-to-$48,419 range, paying up to $25 an hour at the top of the scale.

The premier acknowledged that the profession has been underpaid, and that many CCAs who felt undervalued in Nova Scotia have left the field for other work. Houston, speaking directly to these individuals, said, “please come back. We need you now more than ever. We want you, we need you, we value you and we respect you.”

Nova Scotia has 6,700 publicly funded CCA positions. The majority of those working in the sector are working under an expired collective agreement from October 2020. The province is seeking to hire 1,400 additional CCAs.

"Continuing care assistants deserve not only our respect and gratitude for the critically important work they do and the sacrifices they've made over the past two years; they also deserve to be paid more and get help and relief from more staff in their workplaces,” Barbara Adams, minister of seniors and long-term care, said in a statement.

About The Author

Lyndsay Armstrong

Lyndsay is a city reporter covering all things Halifax, health and COVID-19. She is a data journalist who has covered provincial politics for allNovaScotia.com and represented Nova Scotia in a national investigation into lead in drinking water with the Toronto Star and Global.

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