The etiquette of staying safe

A smiling woman holds a mask in her hand, preparing to put it on her face.As public-health restrictions ease and vaccine uptake continues to grow, many Nova Scotians are reconnecting in person with friends and loved ones they haven’t seen in months.

But with the pandemic still on everyone’s mind, seeing people again in this new reality can be unsettling, even if you used to be a social butterfly.

Think about what matters to you
Weighty questions hang in the air: Is my friend vaccinated? Am I putting them at risk by meeting up? I live with a high-risk person – am I ready to hang out with a group of people?

Before having a conversation or making plans, think about your own safety requirements, so you can act rather than react.

Ask, don’t assume
Once you know what you are comfortable with, ask what your friend is comfortable doing. They may want to meet outside rather than inside, and might prefer wearing masks or physically distancing when you get together. Don’t assume their answers will match up with your own.

Put others first who are most at risk
Decide in advance what you’ll do. If you’re meeting a group of friends, a good rule of thumb is to accommodate the person with the highest protection needs. You might be fully vaccinated and comfortable being around others unmasked. But if someone in your group is more comfortable wearing a mask when you meet, everyone should mask up.

Be honest about your vaccine status
Don’t lie about your vaccine status if a friend or family member asks about it. Let them know if you’re still not fully vaccinated. They may decide to wear a mask (and ask you to wear yours), keep their distance, meet outside or not meet at all.

On the flipside, don’t feel bad turning down an invitation if it feels too soon, too risky or you’re just not ready for it. It’s about communicating your needs to others so they are aware and can respect the boundaries you need to feel safe.

Conversations may not go as planned
We often expect our friends and family members to think like we do and share the same values and the same perspectives about COVID-19. It can be jarring when that’s not the case.

With false information and COVID-19 conspiracies widespread online and in social media – about vaccination, wearing masks and even the basic existence of the coronavirus – people can become entrenched in ways of thinking that can put them at odds with those around them.

Set boundaries
It can be draining and frustrating to argue about aspects of the pandemic. So set boundaries on the conversations you will have – perhaps COVID-19 should be off-limits? Be upfront that you’re happy to connect with them about other things, but you’re not up for a debate. If they aren’t willing to respect your boundaries around vaccinations, masks or distancing, you’re entitled to walk away.

Ultimately, it’s about figuring out what can work for you in the relationship. The whole reason you want to connect with friends and families in the first place is to feel safe, loved and valued.

If that isn’t happening, and people will not respect the boundaries you’ve communicated to them, it may be time for a closer look at the relationship.

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Nova Scotia quick links

Drop-in vaccination clinics in Nova Scotia
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19
List of COVID-19 exposures in Nova Scotia
Getting tested for COVID-19
Public Health mobile testing unit locations
Rapid testing locations
Self-isolating guidelines
Mental health and well-being

Nova Scotia COVID-19 resources
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