With the holidays just around the corner and COVID-19 cases climbing in Nova Scotia and across Canada, it’s normal to worry about how you can stay safe as you make plans for long-awaited gatherings with friends and family members.
Being vaccinated is a key way to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting seriously ill with COVID-19. With booster shots rolling out to more Nova Scotians – and kids aged five to 11 now eligible for their first dose – that protection is becoming available to more Nova Scotians. Remember: kids aren’t considered fully vaccinated until 14 days after they’ve received two doses of vaccine, which won’t happen for five- to 11-year-olds until well after the holidays.
Slow down, stick close to home
Vaccination does a great job of preventing hospitalization and death from COVID-19, and reduces the spread of the virus, but it doesn’t completely stop all infections. The highly contagious Omicron variant is now the dominant strain in Nova Scotia, which means vaccinated people are also at risk of infection. Despite that, there is plenty you can do to reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 to others.
Scale back your non-essential activities where you’ll encounter people outside of your household, such as in-person shopping and dining out. Ask yourself if the shopping trip is truly necessary. Order takeout from a local restaurant instead of eating in and see if local businesses offer safer shopping options or contactless delivery. When you need groceries, arrange for contactless pickup or have one member of your household head out for the necessities.
Limit indoor gatherings
Keep your holiday gatherings infrequent and among just the people in your household or consistent social group. There are new province-wide gathering restrictions in place and the max allowed is 10 people from the same household or consistent social group. Pay attention to government updates over the holidays, as the restrictions may change.
The virus spreads through shared air, so if you’re in a stuffy indoor space with others, open some windows to improve the air flow. Masks are required for indoor and outdoor public spaces where physical distancing can’t be maintained. Remember to keep your mask on when not eating or drinking and make sure it fits snugly around your face.
Use common sense
Don’t forget about the other advice from Public Health: wash your hands, keep your social circle small and consistent, practice physical distancing, wear a mask when you’re inside or outside and can’t maintain physical distance, and stay home if you’re sick.
Don’t chance it if you feel unwell or have symptoms of COVID-19 – cancel your plans and book a COVID-19 test (a PCR lab-confirmed test, not a rapid test. Read on for details about how testing will change starting Dec. 27). If you’re fully vaccinated and find out you’re a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, you must isolate right away and book a PCR COVID-19 test. Stay isolated until you receive a negative test result. Due to high demand, you may be waiting longer for PCR COVID-19 test results.
Testing changes coming
With limited capacity for both rapid antigen tests and lab-confirmed PCR tests, Nova Scotia is changing how people are tested for COVID-19. Starting Dec. 27, PCR tests will only be available to people who have symptoms of COVID-19 or are a close contact of a confirmed case, and they must be in one of the following groups: at risk of severe disease; live or work in a congregate setting; are an essential health-care worker.
Everyone else will need to rely on rapid tests. If your rapid test is positive, assume you have COVID-19. Public Health will not require a PCR test to confirm the positive rapid test result. More details on how rapid tests will be distributed will be coming soon.
The holidays are always an exciting time to connect with your family members and loved ones. But at the end of the day, it’s about reducing your risk so you can enjoy connecting safely with the people you care about.
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