Tomorrow at 8 a.m., Nova Scotia starts Phase 4 of its pandemic reopening plan.

“We’re pleased with vaccination rates and our epidemiology continues to improve, putting us in a good position,” Premier Iain Rankin says in a press release. “This doesn’t mean we can let our guard down, but it does mean we can enjoy larger gatherings and support businesses by exploring all that Nova Scotia has to offer this summer.”

Nova Scotia has 37 known active cases, with one new Eastern Zone case reported in yesterday’s update. Three people are hospitalized in provincial COVID units, including two in ICU.

Movement through the five phases of the reopening plan hinges on infection rates, hospitalizations, vaccination rates, and testing results. Heading into Phase 4, 75% of Nova Scotians have had one or more doses of vaccine, several thousand tests are being done daily, daily new case numbers are typically in single digits, and hospitalizations are decreasing.

However the pace of vaccination appears to be slowing, leading Strang to urge people to get the first available jab (currently Moderna for most people). He also wants people to not over-react to a recent statement from the World Health Organization saying more data is needed about the effect of mixing vaccines. In the same statement, WHO also said that people should listen to their public health agency’s recommendations, and not try to interpret the scientific data on their own.

Dr. Robert Strang. Photo: CNS

“We continue to encourage everyone to get two doses of vaccine as soon as possible,” says Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health. “That is the key to continuing our reopening and getting to a stage where restrictions can end.”

To enter the fifth and final phase, which the government is projecting to happen in September, 75% of Nova Scotians will need to have two vaccine doses. As of July 12, 40.7% of Nova Scotians have had both jabs.

There are no changes to Nova Scotia’s border policy as Phase 4 begins. As per the government announcement, the following restrictions are easing provincewide.

Gatherings

  • People can have informal gatherings with their household members and close social contacts to a maximum of 25 indoors or 50 outdoors without physical distancing or masks, unless they are in a public place where masks are required.
  • Faith gatherings, weddings, funerals and associated receptions and visitation hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 50% capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors or 250 people outdoors

Business

  • Restaurants, licensed establishments, and casinos continue to operate with existing mask and distancing rules; there can be up to 25 people per table; customers can go to the bar to order; establishments can return to their normal service hours; they can have performers following the limit for arts and culture performances.
  • Events hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 50% capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors or 250 people outdoors; organizers need a plan following guidelines for events.
  • People can follow the informal gathering limit for dancing together at events and at bars or restaurants, with distance between groups; the indoor limit applies to dancing indoors and on patios at bars or restaurants.
  • All retail stores can operate at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks.
  • Meetings and training hosted by a recognized business or organization can have 50% capacity to a maximum of 150 people indoors or 250 people outdoors.

Recreation and sport

  • Fitness and recreation facilities can operate at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks.
  • Most recreation and leisure businesses and organizations (such as dance classes, music lessons, escape rooms, and indoor play spaces) can operate at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks.
  • Organized sports practices, games, league play, competition, and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing; tournaments are allowed when they are run by or affiliated with a provincial sport organization, following their Return to Sport plan.
  • Audiences follow the gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization.
  • Day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines.
  • Masks are no longer required for children age 12 and under in child-care settings, including day camps and overnight camps.
  • Masks are no longer required at outdoor public places where it’s hard to maintain physical distance, such as markets, playgrounds, and parks.

Arts and culture

  • Professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing.
  • Audiences follow the gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization.
  • Museums, libraries, and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia can open at maximum capacity with public health measures in place, including distancing and masks.

Continuing care

  • All long-term care residents can leave the facility to visit indoor and outdoor public places.
  • Fully vaccinated residents can have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s home, including overnight stays.
  • Residents who are not fully vaccinated can have visitors in designated indoor visitation areas.

The government also reminds people that rule-breakers still face fines of up to $2,000.

Megan Leslie. Photo: Submitted

A sea of plastic
Just as Nova Scotians were beginning to learn that they need to wean themselves off single-use plastics, the pandemic hit. Over the last year and a half, takeout containers, plastic bags, and plastic wrap have abounded, along with carelessly discarded masks and gloves.

Former Halifax MP Megan Leslie, now president of World Wildlife Fund Canada, understands the challenges consumers face. “As an individual consumer, I look at the plastic in my recycle bin—and in my garbage because not all of it is recyclable—and I’m still shocked by what I see,” she says. “And I’m one person who’s trying hard.”

But there are local businesses and organizations both tackling the problem, and transforming the rising tide of plastics into a business opportunity. Learn more in this new Halifax Magazine feature by Janet Whitman.

Welcome to Unama’ki
A survivor of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School and Mi’kmaq elder is pleased to see a new sign at the Canso Causeway welcoming visitors to Unama’ki (Cape Breton) in her native language.

“I lost my language and fought hard to relearn it and make sure my children spoke it,” says Elder Ma’git Poulette of We’koqma’q First Nation. “Today, to see people welcomed to Unama’ki, in my language, when they cross the causeway is a dream come true.”

The sign says “Pjila’si Unama’kik,” which loosely translates to “Welcome to the Land of the Fog.”

Drake Lowthers has the story for The Reporter.

Historic flag stolen
When he was an MP, Garth Turner helped raise $1 million to record Canadian artists singing “O Canada” commemorating the nation’s 125th birthday. CDs went to schools across the country.

He later received the Canadian flag that flew on the Peace Tower in Ottawa on July 1, 1992 as a thank you for the project. Ever since, he’s flown the Peace Tower flag around Canada, most recently at the Lunenburg office where he now works as a financial planner.

However, sometime between 10 p.m. on June 30 and 7 a.m. on July 1, someone stole the flag, which measures 12 metres wide and 5.5-metres tall.

“It was a big blow; it was a big loss to me and I was very disheartened,” Turner says. “I know to people who are protesting on behalf of the Indigenous community that it is a symbol of something they didn’t like. But, to me, it was a piece of my life and I really regret that it’s gone.”

Keith Corcoran reports for LighthouseNow.

Pictou County man faces child-porn charges
The RCMP has charged a Hillside man with possession of child pornography and transmitting child pornography.

Police arrested 22-year-old Andrew Langley at his home without incident. He’s scheduled to appear in Pictou Provincial Court on Sept. 13.

The charges stem from an investigation by the RCMP’s provincial Internet Child Exploitation Unit. The investigation began in March 2021, after a tip from the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre.

The Pictou Advocate has details.

Need to know
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Halifax Magazine