From the Administrators
The following letter was received on Monday from Dr. Strang. It is a summary follow-up from an online meeting with faith leaders in Nova Scotia that was held on October 2nd. This may be helpful to you in your worship planning and safety protocols. Just a reminder that this information is specific to the province of Nova Scotia.
Dear Faith Leaders,
I am writing in follow up to our recent virtual meeting as well as to answer the questions that have been raised by faith groups. I will address each of these questions in turn and please know that I have discussed the questions with my colleagues and placed a lot of thought and prayer into my answers.
Removing masks during faith services
While I certainly understand the rational for requesting that congregations be allowed to remove their masks during a service when seated and not singing, I am unable to support this request at this time. The evolving evidence on the transmission of the virus that causes COVID 19; increased role of small size particles persisting in shared air spaces, significant risk of larger, indoor gatherings that involve talking and/or singing; strengthen the role that mask use plays in decreasing viral transmission risk. With the significant increases in COVID 19 in a number of other provinces it is very likely that we will see an increase in the introduction of COVID virus into Nova Scotia. It is important to maintain our current public health measures to minimize the chance of local spread from these virus introductions.
I will certainly look to allowing this easing of mask use during faith services as one of the early steps in relaxing public health measures when we are able to start that process.
Increasing the number of people in close social groups from 10 to 20
For the same rationale as above, increasing the number of people in close social groups is not a step I feel would be safe to allow at this time. Groups greater than 10 can gather if there is space to allow people to maintain physical distance of at least 2 M.
Increasing the number of stage performers in faith services
The recent change in the Public Health order to allow up to 50 performers on a stage without physical distancing would apply to faith services. This would not apply to singers and those playing wind or brass instruments and I would encourage you to minimize risk in your services by minimizing the number of performers who are in close contact.
Laying on of Hands
The laying on of hands for prayer and anointing is permissible under the Public Health order but should be done for brief time periods (less than 15 minutes), with both people wearing masks and with hands being sanitized before starting.
Spiritual Care in Hospitals and Long-Term Care facilities
I have reached out to colleagues in the health care system to discuss opportunities to ensure the necessary access for pastoral care for patients/residents.
Collaboration during a Second Wave
I am very willing to continue to work with faith leaders to find a balanced way forward as we continue to deal with the COVID 19 pandemic. Our goal is to have targeted responses to any resurgence of COVD 19 in Nova Scotia and minimize the need for complete or broad shutdowns as were used in wave 1. This would apply to faith gatherings.
Robert Strang MD, MHSC, FRCPC
Chief Medical Officer of Health
Department of Health and Wellness
PO Box 488