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COVID-19 Rules and Guidance Update - Dec. 13

Posted:December 13, 2021
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Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness
1894 Barrington Street, Halifax, NS
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The Aaron Ministries Network has partnered with The Department of Health and Wellness to collect and relay feedback and questions from faith leaders in Nova Scotia. Questions and concerns will be addressed in future posts.

Government response to COVID-19

Visit the official Government of Nova Scotia website for the latest COVID-19 information and resources.

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Summary

This post captures the COVID-19 guidance for churches from the Nova Scotia Ministry of Health and Wellness, as of December 13, 2021. Click the follow icon to receive a notification every time a new post from the Ministry of Health and Wellness is available.
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Dear Faith Leaders,

As you’ve likely heard, we announced earlier today (Dec. 13th) that due to the arrival of the Omicron variant and the current epidemiology in Nova Scotia, we are returning to province-wide restrictions.

While we don’t have an end date, it’s intended to be a short-term measure to protect Nova Scotians and our health system while we learn how this new variant behaves and continue to increase our vaccination coverage.

The key restrictions that come into effect at 9:00 am Friday Dec. 17th and which will affect faith organizations are:Return to physical distance requirement, as in phase 4, of 6 feet between individuals or between groups of no more than 20 people from the same household or pre-established close social group.

Return to gathering limit for gatherings hosted by a recognized business or organization – 50% of an indoor venue’s capacity to a maximum of 150, or 250 outdoors.Return to people must be seated to remove their masks for eating and drinking.Our website will be updated with these restrictions this Friday.

In the meantime, you can see the news release here: https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20211213007

The following is an updated overview of rules and guidance for faith organizations with the new restrictions included:

  • Starting December 17, faith services, events and other activities need to abide by the physical distance requirement and formal gathering limits – 50% of an indoor room or venue’s capacity to a maximum of 150, or 250 outdoors. This means if your facility normally holds 100 people, then your limit is 50 (because that’s 50% of capacity). If your facility normally holds 600, your limit is 150 because that is the maximum. During this time, we strongly recommend that singing only be done by the choir or leader(s) of song, and not by the congregation. Faith organizations with large venues that have a previously approved plan to accommodate multiple, but fully separated groups of up to 150 people, can re-implement this plan.

  • Proof of full vaccination is required for any other events and activities hosted by a faith organization, including social time after a service, bible study, youth group, retreats, community meals, fundraisers or meetings, holiday concerts and special events, and activities and events held in rental spaces. It is also required when people rent/use the church’s facilities (like a hall or other rooms) for events like a wedding reception or leisure activities/clubs like quilting or book club. Masking is required at such events except when people are actively eating or drinking (starting December 17, they must be seated to eat/drink), when officiants are speaking, or when performers are speaking/singing/playing a wind instrument. In addition, from December 17 to at least the new year, physical distance is required and formal gathering limits are in place for these events and activities – 50% of an indoor venue’s capacity to a maximum of 150, or 250 outdoors.

  • Proof of full vaccination is not required for a regular faith service, such as daily or weekly services. Services that are part of your faith’s annual calendar (such as Christmas and Easter services in Christian faiths) are considered the same as regular daily/weekly services – no proof of full vaccination is required. If a singer, organist or choir needs to practice for a regular service and if people need to clean or prepare the place of worship for regular services, proof of full vaccination is not required.

  • If a faith organization holds multiple regular or special services in a single day, they are encouraged to consider making one or more of the services for vaccinated people only to accommodate people who require or are seeking a greater level of safety and to decrease overall exposure risks.

  • Masking is required throughout these services, whether people are seated or not, except for officiants or singers when they are speaking or singing. Both you as an organization and the people who attend your services and activities have a responsibility to ensure mask rules are followed. While people with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask need to be accommodated, these valid medical reasons are infrequent and this should not be a reason for significant numbers of people in a single congregation to be unmasked. Supporting the use of this medical exception is inappropriate.

  • Home-based activities hosted by a family or individual are considered informal gatherings. Proof of full vaccination, masks and physical distance are not required. However, starting December 17 and until at least the new year, there can be no more than 20 people indoors or outdoors and they must all be from the same household or consistent social group – in other words, they are the same people you do all your socializing with. This may mean that you aren’t able to host some of your usual activities at someone’s home for a little while.

  • Proof of full vaccination is not required for officiants or employees of a business or organization (including faith organizations) but it is required for volunteers. It isn’t required for business meetings in the workplace when they involve people who regularly work together and where the general public is not present (unless they’re held in a rental space). However, from December 17 to at least the new year, physical distance is required and formal gathering limits are in place for meetings hosted by a recognized business or organization – 50% of an indoor venue’s capacity to a maximum of 150, or 250 outdoors.

  • Proof of full vaccination is required for participants (not officiants) at weddings, funerals and other ceremonies – even if they take place in a church or other faith facility. In addition, from December 17 to at least the new year, physical distance is required and formal gathering limits are in place for weddings and funerals hosted by a recognized business or organization – 50% of an indoor venue’s capacity to a maximum of 150, or 250 outdoors.

  • Proof of full vaccination is not required for indoor and outdoor funeral services with a maximum of 25 participants (not including officiants or funeral home staff). Everyone must wear masks and physical distance is required. For any visitation and receptions, proof of full vaccination is still required, masks are required in indoor public places, and physical distance is required and formal gathering limits are in place – 50% of an indoor venue’s capacity to a maximum of 150, or 250 outdoors.

  • If a faith organization is offering mental health and addictions support groups, programs, services for vulnerable populations, food bank services, shelters or meal programs for vulnerable populations (including dine-in), or space for any of these activities, proof of full vaccination is not required for people accessing those services or for employees providing them, but it is required for volunteers. From December 17 to at least the new year, physical distance is required and formal gathering limits are in place – 50% of an indoor venue’s capacity to a maximum of 150, or 250 outdoors. Masks continue to be required except when people are eating/drinking and they must be seated for this.

  • Due to the highly infectious nature of the Omicron variant it is strongly recommended that there not be congregational singing at this time. If members of the congregation do sing they are required to remain masked.

  • I understand it’s a difficult time of year to reintroduce these restrictions. However, our cautious approach has served us very well through the pandemic to date. I ask for your continued support to help keep your faith community and everyone in our province safe.

Sincerely,

Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health

Files

Letter to Nova Scotia Church Leaders from Dr. Strang
Official letter from Dr. Strang to church leaders in Nova Scotia introducing the WayBase platform and how the Department of Health and Wellness will communicate updates going forward.
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Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness
Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness
1894 Barrington Street, Halifax, NS
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