Keeping Our Community Strong: COVID-19

Keeping Our Community Strong: COVID-19
Emily Leeson

It is time to be responsible, considerate, and kind with each other — it is time to showcase the very best of what community means in the Annapolis Valley. While there’s been plenty of talk about panic-buying and people stockpiling toilet paper, there are actually plenty of practical things Valley residents can do to help reduce the impact of the pandemic in Nova Scotia.

COVID-19 spreads from person to person by way of the droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. Those droplets can travel approximately one metre and it appears as though they can exist for some time on surfaces (though it’s not yet known exactly how long).

While there are not currently any vaccines available to protect against COVID-19, there are things Nova Scotians can do to help our community stay healthy and keep our healthcare system available to those most in need.

“We have well-established plans in place and, as with H1N1, we are actively engaged and working with our partners so we can adapt our response as the situation with the virus evolves,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Chief Medical Officer of Health for NS, in a media release on March 6. “Although it may seem overly simple, good hygiene remains the best defence against respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19.”

There are simple and practical things that we can all start doing today to help reduce the impact of the pandemic on our community:

Practice good hand hygiene: Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Wash or sanitize your hands often — especially before and after preparing food or eating, after touching pets, handling waste, dirty laundry or bathroom use, and after shaking hands. Washing hands with soap and water works best — wash for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Use enough to cover the front and backs of both hands and between the fingers.

Use proper cough and sneeze etiquette: Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If one isn’t available, cough or sneeze into the bend of an elbow. Dispose of all used tissues and wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after.

Clean high-touch surfaces and objects often: Viruses can likely live on surfaces for some time. Clean and disinfect doorknobs, light switches, railings, toilets, and tabletops daily. It’s recommended that they are washed with soapy water and then disinfected with household cleaning products. Phones, remote controls, computers, and other handheld devices can be also be disinfected with 70% alcohol or wipes.

Be prepared, but don’t stockpile or panic-buy: Make sure your prescriptions are filled and communicate with family and friends. Can you buy any of your reasonable supplies from local businesses? Now is a great time to buy local when you can. Check in on those who may need help. If you become ill, stay home until you are no longer showing symptoms.

Keep informed and be aware of your mental well-being: Of course, this situation can create fear and anxiety. Some of the best ways to address concerns and support each other include listening and providing reassurance, getting information from reliable sources, and maintaining normal routines as much as possible.

It is also important to know what to do if you suspect that you may have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19. Symptoms of the virus include fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and pneumonia, and the severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe. Current information suggests that most people don’t experience severe illness or need to be hospitalized.

If you suspect that you should be tested for COVID-19, do not go to your family physician, or the emergency room. Call 811.

“As front line physicians and health care workers, we understand why people might seek care at their family doctor’s office or at the EKM or WKM After Hours Clinics, but it is absolutely imperative that patients follow the broadly available public health advisory and resist the urge to present to their usual sites of primary care if they are potentially affected by the COVID-19 virus,” explained Wolfville physician Dr. Alison Wellwood in a recent exchange. “In non-emergent cases, at risk, symptomatic patients should remain home and self-isolate. If they have travelled outside Canada or have a high-risk contact and then develop a cough or fever over 38 degrees Celsius within 14 days, they should call 811 for next steps as they may require assessment at a designated COVID-19 testing site. It is important to stay tuned in to the Public Health messaging as this situation evolves and to obtain information from reliable sources. A new information-only phone line is now available to help answer the public’s questions related to the COVID-19 virus: call 1-833-784-4397.”

“As per the Department of Heath directive, symptomatic patients who do seek care from a community doctor or nurse practitioner who have risk factors for COVID-19 will not be seen or examined, but rather, will immediately be directed to return home to self-isolate and to call 811 and await further instructions. By presenting to their family doctor’s office or walk-in clinic, they risk exposing heath care workers, as well as some of the most vulnerable community members to the virus,” explains Wellwood. “In particular, patients who suffer from chronic conditions, those who have compromised immune systems, as well as older adults are placed at risk in this scenario. We are also not as well-equipped to manage the infection-control demands in our office settings, and introducing these challenges places considerable strain on our usual services.”

“We ask that all patients do their part in protecting themselves and fellow community members so we can stay safe and minimize the spread of this virus,” she adds. “Importantly, 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild and will be treated in the community with self-isolation and comfort measures, which are best delivered in patients’ homes.”

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has now established COVID-19 assessment centres — Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville is the assessment centre for the Annapolis Valley region. Again, anyone needing an in-person assessment should call 811, and they will refer you to a COVID-19 assessment centre. Do not go to a COVID-19 assessment centre unless 811 has referred you.

For the best information as it concerns Nova Scotia and COVID-19, visit:

For further information about preparations, visit: