UPDATE-March 12: COVID-19 assessment centres have now been added at Dartmouth General and the Halifax Infirmary.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority is reminding the public to call 811 before heading to a COVID-19 assessment centre.
At this point, only those who have travelled out of the country and have developed a fever with a temperature of 38°C or higher, and/or cough, are being asked to call 811 for a COVID-19 assessment.
The Cobequid Community Health Centre in Lower Sackville is one of eight COVID-19 assessment centres that have opened across the province.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said the aim is to ease some of the current pressures on emergency departments while decreasing the odds of transmitting the novel coronavirus.
New national screening protocols now ask anyone who has travelled outside the country within the last 14 days to closely monitor their health condition. If they develop a fever with a temperature of 38°C or higher, and/or cough, they should call 811.
The health authority's Chief of Microbiology, Dr. Todd Hatchette, said at that point, the person will be triaged and some may be instructed to go to an assessment site.
"When they come to the assessment site they will be given a mask to make sure if they are coughing they are not spreading any of the infection," he explained. "They will be reviewed by a health care worker to review their symptoms and take their travel history."
At that point, the person may be tested for COVID-19.
"Some people will require the screening and the swab, and some may not," added Bethany McCormick, the health authority's Senior Director for Strategy, Planning and Performance. "That is based on the physical assessment in the assessment site."
"We also have our infection prevention and control practitioners available in those sites to answer questions from the public, if they have concerns or questions about why they have been tested, why they haven't been tested and what they should do next."
That next step may be to go home with instructions on how to stay safe and protect themselves and their families, or they may be sent to an emergency room if there's an issue with blood pressure, heart rate, shortness of breath or underlying medical issues.
The eight sites announced today (see list below) are being described as "initial locations."
McCormick said the health authority will be working with 811 and public health officials to evaluate how busy the centres are and where they may need to add more.
"We're trying to find the balance of access, sustainability and resource management that is the right match for Nova Scotia," she said.
Hatchette said around 85 per cent of people who pick up the virus end up with a mild illness and won't require medical attention, but containment is the current strategy for dealing with COVID-19.
He's recommending people seek out credible sources of information about coronavirus, including the provincial website.
"There are lots of things we can do as individuals to protect ourselves and our loved ones by using simple measures like cough etiquette, washing your hands," he added. "And very importantly, don't go to the hospital to visit people if you're sick. Don't go to a long term care facility or visit your elderly relatives if you're sick."
The initial COVID-19 assessment centres are at:
- Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Sydney
- Valley Regional Hospital, Kentville
- South Shore Regional Hospital, Bridgewater
- Yarmouth Regional Hospital, Yarmouth
- Colchester East Hants Health Centre, Truro
- East Side Collaborative Practice, New Glasgow
- Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, Amherst
- Cobequid Community Health Centre, Lower Sackville
Additional assessment centres are expected to open in the coming days. Updates will be available at www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus.
811 will have up to date information and will provide current information to those needing access to a centre for assessment.