Saskatchewan premier says no decision has been made on mandatory masks

Saskatchewan premier says no decision has been made on mandatory masks
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REGINA — Saskatchewan’s premier is urging people to wear masks when they can’t physically distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but he is stopping short of mandating their use indoors.

“There may be a point in time, either on a regional basis or maybe even provincewide, where we will have to go to wearing masks as a mandatory measure,” Moe said during a Monday media briefing. “We have not made that decision as of yet.

“I would far sooner want to have that conversation prior to shutting down sectors of our economy.”

Moe and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said wearing a mask is already a must in certain settings, such as in long-term care homes or when getting a haircut.

Shahab said there are already more people wearing masks when shopping, and doing so should become a habit for people.

Saskatchewan reported 31 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 22 of the cases on Hutterite colonies.

The province now has 307 active cases of COVID-19, the most it has ever had since the pandemic began.

On July 11, there were only 40 active cases.  Currently, there are 14 people in hospital with four in intensive care.

Over the past few weeks, the province has seen a spike in infections in the south and central areas of the province, in part tied to spread on Hutterite colonies.

Moe said some of the new cases could also come from people suffering from “pandemic fatigue” and becoming lax around public health measures.

To deal with the current outbreak in Hutterite communities, the government plans to send health officials to every colony to check for the virus, Moe said.

Rural and Remote Health Minister Warren Kaeding said many colonies have gone into voluntarily lockdown on non-essential travel and some decided to withdraw from participating in farmers’ markets.

To date, officials say Saskatchewan has seen 1,209 total cases of COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 27, 2020.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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