No blanket mask order coming for Sask., premier says

Premier Scott Moe answers a question during a COVID-19 briefing in Regina on May 11. -- Screen capture from the Government of Saskatchewan Facebook page.

Saskatchewan will not be considered a blanket mask order that would require everyone in public places to don a mask or face covering.

Instead, guidelines will direct the use of masks in certain situations, such as in the health care system or in personal services such as hair salons where physical distancing isn’t possible.

The comments came in response to reporter questions during Wednesday’s COVID-19 press conference.

“I don’t know that there would be an order that comes in and says everybody has to wear a mask all of the time,” Premier Scott Moe said.

“Mask usage has already been mandated in those environments and may expand by sector, or it may expand by region depending on the situation. Every situation is a little bit different.”

Moe said residents should remember Shahab’s message, that masks are helpful in protecting people in any situations where physical distancing isn’t possible.

“I would encourage Saskatchewan people at this time to not concern themselves too much with are we going to have to use masks and in what setting, but to carry on and to use their own common sense settings where they are unable to create that physical distance that is the ultimate protection from COVID-19.”

Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said residents would do well to look at those who have been working since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and who have been able to protect themselves and others from any illness.

“We’re learning more and more about the benefits of masks. We have learned that front line essential workers in health care and personal services are heroes,” Shahab said.

“By using a mask, they have kept themselves safe and customers safe. We have not seen a surge in transmission” due to reopening stores, he said.

“Wearing a mask protects you and it protects others you are serving.”

Shahab said that having a mask with you and wearing it when you need one should be part of a daily routine. It should apply to everyone, he said, just like physically distancing, because that’s how the case numbers are kept small.

For the Saskatchewan NDP, though, that’s not good enough. Leader Ryan Meili would like to see more clear guidance on when masks are used.

“We’ve been talking about the use of masks since April, but this government has been reluctant to promote mask use,” he said.

Messages to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible are vague, he said, adding that a specific list should be communicated detailing when and in what settings masks should be used.

Meili’s comments came during a press conference held Thursday to call for more action after a CTV report indicated that the province has the highest level of COVID-19 cases per capita this week. According to the report, about 2.88 people per 100,000 are infected with the virus in Saskatchewan as of Wednesday. At the same time, the province’s testing numbers show that the per capita testing rate is only two-thirds of the national percentage.

“These numbers are extremely concerning and it’s up to the premier to step up to the challenge.”

Meili’s comments came on a day where the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced the province’s 18th COVID-19 related death. The victim was a resident from the south region in their 90s. There were an additional 38 cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday, of which 23 were from multiple communal living settings.

Of the new cases, 14 were from the central region, 12 from the north, six in the south, five in Saskatoon and one in the far north. Five people remain in intensive care while 14 people are in the hospital.

Meili would like the province to specify when masks are needed, set thresholds of what would trigger mandatory mask use and make it easier to distribute masks. In Alberta, for instance, masks have been distributed at drivethrus

He would also like to see some measures that would dictate when the reopening plan might take a step backwards.

“I’m very worried,” Meili said. “If we add dozens of COVID-19 positive patients, the (health) system is not ready to handle that. We’ve seen a plan that appears to be going ahead no matter what. People of Saskatchewan have sacrificed so much. They deserve better from their