Saskatchewan will be making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert, and reducing the allowed size of gatherings provincewide.
The decision comes in the midst of a steady increase in COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan.
The orders were announced Tuesday and take effect on Friday.
The public health mandatory masking order will be in place for 28 days, then is subject to review by Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province’s chief medical health officer.
“Using a mask is an important additional layer of protection and it will help us control the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe in a news conference at the Legislative Building in Regina on Tuesday.
“However, we should be under no illusion that a mandatory mask policy will solve everything.”
Moe says much of the spread has occurred in private settings and in homes.
As a result, the maximum allowable gathering size for private gatherings in the home will decrease to 10 from 15. This includes those who ordinarily live in the home. Any event that occurs in a private home and any outbuildings including weddings, religious gathering and funerals must abide by the 10-person gathering limit issued by the province.
The limit does not apply to households with more than 10 family members living in the same home.
“We cannot let our guard down. Even if we are just with our family or our friends. In fact, that might be one of the places where we are most vulnerable,” Moe said.
The province says enforcement options will be considered based on observed compliance with the public health order.
“We’re not going to have a bunch of COVID cops that are out traveling across the province enforcing mask use in our public spaces,” Moe said.
Moe said the onus is not on the business owner or the operator of the business.
“This is about compliance. And this is about the onus being on us as individuals to do the right thing and wear a mask,” he said. “But we need to remember that mask use does not replace physical distancing. It’s in addition to physical distancing.”
Indoor masking guidelines
The province says that transmission trends in rural and smaller centres has been linked primarily to private gatherings. Meanwhile, transmission in the urban areas includes both private gatherings and exposures in public spaces.
While the indoor mandatory mask order is for three cities, health officials are urging all Saskatchewanians to wear masks anywhere outside the home. Shahab said he recommends that all Saskatchewan residents wear masks in public.
The province also says that all residents must continue to reduce their close contacts and return to safe outings:
- Identify one person in the household to do grocery shopping and run errands.
- Limit errands to once per week.
- If you are working from home, ensure that your workplace will continue to support you to do so.
Under the public health order for Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, the use of non-medical masks is mandatory in most indoor public places. Indoor places include:
- All health-care facilities.
- All long-term care, personal care homes and assisted living facilities.
- Medical service centres and offices.
- Retail businesses.
- Shopping centres and malls.
- Personal services businesses, such as hair and nail salons, spas, body art facilities, except during services that require removing a mask.
- Restaurants and bars, except while eating or drinking while seated in designated areas.
- Places of worship or faith gatherings.
- Places for cultural or entertainment services or activities, such as movie theatres, arcades, concerts and other performances.
- Places for sports and recreational activities, such as a gym, ice arena, pool, gymnastic facility, dance facility or indoor court or field facility, except while participating in physical exertion.
- Places for events, such as conferences and receptions.
- Municipal, provincial or federal government locations offering services to the public.
- Common areas of tourist accommodations, such as lobbies, elevators and hallways.
- Common areas of office buildings, such as lobbies, elevators and hallways, but not private offices.
- Public areas of a university or college campus, such as library or student union building, classrooms, hallways and other common areas, but not labs, offices or residences.
- Train or bus stations, ferry terminals and airports.
- Public transport, including cabs, ride share services and carpooling.
The use of non-medical masks is not mandatory in these locations:
- Workplaces to which the public does not have access.
- Private homes and residences except for service workers and visitors.
- Private areas of long-term care homes, personal care homes, group homes and assisted living.
- Private resident areas of communal living, hospitality and workplace accommodations.
- Public indoor areas when eating or drinking while seated or in designated area.
The following people are exempt from the use of non-medical masks:
- Children under two years of age.
- Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
- Persons actively engaged in physical exercise.
Tuesday COVID-19 update
The province reported 81 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Over the last week, Sask has averaged 76 new cases per day, according to Moe.
The Saskatoon and north central zones are the hotspots, with the Saskatoon area reporting 29 cases Tuesday and the north central zone reporting 16.
One of the other new cases is located in the far northwest, one is in the far northeast, 14 are in the northwest, three are in the northeast, six are in the central east and 10 are in the Regina area.
The location of one new case is pending.
There were a provincial single-day record-breaking 97 recoveries reported on Tuesday.
“I think we need to remember that even though our cases have trended up a bit, we can get out of this. And we’ve seen that provincially and we’ve seen that locally,” Shahab said Tuesday.
“While we need to be prepared to see high case numbers throughout the fall … we need to do everything we can to try to stabilize this trend.”
Of the 3,373 total reported cases in the province to date, 842 are considered active. A total of 2,506 people have recovered.
There are currently 28 people in hospital. Twenty-one of them are receiving in-patient care: two in the northwest, five in the north central, eight in the Saskatoon area and six in the Regina area.
Seven people are in intensive care, with two in the north central zone, four in Saskatoon and one in Regina.