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City staff say they were told mandating masks wouldn’t increase compliance, be challenging to enforce and potentially divide the community, according to documents.  

The documents, heading to city council on Wednesday, outline discussions that administration had with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) about mandatory masks.

While the SHA strongly recommends people wear masks in settings where people can’t physically distance, the health authority noted issues could arise if it made masks mandatory, according to the documents.

“The Saskatchewan Health Authority noted that making a blanket mandatory mask ruling is unlikely to increase compliance, is challenging to enforce and has been shown to divide a community,” the documents said.

In an email, the SHA said it "cannot confirm the exact wording in the document referenced."

It said it strongly supports people wear masks when physical distancing can't be reliably maintained.

"Our representative Medical Health Officer noted the importance of community compliance and shared public safety and encourages the use of masks to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19," the SHA said.

Despite the issues around mandatory masks, the SHA told the city that masks help prevent the spread of the virus from people who are asymptomatic, and they provide a barrier against the virus for non-infected people.

In the documents, the city said while the SHA is closely monitoring COVID-19, the health authority doesn’t have a “single set of thresholds or triggers” for the province to adopt a province-wide mask directive.

As well, the documents said the city doesn’t have “contextual details” about location, sources of infection and transmission that would be considered important in making judgement calls about enforcing further restrictions in the community.

The SHA told the city many people are voluntarily partaking in safety practices.   

“The Saskatchewan Health Authority stated the community has been taking the right actions to stay safe and noted that there is a high-level of voluntary compliance for all the safety protocols including wearing masks,” the documents said.

Earlier this summer, Saskatchewan chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab told reporters that masks might be mandatory if there is an uptick in transmission rates.

Recently, he has encouraged people carry masks with them and wear them in places where they can’t physically distance.