Saskatoon residents urged to mask up

Even without a public health order in place, the city's medical health officer is urging Saskatoon residents to mask up voluntarily if they are not already doing so.

"The things we've done in the past, they worked. We've implemented them they can be reimplemented," Saskatchewan Health Authority physician Dr. Jasmine Hasselback said during a municipal COVID-19 update Tuesday.

"Like making sure everyone is masking when they're in indoor spaces outside of their home," Hasselback said.

Province-wide measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19, including rules around masking, were lifted on July 11.

Since then as the pandemic's fourth wave has taken hold, the number of active cases in the city has continued to skyrocket with 652 reported in the Saskatoon area as of Monday. 

On Monday, city council voted to mandate non-medical masks at civic facilities and on buses, a move Hassleback applauded.

"When our hospitals start to feel the strain, we're in trouble, and we're there," Hasselback said during the virtual news conference.

"That trajectory is only going up and up and up."

Hasselback said the renewed surge in cases is leaving health care teams in hospitals "exhausted."

"Let's do what we can do in the community to keep them well."

While speaking to reporters during a virtual news conference on Monday, Premier Scott Moe said based on what is happening in their region individuals can make decisions about "when and where and whether" to mask up.

Moe said while COVID-19 measures "do prove to be layers of protection" and help reduce the spread of coronavirus "you're faced with the same challenge that you were prior to putting them in."

"(Masking) is a stopgap measure, ultimately the measure is for us to encourage more people to go out and get vaccinated, first and second dose here in the province," Moe said.

During the City of Saskatoon update, Mayor Charlie Clark said he's concerned there isn't a more "coordinated" approach to measures to reduce the spread of the illness.

"We are doing what we can within the jurisdiction that we have," Clark said.

"I'm concerned that a patchwork approach does leave more holes for COVID to be able to spread."

On Monday the province announced it is putting a system in place to make it possible to obtain proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Unlike recent steps taken in Manitoba and British Columbiia, the decision as to whether to require proof of vaccination was left to individual businesses and organizations.

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