Saskatchewan election: Ongoing mandatory mask debate and where parties stand

The discussion on where and under what circumstances to wear a mask has been up for debate for months amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Saskatchewan’s 29th general election was launched on Tuesday with the pandemic still going on.

Read more: Mask complaints rise in Calgary prompting calls for more enforcement support

As of Wednesday, health officials said there are 139 active COVID-19 cases, with the overall total for the province growing to 1,913 since the first case was reported in March. They added that 1,750 people have recovered from the virus in Saskatchewan.

The province has seen 24 coronavirus-related deaths.

While some professions require masks as part of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, the provincial government stopped short of a wide-reaching mandatory masking policy.

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Saskatchewan Party Leader Scott Moe maintains the current recommendations for limiting the spread of COVID-19 are working.

“They are working. When they are not effective is quite simply when someone is not following those policies. And so we need to, as have been the vast majority of people in this province, continue to follow the very best public health advice and recommendations that Dr. Shahab and his team have been putting forward,” Moe said on Monday.

“The Saskatchewan Party supports the recommendations on masks provided by Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, to carry a mask with you at all times and wear it when it may be difficult maintain physical distance,” read a statement from the party on Wednesday.

“As well, we are supportive all business and other organizations, such as schools, who have implemented mandatory mask policies within their facilities.”

Read more: Masks now mandatory in Winnipeg, surrounding areas

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan New Democratic Party Leader Ryan Meili would like to see more specifics.

“Now this is one of the things that’s been really missing from Scott Moe’s response. Mixed messages. He’s refused to distance himself from the anti-mask protesters who are not helping and he has not given clear guidelines on where and when we shouldn’t use masks. I’d like to see that,” Meili told Global News on Wednesday.

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“And I’d like to see those thresholds developed with public health and released to the public. Right now, we don’t know what the trigger would be for mandatory masks. We should set that line so that people are able to prepare and understand when we need to use them and when we don’t.”

Naomi Hunter, the leader of the Saskatchewan Green Party, said they’re very concerned with the threat of COVID-19 to the province.

“We are listening to science and advocating the use of masks by all citizens,” read a statement provided to Global News on Wednesday.

“We stand behind the recommendations of Saskatchewan’s chief public health officer.”

Read more: 2 people given $100 tickets for not wearing face masks on Edmonton transit

Responses on the matter from the Buffalo Party of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Liberal Party and Progressive Conservative Party of Saskatchewan were not received by this article’s publication.

The election is scheduled to take place on Oct. 26.

— With files from Nathaniel Dove

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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