Mandatory masking in public hasn’t been the law of the land in Saskatchewan for more than a year, but on Tuesday, the provincial government is expected to rip the final COVID-19 band-aid off and remove the requirement for people to wear masks while in Saskatchewan Health Authority facilities.
“With what we know about COVID-19 now, we want to make sure that we’re treating it the same as every other respiratory illness that we know of in terms of precautions that we take,” Rural and Remote Health Minister and Seniors Minister Everett Hindley said Monday ahead of the announcement.
Hindley said they’re going to move back to rules facilities had around masking more than three years ago.
“Going back to the way it was before the pandemic, where masks would have been used typically in operating rooms, ICUs, that sort of thing – you know, high-risk, high-needs, assessment-type of areas,” explained Hindley.
The minister gave the example of a no-visit policy being put in place at a long-term care home during a norovirus outbreak.
Hindley said he’s been fielding a number of phone calls from people wanting the change, including health-care workers in such facilities who have to wear masks at work.
He said masks would still be available for people who might feel more comfortable with a mask, and private medical facilities would be able to have their own policies as they currently do.
According to the minister, the decision was made in consultation with and with the consent of the health authority, the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, and the health authority’s chief medical officer, Dr. Susan Shaw.
The viral load in Saskatchewan can vary. According to the University of Regina’s most recent wastewater monitoring report, it’s moderate to high in the Queen City.
But Hindley said the government was still comfortable with this decision.
“We watch this stuff very carefully, right? We’re watching it very carefully as we always do,” said Hindley.