Mandatory masks in indoor public spaces extended to Estevan and other communities, starting Monday

The provincial government has announced mandatory masking in indoor public spaces for Estevan and other communities in the province.

The expansion of mandatory masking in indoor public spaces and a curfew on alcohol sales in licensed establishments will be in effect as of Nov. 16 for 28 days, then subject to review by Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer.

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“New measures announced this week and those to be considered in the weeks to come will still be based on the fundamentals of physical distancing, staying home when you are sick and masking to protect yourself and others,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said.  “Now is the time for all residents, businesses and organizations to get back to basics.  Re-commit to proven public health measures and return to the standards shown to work in the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan.”

While COVID-19 has shown that it will take advantage of any opportunity, the fundamentals of personal protective measures and the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan guidelines based on those measures have been demonstrated to work in preventing transmission.  Every Saskatchewan resident has a personal responsibility to make public spaces safe from COVID-19 transmission, so that essential services including health care and school, can continue.

“Over the past nine months, we have seen periods of extremely low transmission and periods of unacceptably high transmission here in Saskatchewan,” Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said.  “This has not been determined by the virus; it has been determined by the actions of individuals making conscious decisions to follow best public health practices.”

All businesses and organizations must review the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan for their respective sector guidelines and make any required changes in order to abide by them completely.  These guidelines are enforceable under the public health order.

In the event that the public health order applies a more stringent standard (ie. masking), the public health order supersedes the guidance document.

All residents are required to abide by the basics of COVID-19 prevention: maintain physical distancing and wear a mask when you are outside the home; wash your hands frequently; stay home if you are sick.  A significant number of cases in the province are as a result of people going to school, work and participating in activities when they have been symptomatic.

Mandatory masking in indoor public places will be extended to all Saskatchewan communities with populations of 5,000 people or greater.

This includes the censuses metropolitan areas – the neighbouring communities or municipalities -- situated around the largest urban centres of Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert.  Due to their proximity to the urban centres and high rate of retail, workplace and service integration, they will be included even if their independent populations are less than 5,000 residents.

In the case of Estevan, the communities surrounding the city are not affected.

The list of the 59 communities and what is deemed an indoor public space is at www.saskatchewan.ca/masks. 

The list of public indoor spaces may be amended for clarity; however, if you are in a community with a mandatory mask order and are unsure if any location qualifies as an “indoor public space”, defer to wearing the mask – choose the option that promotes public safety.

Information on masks and how to use them properly is at www.saskatchewan.ca/masks.

Mandatory masking posters to assist businesses and organizations inform their customers are available at www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19-posters.

Masking in school settings is described in the back to school plans as set out by the respective school divisions.

Health officials continue to strongly recommend all residents wear a non-medical mask anywhere outside the home as an additional measure to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

Enforcement of mandatory masking is permitted under The Public Health Act, 1994; however, compliance through education is the primary preference of public health. Public health will closely monitor compliance and encourage all individuals, businesses and organizations to abide by the masking order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.  Enforcement options will be considered based on observed compliance with the order.

All Saskatchewan restaurants and licensed establishments (bars, taverns, nightclubs) will be required to stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. and consumption must end by 11 p.m. There are no exceptions for private events or outdoor serving spaces.

While transmission within school settings has been limited, it is recommended that all school divisions move to level three in their back to school plans for high schools with 600 students or more. Under the Safe Schools Plan, level three is to reduce in-class learning at www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/safe-schools-plan.

Fitness facilities may continue to operate under the Re-Open Saskatchewan guidelines but all aerobic group fitness activities (ie spin classes, class circuit training, aquasize) are limited to a maximum of eight participants.

Group aerobic activities are permitted only if participants can be three metres apart throughout the duration of the activity, as required by the current Re-Open Saskatchewan guideline.

Individual aerobic activities (ie treadmill, stationary bike, lane swimming) are permitted if all required equipment is properly distanced according to the Re-Open Saskatchewan guidelines.

As an activity of increased transmission risk, all hookah and waterpipe services are now disallowed.  Hookah/waterpipe locations may also be licensed establishments and restaurants.  They may continue to act as licensed establishments and restaurants, according to the guidelines for those respective businesses.

Also added to the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan are Arena Facility Guidelines, and updates to the Sports and Activity, Performing Arts, and Transportation guidelines.

Information is available at www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/re-open-saskatchewan-plan.

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