Saskatchewan nurses’ union calls for mandatory masks

Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president Tracy Zambori is calling on the province to make wearing a mask mandatory in places where physical distancing isn't possible. Global News

Registered nurses across the province say it’s time the province required people to wear masks when physical distancing isn’t possible.

“This needs to happen,” said Tracy Zambory, Saskatchewan Union of Nurses president. “There should be no questions asked.”

Health officials across the country have said masks reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The recent spread of the virus in southern Saskatchewan is troubling, Zambory said.

Read more: Surge of 42 new coronavirus cases in Saskatchewan, active cases jump to 114

“We’ve got to work hard to get in front of this,” she told Global News. “Mandatory masking would be a huge step in the right direction.”

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On Thursday, the province reported 42 new COVID-19 cases, with 31 in the south.

Zambory said the southern cluster poses a serious threat, and she worries the health ministry isn’t taking it seriously.

“They’re always trying to downplay the seriousness of the issue,” she said.

“We are growing quite concerned with what is happening in the southwest part of the province and how that is being managed.”

The province said it will contact trace in the affected areas. People in those areas are asked to stay in their home communities and limit group gatherings, while visits to care homes are now restricted to end-of-life care and outdoor visits.

Read more: Coronavirus: Visitor access restricted in 21 long-term care homes in rural Saskatchewan

The province said it is not considering making masking mandatory.

Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said, for now, all that’s necessary is a voluntary policy and up-to-date information on how people can protect themselves.

“We have relied on individuals across this province to abide by social distancing and public health rules to contain the virus,” he said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

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“We’ve always relied on people’s best judgment.”

Zambory noted that not everyone follows the rules, with unmasked people breaking physical distancing guidelines in public.

Livingstone said so far, he isn’t aware of any cases connected to crowded beaches or the Black Lives Matter rallies in June, where it was challenging to maintain distance.

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.

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.