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‘A little bit befuddling’: Saskatoon store’s anti-mask sign sparks concern

This photo shared online shows an anti-mask sign posted at a Saskatoon business downtown.
This photo shared online shows an anti-mask sign posted at a Saskatoon business downtown. geraldfitzpatrict/Reddit

No masks allowed — that’s the message a Saskatoon business had on its door earlier this week, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

Photos were shared online of the sign posted at VitaJuwel near Spadina Crescent and 21st Street.

Now taken down, it said face masks are not allowed, but customers can ask store staff about “how to protect your immunity and your sanity during this time.”

Read more: Anti-mask rallies held in Saskatchewan as COVID-19 cases rise

A second sign said employees can treat a variety of ailments, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia.

“It got concerning for me when a business is essentially saying, ‘If you want to come inside, you’re required to actively disregard the current public health guidelines,'” said Saskatoon resident Jennifer Drennan, who shared a photo of the signs on Twitter.

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The owner of the store, which is described as a wellness centre online, did not respond to requests for comment from Global News.

Masks recommended

Saskatchewan’s health ministry recommends wearing masks in all indoor public spaces.

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“Businesses should familiarize themselves with their options and obligations as it relates to mask use as outlined in the (Reopen Saskatchewan) Guidelines, as well as directions and recommendations on indoor mask use from the Chief Medical Health Officer,” ministry spokesperson Colleen Book said in a statement.

Read more: Saskatchewan nurses’ union calls for mandatory masks

The Saskatchewan Health Authority responds to complaints from people concerned that businesses aren’t being safe, Book added.

The messaging shared by VitaJuwel is troubling, said Nazeem Muhajarine, a community health and epidemiology professor with the University of Saskatchewan.

“Over the last six months or so, we have come to understand very, very well that masks actually protect people,” he said.

“To have a sign that says exactly the opposite, it is surprising; it is a little bit befuddling; it’s distressing, actually, as a public health professional.”

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This sign was posted below the anti-mask sign. It claims store staff can treat a variety of serious physical and mental illnesses.
This sign was posted below the anti-mask sign. It claims store staff can treat a variety of serious physical and mental illnesses. geraldfitzpatrick/Reddit

Muhajarine said it’s irresponsible to claim staff can treat serious health conditions.

Drennan said that claim, combined with an anti-mask rule, is dangerous.

“If you’re advocating against those (health) guidelines and then also inviting people who are immunocompromised… to enter your business without a mask, that’s what seems really concerning,” she said.

Most businesses following guidelines

Brent Penner, executive director of the downtown business improvement district, said he was surprised by the sign.

There are about 900 businesses downtown, and this is the first time he’s seen a store owner push against health guidelines.

“Our expectation is that the businesses follow the regulations as set out by Dr. Shahab, the chief medical health officer for Saskatchewan,” Penner said. “From what I’ve seen, most are doing that and doing a lot more.”

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