In the photo posted on Moe’s Twitter account, the leader is seen smiling while buying a new winter coat at Cowtown in Regina as he promoted small business week.
FULL COVERAGE: 2020 Saskatchewan Election
Many on social media were quick to question whether it was wise for the leader to be shopping without a mask.
After all, the photo came 90 minutes after the chief medical health officer advised the province to wear a mask, even for brief visits to retail stores.
“We have to focus again in a lot of situations where we may have popped in to get something not wearing a mask,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab during Tuesday’s provincial COVID-19 update.
“This is the time to really put on that mask. Even for that brief visit to a retail location, every little piece counts.”
On Wednesday, Moe responded to the criticism by stating he was physically distancing.
“When I was not near anyone else by any stretch, that’s when I was not wearing a mask in that location,” Moe said. “Could I have been wearing a mask the entire time? I suppose I could have. I didn’t. And I suppose after the media today, I will reconsider that.”
Shahab’s messaging on mask use has been similar to Canada’s chief medical health officer: wear a mask when social distancing is not possible.
But on Tuesday, Shahab took a stronger stance on mask use as Saskatchewan’s active COVID-19 cases continue to reach record highs. He recommended everyone to wear a mask while in public indoor places, pledging to do the same.
“I think many of us have noticed that in some situations, mask use is very high. In some situations it is quite low,” Shahab said. “We all need to work with each other, with our employers, employees, customers to encourage high levels of mask use.”
NDP Leader Ryan Meili has faced similar criticism for appearing maskless during campaign photo-ops, often in retail stores.
“In accordance with public health guidance, NDP Leader Ryan Meili has also not worn a mask while physically distancing in very similar settings,” spokesperson for the Sask. Party campaign Jim Billington said in a statement.
Meili was photographed several times early in the campaign not wearing a mask indoors while social distancing.
For example, on Sept. 29, he tweeted photos of himself at John’s Music and Post Horizon Booksellers in Moose Jaw without a mask on.
During a campaign stop in Regina, Wednesday, Meili addressed the photos.
“Every time there’s a photo, we’ve taken extra precautions,” Meili said. “We’ve been extremely careful.”
Billington added that Saskatchewan’s main political parties have “taken painstaking efforts to adjust campaigns to fit with COVID-19 guidance from public health.”
“We remain confident that the measures and precautions enacted by both parties are in alignment with public health guidance, and that the leaders are conducting themselves within this guidance while making every effort to reach voters,” Billington said.