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Mask use could cut COVID-19 transmission in Saskatchewan by 50%: Shahab

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Universal and consistent mask-wearing could cut COVID-19 transmission in Saskatchewan by at least 50 per cent, said the province’s chief medical health officer.

“Mask use is an important layer. I would say it’s an essential layer,” said Dr. Saqib Shahab during the province’s COVID-19 update on Friday.

“There are hardly any situations that you can’t wear a mask in the few minutes that you are in a retail location, or going into the office for work. If all of us do this consistently, I think mask use itself, consistently, can bring down our case numbers by at least half.”

Read more: Sask. Party leader draws criticism for shopping without a mask in campaign photo-op

There is no mask mandate in Saskatchewan, but the chief medical health officer does recommend wearing a mask when in public. He also advised to hand-wash frequently, stay home when you’re sick, and maintain a physical distance.

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Shahab also advised against taking medical advice from Facebook groups that promote non-evidence-based theories related to COVID-19.

While he has not heard of “No Masks Saskatchewan”, Shahab said he’s aware of similar groups on social media that contribute to information overload related to the novel coronavirus.

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“All of us need to be very cautious about getting pulled into information that is really not evidence-based.”

“It is challenging. We all feel challenged by the fact that we have to do everything way differently nine months into the pandemic,” Shahab said.

Read more: This is why some may be against mask use, according to a Regina psychology professor

With active cases and hospitalizations continuing to hit single-day records, Shahab is reminding the public to help keep case numbers low.

“Everyone wants to prevent large outbreaks, but at the same time, we can prevent small transmission events. We already know this as we have reopened,” Shahab said.

“We know more about COVID now and how it behaves and we need to use that knowledge to keep our businesses open, keep our venues where we socialize open, and slow things down, and spread things out.”

The chief medical health officer previously stated that if Saskatchewan hits an average of five new cases a day per 100,000, there could be further restrictions that would scale back the economy.

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This week, 4.2 new cases a day on average were reported per 100,000 people said Shahab. The week prior, it was 2.8 new cases a day on average per 100,000 people.

On Friday, Shahab said if case numbers continue to increase, “we will have to look at further specific measures, which may be sector-specific if there are problematic sectors.”

“At this point, our case numbers are such that we really need to bring this down as a collective effort. And we all know if we went in total lockdown, our case numbers would go down,” Shahab said.

“But there’s a tremendous cost to that in terms of mental health, economic impact, livelihoods. And that’s where we don’t want to go.”

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