Saskatchewan officials have indicated the masks could be coming off by mid-summer — theoretically leaving it up to businesses, and people in general, to decide whether they want to wear them.
Global News spoke to business community leaders in Regina who are prepared to welcome back the right to choose when it comes, but who say they hope that people are respectful of the parameters they set.
“Businesses should be able to choose whether to mandate masks or not mandate masks,” said Kinetic Auto owner Erin Vaughn on Wednesday, one day after learning that province-wide mask mandate could be lifted as early as July 11 if more than 70 per cent of the population over the age 12 gets at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
“Whatever makes them feel most comfortable about protecting their clients and the people in our community.”
A year spent navigating the recommendations and rules around mask-wearing has been difficult on many small business owners, Vaughn said, noting each one is different in various ways.
Some have a lot of space, but not a lot of people. Others have a lot of people, but not a lot of space.
“I just think that there should be no discrimination for any of these businesses if they choose to mask or not mask,” Vaughn said.
Staff at Dessart Sweets Ice Cream & Candy Store, which has had a mask mandate in place since before last year at this time, were recently subject to harassment after refusing to serve customers who were refusing to wear masks.
The incident was filmed and the video circulated on social media and the wider community responded with support for the business.
Dessart Sweets owner Shelley Patterson said it’s difficult to know what the COVID situation will be like in mid-July.
“My initial thought is that seems soon,” she said, noting it could make it hard for businesses that opt to continue with a mask mandate is needed to protect staff and customers to enforce one.
John Hopkins, CEO of the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce, said he doesn’t think the practices and habits people have adopted during the pandemic are going to disappear overnight.
“People will continue to practice disinfecting multiuse space or highly used spaces. Perhaps wear masks,” Hopkins said.
“I think that’s not going to go away and I think we’re going to continue to see that well into the future given what we’ve gone through.”