Saskatoon Transit extends COVID-19 mask requirement after city council approval

Saskatoon Transit will continue requiring riders to wear masks to reduce the spread of COVID-19, even though a public health order mandating masks has ended. File / Global News

City council has approved a plan to continue requiring Saskatoon Transit riders to wear face masks in an effort to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Councillors voted 7-3 in favour of the “status quo” approach laid out by city administration. Councillors David Kirton, Troy Davies and Randy Donauer opposed the motion. Sarina Gersher was absent from the meeting.

Read more: COVID-19 — Saskatoon city committee recommends keeping mask mandate on transit

The plan extends the requirement for bus riders to wear a face covering, despite masks no longer being required through a Saskatchewan government public health order.

Signage and education efforts will continue on city buses.

Saskatoon Transit will still monitor non-compliance. There were 15 recorded negative instances dating back to March 2020, according to administration, and no physical assaults have resulted from the mask requirement.

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The move comes as wearing a mask has become “quite politicized across the country,” according to Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark.

“This is just a chance, I believe, for us to remind one another for that patience and kindness,” Clark said. “I hope we’re moving into a better place as a society and as a community.”

Read more: 2 Saskatoon Public Library locations reopen to public

No councillors voiced reasons for their support or opposition to the transit mask requirement Monday, but it was the subject of lengthy discussions at a committee meeting earlier this month.

At committee, Kirton raised a concern about a mask requirement potentially putting drivers at risk because face coverings are no longer required by public health order.

“Is it safer for (transit users) to protect themselves with their own masks on the bus and just to have the recommendation of masks on the bus? Or is it safer to mandate with the possibility of violence and confrontations that would come up?” he asked.

Median barrier approved

City council granted its unanimous approval to a proposed median barrier on a stretch of road that has seen four fatal crashes since 2016.

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The barrier on Circle Drive East between College Drive and Attridge Drive has been added to the city’s list of transportation infrastructure projects, which will be prioritized at a later date.

Kirton raised the idea following a 24-year-old woman’s death in January 2021.

Council is also seeking a policy or guidelines for retrofitting median barriers on high-speed expressways and freeways.

Read more: Collision on Circle Drive in Saskatoon claims life of 24-year-old woman

City to continue impound services

Saskatoon’s vehicle impound lot in the Southwest Industrial Area will remain a city-run operation.

Most of the vehicles held at the 150 Jonathon Ave. lot are brought in as a result of the city’s parking services or enforcement by the Saskatoon Police Service.

The lot has registered a deficit every year since 2015, but city staff expect that it can pay for itself as the city emerges from the pandemic and administration continues to find ways to reduce costs.

Council accepted administration’s “business as usual approach,” rather than shifting services to a third-party provider.

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