Mask mandates revisited for some as COVID-19 surges in Sask.

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“Thank you for your patience and understanding in keeping our women and families safe and healthy,” reads a sign at the YWCA.

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Just as an icon of the COVID-19 pandemic had faded into the background, a surge in infections across the province has triggered a new masking policy for at least one Regina facility.

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Effective Friday through to Sept. 9, the Regina YWCA is requiring visitors to mask up to enter, according to a sign posted to the building’s front doors.

While no one from the YWCA was available to comment, a Tweet posted by the organization Friday morning that has since become unavailable cited the rising cases of COVID-19 variants as the reason for the short-term mandate in place to hopefully reduce the risk of transmission.

“Thank you for your patience and understanding in keeping our women and families safe and healthy,” one of the signs posted on the doors says.

After the monthly COVID-19 report was released by the province Thursday, chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said people should consider wearing face coverings in indoor public spaces once again.

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The province reported a rebound in COVID-19 infections, with 46 COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term and personal care homes between July 17 and Aug. 13, a 15-fold increase from the month before.

In the same time period, an average of 122 people with COVID-19 were admitted to provincial hospitals each week, compared to an average of 88 in the three weeks before. Twenty-seven of the people admitted went to intensive care.

The province also reported that 27 more Saskatchewan residents have died of COVID-19.

When asked if city officials are considering a similar move to try and curb transmission in public facilities, the Leader-Post received an emailed written statement.

“The City of Regina continues to monitor the impacts of COVID-19 in our community,” the statement reads. “As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, we remind residents of pro-active steps they can take such as handwashing, social distancing, and enhanced cleaning. At this time, we are not reinstating a mask mandate, however, we support all employees and visitors who choose to mask up.”

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The city has long followed the province’s lead when it comes to COVID-19 policy, with administration’s main rationale being that it would be difficult to maintain restrictions without the province’s backing, and that inconsistency would cause confusion for residents.

But local businesses and organizations throughout the pandemic haven’t let a lack of provincial restrictions stop them from taking extra precautions when they felt it was needed.

Although not in effect anymore, the Saskatchewan Science Centre maintained a mask mandate beyond the province’s that ended on Feb. 28. Bodhi Tree Yoga and The Penny University Bookstore also extended their mandates beyond February.

In an interview in early March, owner of the Penny University Bookstore Annebel Townsend called the decision to keep a masking order a “minefield” for businesses.

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“I think it really depends on your business and knowing your customers very well,” she said at the time.

Time will tell if other organizations follow the YWCA’s lead as Saskatchewan tackles its latest wave.

— with files from Zak Vescera, Saskatoon Star Phoenix

jackerman@postmedia.com

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