City of Saskatoon has no plans to drop COVID health protocols

"Current protocols must still be followed by all staff and customers, including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination."

The Star Phoenix 3 minute read June 24, 2021

The City of Saskatoon says it has no immediate plans to stop masking, remote work or other COVID-19 safety measures when Saskatchewan drops its last public health restrictions on July 11.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the city lacks clear guidance from the provincial government on how workplace protocols will change once measures like indoor masking are no longer law.

“At this time, we do not have information or direction from the Government of Saskatchewan regarding when the requirement for Occupational Health and Safety protocols for COVID-19 will be removed or changed,” reads a statement from the city.

“Until otherwise directed, current protocols must still be followed by all staff and customers including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccination.” 

The provincial health ministry did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The city is among the local or regional government agencies drafting plans for whether to continue measures like social distancing or mandatory use of face coverings indoors, even after they are no longer legally required.

It hopes to transition staff who have been working from home since the pandemic began back to the workplace by Sept. 1, but cautioned it will rely on recommendations from the provincial government to do that.

The transit department hopes to resume full standing loads in July, but is “reviewing all options and consulting various regulations and practices across Canada” when it comes to masking and other safety measures. Vinyl barriers that separate riders from drivers will remain in place, and riders will be updated when more details become available.

Other public agencies have yet to announce any formal decision on whether clients or employees should keep masks on hand. Saskatoon police spokesman Joshua Grella could not say definitively whether officers will stop wearing masks, for example, saying only that the force is “considering policy revisions” on masking with a goal of finalizing them before July 11.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has strongly hinted that it will continue to require the use of masks and other infection control measures in its facilities. A statement sent to long-term care homes on Tuesday hinted measures like masking will remain in those facilities, for example, although they have not received any official direction from the SHA.

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“We haven’t nailed down exactly where we’re going to be,” SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said during a board meeting on Wednesday. “But it’s not unlikely that you might see masking, certainly in areas where we’re seeing outbreaks or where we see vulnerable populations being served.”

Crown corporations are preparing to drop the masks and get back to the office. Crown Investments Corporation spokesperson Darcee MacPharlane said the “majority” of Crown employees who are working from home will return to the office by the middle or end of July and that masks will be a “personal preference” for staff.

Saskatchewan residents have lived under public health measures since March 2020. The government aimed to lift them in a three-part “roadmap” pegged to vaccination rates. The province is still short of its final goal of giving at least one dose of vaccine to 70 per cent of residents aged 12 and older, but announced it will remove the requirement for masking in public indoor spaces on July 11 regardless.

zvescera@postmedia.com

 

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