Given the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases emanating from the province’s southwest and west central regions, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses has come out strongly in favour of the use of personal masks.

In response to the outbreak, Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone confirmed that health officials had launched into aggressive testing and contact tracing in the affected areas.

However, the sharp increase in reported cases has given Tracy Zambory, president of Saskatchewan Union of Nurses (SUN) cause for concern. She says it's time that provincial bodies and the residents took the prospect of wearing masks seriously. 

“We are advocating for and calling on the provincial government to immediately institute mandatory masking in indoor areas where you can’t physically distance. The spike that we’ve seen in the southwest, which is making its way to the centre of the province, is going to continue to march on. We are a research based organization, and there is more evidence supporting the CDC findings about how important it is that, as a society, we all put a mask on.”

The research that Zambory cites suggests that the appropriate use of masks in public spaces could result in bringing virus transmission under control in six to eight weeks.

The union membership had made a commitment to be vocal about the implementation of mask policies if it saw the number of cases rise significantly following the government’s reopening plans. The union’s call to the government and SHA officials is following through on that promise, says Zambory.

“We are concerned that people are getting a little too comfortable and loosening up a bit too much,” explained Zambory. “The mask is the biggest tool in the toolbox. The others are the continual washing of hands, the use of hand sanitizer, staying home if you are not feeling well, and going out only when necessary.”

The entire process relies on people acting in the best interests of the community said Zambory, and that requires looking at the situation from the point of view of mutual protection, especially as social interaction continues to increase.

As fall approaches with the intended reopening of schools, Zambory stated that the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses is prepared to engage with decision makers to support the health and well-being of children, parents, and staff members.

“I think that’s a bigger conversation that needs to happen with all stakeholders, registered nurses being one of them. We know there are lots of considerations that need to happen. These are our most precious resources we have going back in six weeks, and it is in our best interest as a society, a health authority, a government that we should be doing exactly what is best for our kids, our teachers, and everyone that works in the school system.”

With the call to government, the union is hopeful the message gets out in a stronger mandate than a recommendation that mask usage needs to be a staple in the effort to restore the province’s low case numbers.