The Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce has asked the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) to launch a public-awareness campaign about the importance of mask use.
Interim chamber CEO Silvia Martini said the business advocacy group sent SHA the request Wednesday. Martini said the chamber would like to see a broad-based campaign across radio, T.V. and social media and that such a campaign could take some weight off of businesses when it comes to enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols.
"The importance for us is that there is clarity on the efficacy of mask wearing for the public in general," she said.
Martini said having some hard scientific evidence from the SHA would help local customers understand why wearing a mask is important when patronizing businesses.
"Our businesses, and many of our retail spaces as well, have a responsibility — a really core responsibility — not only to the safety of their clients and their customers, but very much so as well to their employees," she said.
At least one Saskatoon business has changed to an appointment-only system because customers were not respecting its mandatory mask policy.
Tracey Muzzolini, owner of Christie's Mayfair Bakery on 33rd Street and Ill Secondo off Broadway Avenue, said she's in favour of a public-awareness campaign. While her business is not a chamber member, she said just having information out there would help.
"The more people are aware, the better it is," she said.
Muzzolini said she is also looking for more understanding from patrons. She said many customers are respectful about COVID-19 safety efforts, but that it's not always the case.
"I just wish the customer would be more compassionate with our service people," she said. "It's hard enough as it is now to operate and stay positive and we're just asking for some positivity in return."
Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, has encouraged residents to wear masks when physical distancing is not possible, saying it's a simple act that adds another layer of protection.
Julie Gryba, the manager at the SaskMade Marketplace on Eighth Street, said a mask-focused campaign from the SHA would be well received by the shop, as it would show the steps the businesses is taking are rooted in public health recommendations.
"It feels like we're the enforcers," she said. "We're the ones that have to go out and force people to wear their masks and adhere to the protocols."
She said it puts employees in an unfortunate situation.
"You never want to upset your customers, so a little less of them versus us would be great."
Gryba said the business wants to prioritize the safety of the store's staff and its patrons, but also ensure it can continue operating.
"One sick person and we all lose our jobs for the next few months," she said.
SHA confirmed it received the request from the chamber and said it was looking at it.
"It is critical to remember that we are already promoting mask use to the public and to health care workers through many channels," the statement said.
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