University of Saskatchewan professor pushes to restore campus mask mandate

A University of Saskatchewan chemistry professor suggests reapplying the COVID-19 mask requirement after comparing the factors that were used to suspend the mask mandate to the current situation.

Stephen Urquhart said the university’s pandemic response team presented a report in June suggesting a pause in the mask mandate, along with a number of factors that informed the team’s recommendation.

He said many of the items listed in the report are no longer true and no reason has been given as to why a mask mandate has not been reinstated.

“It hasn’t been clearly communicated why the mask mandate hasn’t come back, and one of the reasons I put myself out there is to encourage the administration to return to a mask requirement on campus,” Urquhart said.

He said the academic community can use the report as a benchmark for evaluating the current pause, and that he recently published an article that sets out the factors to compare. By doing so, the university would see evidence to support the return of a mask mandate.

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Urquhart said the article received a “huge response” from colleagues and students on campus.

The report says provincial COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have declined, but Urquhart pointed out that there have been successive increases in hospital and ICU admissions in the province.

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Another factor listed in the report indicates pressures on the health care system are easing, but it was noted that over the summer, the Saskatchewan Health Authority reported a series of emergency service disruptions across the province. province.

Six other factors were listed in the report, noting that COVID-19 sewage levels were declining, the number of university cases was declining and other post-secondary institutes in the province were no longer enforcing mask mandates, including many were no longer the case.

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Urquhart said his approach has the support of colleagues and students on campus.

“A lot of people are worried about the current situation.”

“Mask mandates help protect the pack. Wearing a mask protects me from others, but also protects others from me,” Urquhart said.

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He said colleagues who contacted the Pandemic Response Team did not receive a response, so he decided to take a different route.

“I think what we’re really looking for is leadership. As an instructor, I try to set an example by wearing the mask and taking masks with me so that if other people want a mask, I can give them one, and they can have the resources that they need to be safe and protect others. ”

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Darcy Marciniuk, associate vice president of research at USask, as well as chair of the university’s pandemic response team, said the team met regularly over the summer and of autumn.

Marciniuk said the team is monitoring a number of factors within USask and the surrounding community, and the pause on the mask mandate may be lifted to reinstate it.

“It is possible that the mask mandate, or the current pause, will be eliminated, that is, masking will return. If certain indicators reach thresholds, and there is not a kind of black and white, it is a multi-index discussion and a synthesis of the data,” Marciniuk said.

“Currently, we are noticing increased activity here on campus, but it has not reached the setting and situation where we would be returning masks.”

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He said masks are used in clinical settings, but it’s not system-wide and available to anyone who wants one.

Marciniuk said the team had received concerns from faculty and students and wanted to address them.

“We’re trying to be fairly objective and evidence-based when it comes to this decision.”

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