Sask. pediatrician outlines things to consider before your family goes maskless this summer

A pediatrician suggests thinking about the vaccination status of the group, the number of people and more.

Think about vaccination status of the group, number of people and more

Currently children have to wear masks at any indoor public spaces, but the province may lift the mandatory mask order as soon as July 11. (Halfpoint/Shutterstock)

Marina Iyeme-Eteng had mixed feelings when hearing the mask mandate may be lifted as soon as July 11 in Saskatchewan. The mother of two isn't sure her family will go without masks just yet. 

"The mask is like an additional layer of protection. If I'm removing that, I will feel exposed," she said. "I think a lot of it is going to depend on what the numbers look like at that time."

On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said the province would lift restrictions on gathering sizes and remove the provincial mask mandate once three weeks have passed since 70 per cent of people 12 and older are vaccinated, and three weeks have passed since Step 2 of the province's reopening plan began.

This is in addition to the rest of Step 3 of the reopening plan, when most other restrictions will be lifted. This is scheduled to begin three weeks after 70 per cent of people 18 and up are vaccinated, along with three weeks having elapsed since Step 2. Step 2 is currently planned for June 20.

Iyeme-Eteng said her children are too young to be vaccinated, so she may keep having them wear masks for a little longer, depending on where they are.

A Saskatoon pediatrician said location is one of many things to keep in mind this summer. 

Dr. Ayisha Kurji said it's important to remember that kids 12 and under not being eligible means a large segment of the population will be unvaccinated. 

Kurji outlined a few things to think about when considering whether a mask is necessary at a gathering.

"Something to think about is whether you as a family, everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated, has two doses of the vaccine. Who else is there? And do they have two doses of the vaccine. How many people are going to be there?" Kurji said. 

Saskatoon pediatrician Dr. Ayisha Kurji says there's a lot for parents to consider before their unvaccinated children go without masks this summer. (Don Somers/CBC)

Kurji said that while kids under 12 are at a lower risk of developing significant symptoms, they can still get sick from COVID-19, end up in hospital and even die. Kurji said she recommends following the Centre for Disease Control's advice this summer. 

"What the CDC is recommending is that kids who can't get vaccinated because they're too young to follow the same precautions as those who could get vaccinated but haven't yet. So treat them as if they're unvaccinated adults," she said. 

That means still wearing a mask, being careful with indoor activities and being mindful of COVID-19 community spread and the risks of being indoors without physical distancing. If children are invited to an indoor birthday party, for example, Kurji suggests having open and honest conversations with the host about their concerns if you're unsure if people have received their shots. 

Kurji said it's safest in a small group with everyone eligible being vaccinated. If there's any doubt if a person is vaccinated, assume they aren't, Kurji said. 

"Say, you know, 'We're going to be cautious because our children can't get the vaccine. So unless we're with people that we know are fully vaccinated, they're going to keep their masks,'" Kurji said. 

Marina Iyeme-Eteng and her two children. She said she's having open conversations with her friends about being vaccinated. (Submitted by Marina Iyeme-Eteng)

Iyeme-Eteng said she's already having those frank conversations with family friends. She said 80 per cent of her circle is vaccinated and the rest are booked in for appointments. 

"If we're going to be hanging out together, I need to be sure tha I'm not exposing myself to a potentially dangerous situation," she said. "It's a conversation that everybody needs to have."