Saskatoon

Sask. plant using masks after outbreak 'like closing the barn door after the horses have left': epidemiologist

The recent COVID-19 outbreak at a Saskatoon manufacturing plant should serve as a wake-up call for business and government, says a University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist.

Brandt official says safety is top priority and that it is monitoring situation closely

The recent COVID-19 outbreak at the Brandt manufacturing plant in Saskatoon has resulted in at least 19 confirmed cases. (Jason Warick/CBC)

The recent COVID-19 outbreak at a Saskatoon manufacturing plant should serve as a wake-up call for business and government, says a University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist.

According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), the Brandt manufacturing plant is now the source of at least 19 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Brandt officials said in an email 11 employees have tested positive, and the SHA has linked an additional eight cases to the outbreak.

No one from Brandt was made available for an interview, but an official said in an email that the business is doing all it can to keep everyone safe. That includes a new mandatory mask policy.

U of S professor of community health and epidemiology Nazeem Muhajarine said he's shocked Brandt didn't require masks until now.

"After the fact, after about 19 cases have been connected to this particular business, making mask wearing mandatory is a little bit too late. It's kind of like closing the barn door after the horses have left," he said.

Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, says the Brandt outbreak the need for a provincewide mandatory mask policy. (University of Saskatchewan/On Campus News)

Muhajarine said this shows the need for a provincewide mandatory mask-wearing policy in all indoor spaces. Things could get much worse without one, he said.

"Leadership makes a difference, not only just preparedness, but how we actually put that preparedness for the pandemic and containment of the pandemic into operation. Leadership is so important," Muhajarine said.

Muhajarine said public health and safety decisions should not be left to the discretion of individuals and businesses. This "patchwork" approach puts everyone at risk, he said.

Premier Scott Moe reiterated the government's position this week. Masks are encouraged if people are unable to remain two metres apart indoors, but are not mandatory.

The Brandt official said in the written statement that for the past few months, the business has made "elevated commitments to physical distancing, sanitization, self-monitoring and stay-at-home policies."

Aside from mandatory masks, the new company policy will also include more frequent deep cleaning and sanitary fogging.

The official said Brandt will continue to monitor the situation closely and is following all directions set out by the SHA.


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