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Saskatchewan doctors want masks, distancing addressed in back-to-school plan


REGINA — A doctors association in Saskatchewan is urging the provincial government to apply more caution when it comes to reopening schools.

The Saskatchewan Medical Association says in a news release its leaders recently met with the chief medical health officer and other ministry officials to discuss the plan unveiled earlier this week.

Premier Scott Moe's government plans to send students back to class in as normal a way as possible — with some restrictions in place, but not including mandatory masks or reduced class sizes.

The Ministry of Education says school divisions have developed more detailed safety plans and encouraged teachers and parents to take a look.

The medical association says doctors have concerns with the plan in respect to physical distancing and mask use.

In particular, it says physicians want to see more clear direction when it comes to wearing masks.

"Saskatchewan doctors think it's prudent to set the safety bar higher at the outset, then lower it when we know what we are dealing with," association president Dr. Barbara Konstantynowicz said in the release Friday.

"Closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded spaces with many people, and close-contact settings with close-range conversations are not uncommon in schools and these realities need to be front and center in back to school plans."

The association is the latest group to voice criticism of the government's back-to-school plan.

Sit-ins were planned Friday at the offices of Saskatchewan Party MLAs by parents wanting more safety precautions implemented and smaller class sizes.

The Opposition NDP has slammed Saskatchewan's back-to-school plan as one of the worst in Canada, failing to address families' and teachers' concerns.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation has also said it believes masks should be mandatory and notes it would welcome a new plan from the Saskatchewan Party government.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2020

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press

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