REGINA -- More local business owners in Regina are making mask use mandatory inside their facilities, despite the measure not being mandated by the provincial government.

Chelsey Legendre, the owner of Excalipurr Cat Cafe, said on Tuesday she made the decision to make masks mandatory inside the cat room at her shop in hopes of keeping both staff and customers safe.

“We just wanted to create an atmosphere that everybody felt safe in because it is a room where you’re spending a period of time,” Legendre said. “We are getting guests from children all the way up to seniors, so ultimately that was my decision maker.”

She said the interaction with the cats also played a role in her decision.

“These cats are roaming free from customer to customer,” she said. “If you’re petting a cat and they go to the next person and they’re petting the cat, we do require sanitizing, hand washing and face masks just to cut down as many germs as possible.”

At Sunshine & Ski, masks have been mandatory since the store reopened in May.

Owner Brian Sampson said the decision was made with the health of both staff and customers in mind.

“I myself am immunocompromised and I have another staff member who is in the same situation,” Sampson said. “For us to reopen, and reopen with enthusiasm and support of what we knew we were going to deal with, we thought it was best.”

Sampson said customers have been supportive. He’s hopeful more businesses will take time to learn more about masks.

“It’s all foreign to all of us and we’re all moving ahead as positively as we can, but I do see more businesses going to investigate it and do it properly,” he said.

Mask use in major chain stores

On Wednesday, Walmart stores across Canada made masks mandatory for staff and customers, regardless of varying regulations from city to city.

In a statement, Walmart Canada said the decision came down to safety, as well as keeping things consistent across the network.

“Health Canada has identified that, when worn properly, a person wearing a mask/face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets. In addition, over 60 per cent of our more than 400 stores are in regions of the country where there is some form of local government mandate on face coverings,” the statement said.

The Regina & District Chamber of Commerce said this move by Walmart has the potential to influence smaller businesses.

“Now that Walmart has taken the lead on this, I think we’ll probably see other businesses, particularly in areas of the country where there are a lot of cases,” CEO John Hopkins said. “If we have more cases in Regina, we’ll probably see that continue to grow.”

The provincial government hasn’t mandated indoor mask use at this point, but Premier Scott Moe has said it could be another measure taken if the COVID-19 situation worsens in Saskatchewan.