REGINA -- The Saskatchewan government is telling the public that if wearing a cloth face mask makes them feel safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, then they should wear them.

Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says they can offer some protection, but they cannot be used as a replace to physical distancing, hand washing or staying home with any cold or flu symptoms.

“There is some evidence that suggests if you wear a non-medical mask, if you cough and you can’t cough into your sleeve or a tissue, then the mask just captures the droplets and they don’t fall on a service where someone else might touch it,” Shahab said.

He said anyone choosing to wear a mask, should do so mindfully.

“If you wear a mask and then put it down inside out on a surface and then put it on again, you’re then probably causing more exposure to yourself than if you weren’t wearing a mask,” Shahab said.

Premier Scott Moe says people should do what makes them feel most comfortable.

“If people are more comfortable wearing a mask, they should do so,” Moe said.

There is a strong emphasis from health officials that the public should not be using medical masks, as they should be saved for health care workers.

Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili is encouraging the public to use masks in public places like the grocery store.

Meili is also calling on the province, and local businesses, to spearhead the production of non-medical masks for the public to wear at this time.

“It’s really important that we get masks to the people who are at greatest risk - older folks, people with other chronic illnesses, people who can’t afford to go out and buy or make masks on their own,” Meili said.

Making masks

One Regina business has already started its own project to create cloth face masks for some of the people who need it most.

Dean Renwick Design Studio is using its facility to make hundreds of masks per day for seniors and care workers in seniors homes.

Dean Renwick, along with his two sisters and mom, are providing the masks for free.

“When this all first started happening, the best thing I thought was ‘what kind of talents do I have that would help benefit everyone?’ Renwick said. “I’m a tailor, or a seamstress, or whatever you want to call it, so I thought let’s make mask.”

Because he’s giving the masks away for free, he’s relying on donations of materials, or cash, from the public to help them keep going.

Donations have been pouring in, and the sewing community is also donating time and skills from home to make masks for Renwick.

So far, they’ve made more than 1,000 masks.

Renwick said when all the seniors homes have received masks, they’ll start offering them to people living with illness, or nurses who might need masks at home. Those will come at a price of $10 to help offset the cost of supplies.

If they raise any extra funds, Renwick said they’ll all be donated to the charity Health Heart Society, which offers concerts to seniors homes across Saskatchewan.

The fabrics they’re looking for are 100 per cent cotton or elastic for the straps.

Anyone who wants to help Renwick with sewing, or has a cash or fabric donation, should contact the studio by telephone or email.