Yorkton Chamber of Commerce president criticized for views on masks and COVID-19
REGINA -- Some people in Saskatchewan are taking issue with comments made by Yorkton Chamber of Commerce President Mike Stackhouse.
On his website, Stackhouse said he’s not anti-mask but is against governments mandating people wear masks.
He argued that mandatory masks cause people to not shop at stores and instead buy products through large retailers online.
CTV News reached out to Stackhouse for a comment about his blog post but did not receive a response.
His comments have concerned people on social media, particularly now that there are more cases of COVID-19 in the Yorkton area.
“When you go out into public, you need to wear a mask to protect other people,” said Dr. Dennis Kendel, a health policy consultant and a former physician in Saskatoon. “It's unfortunate that the ‘don't need to wear a mask message’ from Mike Stackhouse simply reinforces people that this isn't a necessary measure.”
Health officials have said masks can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in cases where social distancing is not possible.
Stackhouse said in his blog he thinks masks are appropriate in certain situations, like in a crowded arena and public transit.
On Sunday, the school board announced the Yorkton Regional High School is closed and requiring students to learn at home for two weeks after four people tested positive for COVID-19.
In his blog, Stackhouse said he believes the high school shouldn’t close. He previously wrote in Yorkton This Week in March that COVID-19 “seems like such an overreaction to me.”
In response to concerns, the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce said Stackhouse’s views don’t represent the organization.
“The board of directors of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce is aware that a number of people have taken exception to recent statements about the pandemic made by Mike Stackhouse, president of the chamber,” it said in a statement.
“The statements made by Mr. Stackhouse appeared on his personal social media accounts, not those of the chamber. The personal comments and views of Mr. Stackhouse are not those of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce.”
Stackhouse is also an employee at Source Embroidery, who told CTV News in a statement, “These opinions are not the opinions of Source Embroidery or its staff.”
COVID-19 has taken a toll on a number of businesses in the province. Many have closed their doors because of fewer patrons and restrictions.
The Mayor of Yorkton said Stackhouse’s comments may be coming from a point of hardship the Yorkton business community is facing.
“The president of the Chamber of Commerce has an important position, but at the end of the day, he's responsible to members of the chamber,” said Mayor of Yorkton Bob Maloney. “There's a lot of real damage that's been done to the business community, a lot of small businesses are really feeling the pain.”
The Saskatchewan Health Authority recommends masks be worn when physical distancing isn’t possible.
As well, it recommends people take a number of precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including physical distancing of two metres, washing hands for 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer when soap isn’t available, and staying home if feeling unwell.
— With files from Cally Stephanow