COVID-19 in Sask .: Northern leaders say “drastic” action could happen if public health orders were not followed

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Northern leaders say that some in the region simply do not understand the message when it comes to respecting public health orders put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Authorities say there are at least 80 cases in the far north, including 75 in the La Loche community and five in the neighboring community of the Clearwater River Dene Nation.

On Saturday, the province announced that the number of COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan had increased to 421, while six new cases had been registered on Saturday.

However, that number could climb higher, as the province has omitted eight suspected positives that have been recorded in the community of La Loche, but which have not been confirmed by the provincial laboratory Roy Romanow. If these cases had been included, the number of cases in the province would be set at 429 and 85 in the far north.

Of the new cases included in the update, four are in the North, one in Saskatoon and one in Regina. Of the 421 confirmed cases in the province, only 113 are considered active with 302 cases – about 71% – considered cured.

The majority of the cases are linked to travel, contacts or mass gatherings, but 39 cases have no known origin and 74 remain under investigation by local health authorities.

The number of people hospitalized increased slightly from Friday to Saturday, from 10 to 12, but the number of people receiving intensive care fell from three to two. So far, six deaths have been reported in the wake of the pandemic.

Northern leaders on Friday begged the public to stay home and obey orders during a community update on La Loche radio station CHPN.

In the update, leaders said that while many people in the north followed orders, some were still partying, always traveling in pairs for things like medical appointments, and there was at least one case of a person who lied to cross a checkpoint which was set up within the framework of travel restrictions in the region.

“I don’t think people understand the extent or severity of the COVID-19 virus in our community,” said Leonard Montgrand, northern representative for the Métis Nation Saskatchewan.

The number of cases will decide on new restrictions

He was one of the leaders who participated in the update on Friday. He said that if people don’t heed the warnings that are in place, the leaders of the region will have to take drastic action.

Leonard Montgrand is a northern representative to the Métis Nation – Saskatchewan. He said northern leaders will have to take drastic action if more people don’t start following Saskatchewan’s public health orders. (CBC)

“Our numbers will dictate our next steps or the next step and their severity will be dictated by the numbers,” he said. “If they continue to increase, we will have to take immediate and drastic measures. Things will certainly change. “

Montgrand said northern leaders, including the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, are working closely to ensure that some of the most vulnerable communities, such as those living on the streets or dealing with addictions, have the support they need.

However, he noted that due to the united and social nature of the region, he expects other northern communities to begin to see the number of cases increase. The province is already facing four outbreaks in the region, including that of La Loche, as cases have also been recorded in Beauval, Prince Albert and Lloydminster.

Between the two regions, the north and the far north, 158 cases were recorded, representing 38% of the total cases in Saskatchewan. Montgrand said the north had been particularly hard hit, with leaders anticipating the virus would come “directly from the south” through the communities of Beauval and Buffalo Narrows before hitting communities like La Loche.

Instead, the virus arrived in northern Saskatchewan from the west via Alberta, and health officials tracked some of the cases to Kearl Lake labor camp in the north. Fort McMurray.

“It moved so fast,” he said. “It’s so hard to keep track and we have so many tracks that we can’t keep up sometimes. “

Travel restrictions were put in place on April 24 and tightened on Thursday, as Northerners were ordered to stay in their home communities.

“We are asking people to stay at home, to stay in their community, especially in communities in the northwest,” said Prime Minister Scott Moe earlier this week. “This is a region of Saskatchewan where if you can stay at home, not only in your community, but at home, we ask you to do so. It works to control this virus. ”

Province Concerned About Spread of Virus in North

A press release from the Department of Health indicates that the spread of COVID-19 in northern Saskatchewan is of concern.

“It is important that all people in Saskatchewan, including those living in the North, continue to exercise physical distance, avoid large crowds, stay home if they are sick and wash their hands frequently.” said the press release.

“The Government of Saskatchewan recognizes the unique challenges facing northern communities in controlling the spread of COVID-19 and provides direct support to northern communities and businesses to ensure that the necessary resources are available. “

The release says that all non-critical travel to and from northern Saskatchewan is limited, except for those traveling to Stony Rapids and La Ronge. Northerners were also asked to stay in their home communities and practice physical distance.

“Exceptions are only made in cases where people take care of essential items, such as buying groceries or attending medical appointments,” the statement said. “These orders are in place to prevent people from getting COVID-19 and to keep the residents of Saskatchewan safe.”

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency has also established checkpoints to restrict movement in the area and has installed more signage in the north. Along with the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency, the RCMP is assisting with law enforcement.

“Tickets in the amount of $ 2,000 can be issued to people who are unwilling to comply with the order,” the statement said. “Although existing public health ordinances are in effect, people can also report situations in which a person or business is suspected of non-compliance. “

The Saskatchewan Health Authority refused an interview. However, a statement from the SHA said it supported the call by northern leaders for people to follow public health orders.

“SHA area officials certainly agree with community leaders that it is important that all residents comply with public health ordinances, and would encourage everyone to help protect their families, their children, and their families.” friends, neighbors and the community, “said the statement.

Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone says the restrictions could be restored if the curve does not remain stable. (CBC)

In a May 1 press release, Scott Livingstone, SHA CEO, said more health care resources, including additional staff, would be sent to the region to support the ramp-up of testing and research. contacts in the region.

“We have had over 100 employees expressing interest in supporting the response,” said Livingstone in the statement.

“Together, we are demonstrating our power as a single health authority by calling on health care workers from across Saskatchewan to support residents of La Loche and the region when needed. “

“Community survival” depends on everyone’s responsibility: doctor

Dr. Anne Huang, former assistant medical officer of health for Saskatchewan, says now is a good time to start discussing the reopening of the province, but said it was important that the government clearly explain to residents what could result in tighter restrictions. (CBC News)

Dr. Anne Huang, former assistant health administrator in Saskatchewan, said it was essential that Northerners follow the directions, noting that if they did COVID-19 they would spread across the welded area like a “trail” of powder ”.

“It makes things more difficult,” she said. Adding later, “Often the close-knit community gives you the support you need, at the same time, it also means a lot more social interaction and, more importantly, a lot more physical interaction. “

Huang said that as a result, everyone in the north – young and old, healthy or unhealthy – must follow the restrictions that are in place, as it can spread quickly through narrow areas through surfaces or shared contacts.

“It’s not just the elderly who get sick. Young people can also get sick and die, ”she said. “The survival of your people and your community depends on what everyone is doing now in a responsible manner.”

On Saturday afternoon, the province performed 30,845 COVID-19 tests.

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