Northeast feeling the stress of local COVID-19 outbreaks

Fifty new cases of COVID-19 were recently reported in the province with 44 of those cases noted at a Hutterite colony in the RM of Star City, according to Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab during a recent press conference.

“This again emphasizes that no part of Saskatchewan is COVID free and once COVID enters a setting with this close contact it spreads extremely aggressively and rapidly. And we can only flatten the curve if all of us do our part,” said Dr. Shahab on July 29.

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Local rural municipalities and cities are now reacting to the news of the outbreak.

The Rural Municipality of Star City rests between the Rural Municipality of Flett's Springs, which is home to the City of Melfort, and the Rural Municipality of Tisdale.

Mayor of Melfort, Rick Lang, says they have reached out to the colony at Star City and have made several trips to the colony to drop off supplies safely. Lang says he was told the colony wishes to self-isolate together and this will allow them to do that.

 “When you're dealing with communities that are close by, in essence, we're all one community because we're that close. This validates that. To mitigate any damage you work together as a community ... the people that are in your community need some help and you have to be prepared to give it to them and that will make it better for everybody.”

As of July 31, Lang has heard of no confirmed cases within Melfort itself. Time will tell, he says.

Mayor of Tisdale, Al Jellicoe, says there are Tisdale residents that are concerned but there has been no known contact with anyone from the Star City colony.

Jellicoe found out on Tuesday following his return from a fishing trip in Flin Flon that there was an outbreak in the colony, however, he had not been notified by either the Saskatchewan government or the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

For the next few weeks, he says, people are just going to be extra cautious. A few businesses in the town will be closing for a few days to do some extra cleaning of their stores, says Jellico. This is a sign that more needs to be done in order to contain the spread of the virus.

“What’s happened in the last couple of weeks is not a big surprise. It’s just unfortunate. People should just stay home and not go out.”

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is also reacting to the outbreak by putting visitation restrictions on the hospitals and community long term care facilities in Melfort, Tisdale, and Nipawin.

“This means family members or support people will only be permitted for compassionate reasons. No other visitors are allowed into the facilities at this time and these enhanced limitations will remain in place until further notice,” said a July 30 press release.

While the restrictions are in place, the Health Authority encourages all families to stay connected with their loved ones through virtual options such as phone calls or online means of communication.

Certain upcoming events for Prince Albert MP, Randy Hoback, have also been put on hold according to a July 31 email with the Tisdale Drive-Thru Barbecue scheduled for Aug. 6 and the Melfort Drive-Thru Barbecue scheduled for Aug. 7 being postponed. Drive-thru barbecues for Nipawin on Aug. 4 and Carrot River on Aug. 5 will still go on as planned.

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