Saskatchewan

COVID-19 in Sask.: Moe directly addresses Hutterites, urges cooperation with testing

Premier Scott Moe said on Wednesday that 244 of the province's 322 active cases on Wednesday were on Hutterite colonies. He said it's "among the highest" infection rate that he is aware of in North America.

44 cases announced Wednesday in north region, 3 in south, 2 in Regina, 1 in central region

Premier Scott Moe says there will be health officials contacting 80 Hutterite communities in Saskatchewan to provide information and assistance, if necessary, to contain and slow the spread of COVID-19. (Mark Taylor / Canadian Press)

Premier Scott Moe announced on Wednesday that health officials will visit all 80 Hutterite colonies in Saskatchewan to provide information and guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Moe said 244 of the province's 322 active cases were on Hutterite colonies. He said the spread is "among the highest" infection rates that he is aware of in North America.

Moe directly addressed the province's Hutterite population during Wednesday's pandemic update. He said there's been some resistance to testing and some colonies haven't been adhering to public health guidelines, such as restrictions on gathering sizes.

"Every single one of us in this province have been asked to — and the vast majority have changed how we are living each and every day — you all need to, as well," Moe said, warning of possible sickness and death.

Moe said the Saskatchewan government is prepared to dedicate the resources they have to ensure there is no unnecessary illness or death in Hutterite communities, but cooperation is needed.

The rate of transmission is a formula the government uses to track the spread of known COVID-19 cases. The rate sat at 3.19 in the central and southern region on Friday, meaning that a group of 10 infected people would transmit the disease to between 30-32 others, on average.

Of the 50 new cases on Wednesday, 44 were traced back to a "communal" setting in the north region. Some cases were said to be located within the rural municipality of Star City. Three cases were announced in the southern region, two in the Regina area and one in the central region.

"Time isn't on our side. We need all of this to happen very quickly," said Warren Kaeding, minister of rural and remote health. "We have a very short time in order to keep this under control."

Moe and Dr. Saqib Shahab, the province's chief medical health officer, both attributed Wednesday's case numbers to an increased and aggressive emphasis on testing and contact tracing and that the data should not be used to stigmatize the Hutterite residents.

"No one in Saskatchewan should stigmatize anyone in their community, or is visiting their community, or should assume that because they may be Hutterite they have COVID," Moe said.

Sask. has named names before: Moe

Moe defended the continued practice of mentioning when new cases are connected to Hutterite communities by saying the SHA has been forthcoming with information any time an outbreak has been declared.

He listed off instances when the government had notified the public of specific outbreak locations, such as in the La Loche area, a snowmobile rally and hospitals in Lloydminster and Prince Albert.

Shahab said health care workers will attempt to collaborate with the colonies to ensure that someone is isolated when symptoms arise to stop further spread.

The Hutterian Safety Council issued a letter on Monday asking the province to stop identifying COVID-19 cases related to Hutterite colonies.

COVID-19 case breakdown

There are now 322 active cases in the province, an increase of 28 cases from Tuesday. The province also said there were 22 new recoveries as of Wednesday.

There were 1,355 tests processed on Tuesday. The province has processed 95,024 tests since March. 

The Saskatchewan government said it is deploying public health officials to all 80 Hutterite colonies in Saskatchewan in the coming days to provide assistance and information to reduce the spread of COVID-19. (CBC)

There have been 202 cases linked to travel and 617 cases linked to community contacts or mass gathering. Another 299 cases have no known exposure and 150 cases are being investigated.

Fifteen people are now in hospital with COVID-19, including five in intensive care. Three of those ICU patients are in Saskatoon, while the other two are in Regina.

Seventeen deaths have been recorded since the novel coronavirus was first detected in the province in March. 

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