Stanley Mission, Sask., sets up roadblocks, curfew after 6 cases of COVID-19 found in community

A First Nation in northern Saskatchewan has closed many of its buildings and blocked the road into the community after an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Officials trying to get ahead of virus before it spreads

The Lac La Ronge Indian Band says the road to Stanley Mission, Sask., has been closed after 6 positive cases of COVID-19. (Elizabeth Elich photo)

A First Nation in northern Saskatchewan has closed many of its buildings and blocked the road into the community after an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The Lac La Ronge Indian Band (LLRIB) has reported six confirmed cases, with 92 close contacts to those who tested positive.

Of those close contacts, 87 live in Stanley Mission. Eighty of them have tested negative for COVID-19, with seven tests pending.

All of the people who were in close contact with the infected people have been placed in 14-day isolation.

"Everybody's working really hard to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community," said LLRIB Chief Tammy Cook-Searson.

"Everybody has really pulled together and we're hoping that we'll be able to contain the COVID-19 virus." 

The first case was reported in the community on Thursday, with five more cases being discovered since then.

On Sunday, the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) declared an outbreak at the Stanley Mission Health Centre after seeing an increased number of cases linked to the centre.

Authorities closed the health centre down temporarily and deep-cleaned the facility. Many of the centre's nurses were told to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution.

The community has set up a roadblock leading out of the community. Only people who have a medical appointment or people with jobs off-reserve are allowed to leave the community.

A curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. CST has also been implemented.

Both schools in the community have been closed this week and are preparing for online learning.

Cook-Searson said help is pouring in. The federal First Nations Inuit Health Branch has been providing support, and other nurses from the LLRIB have been called in to backfill the nurses that are in isolation.

The chief said the community is rallying and has been making sure everyone in isolation is being taken care of.

"I'm really grateful for all of them, all the workers that we have," she said. 

"They've been working tirelessly and putting themselves in the pathway of the virus, especially the members of the health care team and their families."

This isn't the first case of COVID-19 that has been found in the Lac La Ronge Indian Band territory.

Cook-Searson said Lac La Ronge saw its first case two weeks ago, then four more on the Little Red First Nation and another in La Ronge.

"We were expecting to get cases at some point," she said. 

"We just didn't know when."

Meanwhile, Cook-Searson is hoping aggressive contact tracing and restrictions will help stop the spread before it's too late.

An additional 196 people were tested on Friday and Saturday, and she hopes anyone who may be infectious can be discovered quickly.

Many services in Stanley Mission have been impacted.

Stanley Mission's courthouse will be closed until Nov. 10, and any court matters will be dealt with in La Ronge. People with court matters were asked to call the La Ronge Courthouse to set up an appearance via telephone.

Anyone who had been at the Stanley Mission Health Centre from Oct. 5 to 8 should self-monitor for any COVID-19 symptoms.

On Monday, the Stanley Mission band office asked everyone in the community to phone before they came into the clinic. Doctor appointments can be made over the phone with doctors in La Ronge and routine lab work has been postponed.

The local grocery store and gas bar said it would be providing deliveries to people who could not leave the community.

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