Support flowing into northern community of La Loche where outbreak has been recorded at long-term care home

Of the province’s 315 cases, 134 are considered travel-related, 132 are contacts or linked to mass gatherings, with 29 having no known exposure and 20 still under investigation by local public health.

COVID-19 in Sask: Province records 2 more cases, recoveries remain the same

Diane Dugan, can be seen posing for a photo with her 90-year-old mom, Rosine Janvier, at her home in La Loche. Posters Diane designed asking people to not enter the home can be seen on the window. Dugan is calling for mask makers from across Saskatchewan, and even Canada, to send masks or materials to La Loche. (Supplied/Diane Dugan)

Saskatchewan has now had 315 cases of COVID-19 recorded in the province as health officials recorded two more cases on Sunday. 

Of the province's 315 cases, only one is still listed as presumptive, while the number of people recovered in the province remains at 234. A number of measures have been put into place in communities in Saskatchewan's north to protect against an outbreak.

The number of people in hospital dropped to four on Sunday, down from five on Saturday. The number of deaths remains unchanged at four

Of those in hospital, three are receiving in-patient care while the fourth is in intensive care. 

Of the province's 315 cases, 134 are considered travel-related, 132 are contacts or linked to mass gatherings, with 29 having no known exposure and 20 still under investigation by local public health. 

A large portion of the cases are located in Saskatoon (149), while 70 cases are located in Regina, 59 in the north, 15 in the south, and 11 cases in both the central region and the far north. 

The province also noted that 35 of the cases are in healthcare workers, but government notes that not all of these infections may be rooted in healthcare work. 

When it comes to testing, Saskatchewan is still one of the leaders in the country as the province has the second-highest testing rate per capita among provinces that have reported. 

Of the cases, only 24 are said to be in people under the age of 19, while the remainder of cases are in adults. 

As of Sunday afternoon, the number of active cases in the province has climbed, but only slightly, from 75 on Saturday to 77 on Sunday.

La Loche like 'ghost town'

Kevin Janvier, who has lived in La Loche for his whole life, says the Northern village has become a ghost town since a curfew was enacted in the community. (Supplied/Kevin Janvier)

Late last week, the Government of Saskatchewan confirmed that it was dealing with its first case of COVID-19 in a patient in long-term care — an individual at the La Loche Health Centre and Hospital. 

Hours after the news broke, the community put a curfew in place.

Kevin Janvier, a life-long resident of La Loche who supports the curfew, said it appears to be working, and the northern community has been quiet in recent days. 

"There was a lot of people out and about, but now, it's very quiet," he said. "People are taking this seriously." 

He said it is "kind of weird" seeing the usually busy northern hub grind to a halt. 

"There's no people on the streets, it's kind of like a ghost town in downtown La Loche."

Community support flowing into the north

Diane Janvier Dugan spent much of her Saturday on the road. 

She was travelling to the northern community of La Loche to bring supplies to her family, but alongside the necessities heading north, she carried with her 50 homemade masks. She offered one of them to a man in line at the community's northern store, and before long, others were approaching her to see if they could secure their own. 

But she didn't have enough.

Some of the homemade masks Diane Dugan has been distributing in the community of La Loche and elsewhere in Saskatchewan. She's now calling on other mask makers from across Canada to send masks and materials to the northern community. (Supplied/Diane Dugan)

She said the 50 masks she made went quickly and the need for more was obvious. On her drive back to Saskatoon, she decided she would make a video detailing how to fashion masks out of household items like an old sweatshirt or T-Shirt.  

But instead of doing the video in English, she'll be doing the video in the language of her home community — Dene. She said this was to ensure everybody in La Loche could access the information, even without a English translator. 

"If my mom wanted to make a mask, my mom does not speak English," she said. "I'd have to be able to explain it all in Dene to her and my mom is not the only one in that situation." 

Now, she is calling on folks across Saskatchewan and Canada, to step up to help the community of La Loche by donating homemade masks or materials to ensure people there have access to the masks, or at least fabric to make their own, since getting a mask in the north can be a challenge. 

"Fabric stores are closed and if they order one, it has to come in the mail and it takes a long time," she said. "Time is of the essence right now."

Alongside the instructional video, Dugan has also designed posters people can put up at their relative's home. In cities like Saskatoon and Regina, it's common to knock before entering, but family and friends in the north are more accustomed to enter a home without notice. 

La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre says he feels the energy and renewal in the school, following renovations. (CBC News)

"If we can all chip-in to help save one life, we can help the whole community that way," she said.

Mayor says support 'empowering'

La Loche Mayor Robert St. Pierre, said the fact so many people have stepped up to help shows the community's resilience.

"We have people who are willing to help and support in any way they can, however small, however big, people will come forward," he said. 

St.Pierre also noted it's important those in the north get instruction in their own language.

"You're allowing people to be able to do something that they can do at home for themselves, so it's empowering. And that's what we need. We need people to instruct and if it's in our language, it helps."

Sharon Kennedy, and her mom, Toni Lemaigre, worked together to create a COVID-19 PSA in Dene for the northern community of La Loche and other northern communities in Saskatchewan. (Supplied/Toni Lemaigre)

Dugan does charge a small fee for the masks, but just enough to cover the costs of materials, adding she does donate a number of the masks to people who can't afford them. Some of the masks also have been designed with a Saskatchewan spin, with words like "Saskatchewan strong" painted on. Others offer thanks to essential workers and contain phrases like "Canada Strong." 

Others helping to relay critical COVID-19 info

Dugan isn't the only one translating important information into Dene for the community, as others like Toni Lemaigre released a COVID-19 PSA with the help of her daughter, Sharon Kennedy. 

"What I wanted to do was reach those elders who were at risk," she said, as many have underlying health issues.

Lemaigre said the video was a dual effort between her and her daughter — she handled the translation, her daughter handled the technology. 

"It's teamwork. It's family teamwork," she said. 

She hopes the PSA spreads beyond La Loche to other Dene speaking communities like Dillon and Turner Lake. 

She said the fact the video was a project she did with her daughter "was awesome," and her entire family has been working to ensure the community remains connected through the pandemic They've also been live-streaming Sunday services and bible studies from the Clearwater River Ministries, where her son-in-law John Kennedy is a pastor.

"We're using technology a lot to reach out on the spiritual level as well as for important information the community people need to know," she said. "So I love it." 

For those who are looking to send materials or masks to La Loche, they're encouraged to mail Robert St. Pierre, at P.O. Box 552, S0M1G0, La Loche, with the mayor working to distribute the supplies into the community, or they can reach out to Diane Janiver Dugan on Facebook.