Thursday , 13 May 2021

National authorities assisting in Saddle Lake COVID-19 cluster

There are no hospitalizations among the local COVID cluster of eight cases. 

The decision to continue the lockdown or lift some of the restrictions in Saddle Lake is being reviewed week by week as more information becomes available, officials said on Monday.

“This is a very serious virus and you don’t want to take it lightly. So from here on in, it’s how can we keep our guard up?” said Chief Eric Shirt.

“Council will be reviewing this stuff and we’re taking it very seriously. The safety of our members and our workers is paramount and we need to make the decisions that accomplish that.”

Shirt declared a 14-day lockdown of Saddle Lake Cree Nation on Sept. 7, following an initial cluster of cases in the community. With contact tracing, the number of cases had risen to eight as of Sunday night.

Saddle Lake Health Care Centre’s latest numbers on Monday. Image credit: Saddle Lake Cree Nation.

Dr. Chris Sarin, Deputy Medical Officer of Health for Indigenous Services Canada, confirmed the case count today and said that none of the people from Saddle Lake currently sick with the novel coronavirus are hospitalized.

“No one is in a severe situation, but it is being assessed daily,” said Sarin.

“[The health care team] have been preparing for months. They’re fully aware that there’s been cases in the area, off-reserve for a number of months. They have a pandemic plan that they’ve been supported to implement and prepared to respond for months. So we’re actually fortunate that it’s taken this long for a case to appear on the Nation,” said Sarin.

Sarin said the decision to continue with the lockdown is made by the Chief and Council.

“There is additional information coming forward all the time, but they use the data as much as they can,” he said.

Asked if the cases in Saddle Lake had been linked to a particular community event such as a funeral, Sarin said that identifying such events is part of the contact tracing process, but at this time these infections do not appear to have a common source and are clustered among close contacts and households of infected persons.

“Our efforts to flatten the curve, a lot of them really rely on people co-operating with the public health guidelines. We need you to stay home when you’re sick, we need you to wash your hands and physically distance,” said Sarin, emphasizing the importance of testing and of supporting people who need to self-isolate while sick or after being tested.

Shirt is currently self-isolating in his home after receiving a negative result on his COVID-19 test. AHS guidelines require people experiencing symptoms or who have been exposed to the virus to isolate for 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.

“Even inside the house, in my room I can take my mask off but if I go in to common areas I have to wear a mask,” said Shirt, who lives with his sister.

He emphasized the importance of continuing to be diligent in hand washing, masking, and limiting contacts.

“Support is available. We will have cleaning supplies and food delivered so you don’t have to go out,” said Shirt. “We’re really encouraging people to follow directions because it is really important to contain this virus.”

Around the Lakeland, numbers for active cases remain low for the must part.

St. Paul has 11, Bonnyville has five, Cold Lake has one, Two Hills County has five, Smoky Lake has two, and Vermilion River County has one.

Those numbers are according to ‘Local Geographic Area’ on the government map.

When looking at the map by municipality, Smoky Lake has ten and St. Paul has three.

In the provincial update given Monday afternoon, Alberta’s top doctor Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there were 105 new cases on Sept. 11, 173 on Sept. 12, and 140 on Sept. 13.

One person died, bringing the total number of deaths to 254.

Cases on First Nations are included in the daily case counts released by Alberta Health Services, but they are rolled in to the neighbouring municipalities.

AHS did not respond to a request for clarification of the numbers before deadline.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.