Further details about the availability of essential services during a two week ‘circuit breaker’ shutdown of Saddle Lake Cree Nation were released by the band’s emergency management department on Nov. 18.
Water, sewage, and garbage services will still be available, as well as medical and home care for high needs clients.
According to the release, the income support program, post office, finance department, youth and adult mental health help lines, and Wahkohtowin Society & Wicihtohkamihk Resource Centre will continue to provide limited services with reduced in-person staffing and seeing clients by appointment when necessary.
Individual hours of operations and phone numbers can be found here.
“Closed: All other programs, businesses, schools, including stores and places of worship. All community members who work, attend school, or participate in activities/events/sports off-reserve should adhere to these guidelines,” reads the announcement.
Dr. Chris Sarin, Deputy Medical Officer of Health with Indigenous Services Canada said the difference between this shutdown and previous measures enacted by the band is the degree of synchronicity.
“They’re synchronizing all those efforts consciously, and really trying to increase the communications so that all their members are aware, and reinforcing the need to be extra cautious and trying to get those cases down,” said Sarin.
He said the decision about what services to continue to offer and what to close was made by the band in consultation with Alberta Emergency Management Agency, and the Regional Operations portion of Indigenous Services Canada, “based on people’s basic needs and [the band’s] experience with previous disasters.”
From the public health side, he said they’re reinforcing the message that anyone who can work from home should.
However, because of the way programs and services are delivered on the First Nations, the band is also the largest employer in Saddle Lake and provides a wide range of services from water delivery to child and family support services.
“A lot of what they do might be publicly facing so to speak, they have to meet with people. So how to do that safely, and really minimize the number of staff that are on any one site and increase the precautions. So it’s just this coordinated approach to make sure the risk is really well understood and all the measures that are reasonable are in place,” said Sarin.
According to the COVID-19 data released by Saddle Lake on Nov. 18, there are currently 47 active cases with just three new cases confirmed. The number represents a sharp drop in the number of active cases from a high of 85 on Nov. 14.
“When you have a high number of active cases like what we saw last week, each one of those gets an individual case management and contact tracing investigation. And so you’re seeing the results of that high number of active cases from one or two weeks ago.
“So there’s still extensive testing happening, there are still a high number of contacts under quarantine. And those people are at higher risk for getting COVID-19 than people who are not contacts. And so we have to watch really closely for secondary or even tertiary cases,” said Sarin.
He noted most people are following through with the public health measures promoted by the band and the province including staying home when they’re sick, limiting social gatherings, wearing masks when they have to go out, and regularly washing and sanitizing their hands, but there has exposure elsewhere.
“Off-reserve exposures are still common. People have gone to Edmonton, or elsewhere and we know it’s out there,” said Sarin.