Saskatchewan First Nation locks down after COVID cases spread from religious meetings

A northern Saskatchewan First Nation has been locked down and its schools closed over concerns of COVID-19 transmission following a series of religious services where participants were unmasked.

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation has shuttered its three communities of Southend, Sturgeon Landing and an urban reserve in the city of Prince Albert.

“All vehicles entering the communities will be searched,” said a notice from Chief Peter Beatty. “Absolutely no parties will be allowed.”

Roadblocks have been erected and non-members and visitors are to not be allowed into the communities, which are home to about 2,400 people. Only essential services staff may enter.

Residents may leave and return for grocery shopping and medical appointments.

The band has also closed its two schools until at least Oct. 19 because of possible staff exposure to the virus “that may have occurred at a recent funeral and church service,” said a Facebook posting from band education co-ordinator Greg Seib.

“This school closure will provide time to thoroughly clean and sanitize the schools and the school buses,” Seib’s posting said.

Currently in the middle of an election campaign, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said people need to stay virus-vigilant.

“Let’s not let our guard down in adhering to the public health recommendations, including wearing a mask if you should be singing in your place of worship,” he said Thursday.

Both announcements came after the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it was investigating a community transmitted COVID-19 outbreak that involves contact tracing more than 100 people linked to a series of Full Gospel Outreach events in Prince Albert from Sept. 14 to last Sunday.

Six people who attended the events have tested positive and health authority spokesman Doug Dahl said more cases are expected.

The province reported 18 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing the total to 2,012 reported cases.

Public health orders in the province state that indoor and outdoor gatherings may have up to 30 people, as long as there is enough space to maintain social distance between those who aren’t in the same household.

(Canadian Press)

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