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Community organization helping northern Saskatchewan communities tackle COVID-19

Tackling COVID-19 in northwest Saskatchewan
WATCH: A community organization is helping tackle the spread of COVID-19 in northwest Saskatchewan.

There’s growing concerns in northwest Saskatchewan communities after an outbreak of COVID-19 around the La Loche area on Tuesday.

The village now has nine confirmed cases, with three more on the nearby Clearwater River Dene Nation, and four in Patuanak according to The 155 Collective, a community organization currently helping 24 Indigenous communities amid the pandemic.

Most of those cases stem from workers returning home from the Alberta oilsands, it said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Outbreak at Alberta oilsands work camp prompts warning from Interior Health

There have been 362 cases in total in the province since March 11, as of Wednesday afternoon.

“We still have workers coming back … and it’s not only La Loche they’re returning to,” said Rick Laliberte, incident commander with the organization.

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“Those communities are briefing each other on how they can receive them and manage those workers so they don’t go home and infect their families before they get tested or before they get isolated.”

Starting Monday, April 27, Laliberte’s group plans to run check stops on the main roads coming in and out of northwest Saskatchewan.

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“We’re providing personal or household pandemic plans, how they can respond in each community situation,” he said.

Along with check stops, he said, many communities have started a colour-coded map to identify which households are vulnerable or have someone who is self-monitoring.

Green means that everyone’s healthy, yellow that someone has health conditions or is self-isolating, and red for a household where someone is on mandatory isolation.

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He said RCMP and volunteers are using this to make sure they’re protected when visiting homes. Volunteers with the organization are making house calls to bring people medications, groceries or anything else they need.

“We can’t have people leaving their house to get the mail or basic essentials then go back to mandatory isolation,” Laliberte explained.

He said many families live in households of 10 to 15. Meanwhile, anyone who is sick is sent home to self-isolate.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan to ‘cautiously’ reopen from the coronavirus pandemic in 5 phases

“If you send an infected person home the transmission and the chance of spread is incredible,” he said.

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“We’re preparing our families and our communities to handle the positive cases in their communities.”

Laliberte said it’s important for families to have a plan in place in case a member of the household gets sick. He said it’s important for people to remain calm so they can react rationally.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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