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Sask. working with Alberta after spike in coronavirus cases connected to Hutterite colonies

Coronavirus: Saskatchewan health officials actively engaged with Hutterite community after COVID-19 outbreak declared
WATCH: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan health officials actively engaged with Hutterite community after COVID-19 outbreak declared.

The Saskatchewan government gave an update on new coronavirus cases in the province on Thursday.

Health officials said there were 15 new cases in the daily update, with the overall total for the province growing to 708 since the first case was reported in March. Two of the cases reported on June 15 are people who live out-of-province but tested positive in Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Coronavirus outbreak declared at two Hutterite communities in RM of Maple Creek, Sask.

One of the new cases is in the far north region while the remainder are in the south region, according to Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the  Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) declared a COVID-19 outbreak in two Hutterite communities in the rural municipality of Maple Creek.

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“COVID-19 can pop up anywhere but it can be managed… even if there’s an outbreak through appropriate testing, case contact tracing and follow up, we can get over it. I think we saw how it is controlled very successfully in very challenging situations in La Loche and northwest Saskatchewan,” Shahab said.

“We hope the same principles will apply in the southwest and we’ll be able to control this fairly quickly with support of local leadership as well as public health and the SHA staff who are supporting clinical testing and if required, hospitalization. At this point, we’re not aware of any hospitalizations from this outbreak.

“It’s important that public health continue to work with those communities to try to get ahead of the outbreak because we’ve, again, seen in many situations that the faster you move to do testing widely when there’s an outbreak to do quick case contact follow-up, the quicker you can get ahead of the outbreak and actually control it and end the outbreak.”

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Officials said two members of a rural household in the RM initially tested positive for COVID-19 last week, with an additional 14 confirmed positive cases verified on June 17.

“A single case in any community with a household contact is absolutely no reason to name that community. And that’s why, there’s no announcement a few days ago with a single case. But whenever there’s an outbreak, there is a need to be public about that.”

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“I think this is important to recognize in that granularity in terms of the geography impacted is important if there’s an outbreak, but not when there’s a single case.”

Health official said the 14 cases are being investigated for connection to inter-provincial travel to Alberta as well as travel in the area.

“It’s part of a much larger investigation that Dr. David Torr, who’s the local medical health officer, is engaging with the Hutterites Safety Council and the leadership of those colonies because it involves several colonies, both in Saskatchewan and Alberta because there’s frequent travel back and forth,” Shahab said.

“We are in close coordination with the Alberta Ministry of Health. So my counterparts are engaged at the provincial level and then medical health offices and public health staff are working with their counterparts across the provincial borders and that happens in any outbreak that involves more than one province… COVID-19 doesn’t respect any border.”

In Saskatchewan, two people are currently in hospital — one is receiving inpatient care while the other is in intensive care in Saskatoon.

Three more people have recovered, bringing total recoveries to 636.

There are currently 59 active cases in the province, health officials said. Active cases are total cases less recoveries and deaths.

There have been 13 COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan.

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READ MORE: Coronavirus shutdown shouldn’t stop people from being vaccinated, USask research says

Health officials said 148 cases in the province are travel-related, with 418 due to contacts or mass gatherings. Another 90 have no known exposures and 52 remain under investigation.

Of the 184 total cases reported in the Saskatoon area, 13 are considered active.

In the Regina area, none of the 80 total cases are active, while the north region has 112 total cases, one of them active.

The south region has 33 total cases and 15 active cases, the central region had 12 total cases, and the far north reports 285 total and 28 active cases.

To date, over 57,835 tests have been carried out in the province.

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

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.

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In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.

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