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Manitoba Hutterite colonies seeing cluster of coronavirus cases, 20% voluntarily shut down

Manitoba Hutterite Colonies hit by COVID-19
Manitoba public health officials say there are currently 29 active cases of the coronavirus in the province and 20 of those are in three Hutterite colonies in Manitoba. Amber McGuckin reports.

Manitoba public health officials say there are currently 29 active cases of the coronavirus in the province and 20 of those are in three Hutterite colonies in Manitoba.

Ten new cases were identified over the weekend.

The colonies are in the Southern and Interlake-Eastern health regions.

Read more: County of Warner sees spike in COVID-19 cases, possible link to funerals being investigated

Manitoba’s chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin says many, but not all, of the COVID-19 cases are linked to a funeral in Alberta.

“It’s not unexpected to see more cases as we reopen, a number of these cases are linked to clusters, which we can also expect over time. But it’s a reminder that we can’t let our guard down,”
he said.

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“Now, we have to continue to find ways to live with this virus, to fall back on the fundamentals that have got Manitobans here — stay home if you feel ill, even if mildly ill. Practise good hygiene. Maintain that physical distancing when you’re with people outside of your household.

“Let’s avoid stigmatizing people and let’s avoid calling out individuals and let’s work together. We’re in this together. All Manitobans have really stepped up. And we truly are in this together. So let’s be kind to each other and we’ll continue to get through this.”

Read more: Manitoba Hutterite colonies under voluntary lockdown after coronavirus cases

Mark Waldner with the Hutterian Safety Council says of the approximately 100 colonies in the province, more than 20 have chosen to voluntarily shut down.

“(They) are restricting who comes in and out of the community and amping up sanitization and so forth. The response has been, in my view, just wonderful. Communities care. Their leaders care — they are doing whatever they can to try and stop it, even going as far as contact tracing,” he said. 

Waldner said since the pandemic hit the province, the Hutterian Safety Council has been distributing information to colonies on the importance of social distancing and handwashing. 

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“Our communal meals were totally suspended; families all eat at home. They still prepare meals in the community kitchen under strict guidelines,” he said. 

Some Hutterite colonies in Alberta facing discrimination over COVID-19
Some Hutterite colonies in Alberta facing discrimination over COVID-19

As the province began easing restrictions, Waldner says colonies adapted.

“They started opening up, we started dining in our community dining room. What we do there, we use the protocols that were put in place by restaurants,” he said.

“We sort of expected as Manitoba opened up there may be cases coming. I guess the time is now.”

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