As Yorkton, Sask., deals with an uptick in coronavirus cases, RCMP says “it would have been advisable” for the eight members of that city’s detachment standing shoulder-to-shoulder for an indoor photo-op two weeks ago to be wearing masks.
“Our members work in close contact when responding to calls for service and within our buildings and offices. Most of them consider coworkers their social bubble,” said Saskatchewan RCMP media relations in a statement Wednesday.
“However, it would have been advisable for them to be wearing masks.”
The photo was shared by Yorkton RCMP on their Facebook page on Sept. 16 in a post referencing the City of Yorkton’s annual service awards the day prior.
Yorkton, with a population of about 16,000 people, is currently dealing with community transmission of the novel coronavirus, according to public health.
On Sunday, outbreaks were declared at the hospital, high school and at a fitness facility.
On Monday, public health reported 17 cases had been identified in the community.
Also on Monday, RCMP shared that one of those cases involved one of its Yorkton detachment’s front-line officers. That officer, along with 14 other officers and six civilian employees considered close contacts, are all in mandatory self-isolation. The community’s police station is closed to the public for non-emergency matters for two weeks.
The RCMP said they could not release whether any of the members who participated in the photo-op or who attended the Sept. 15 event have tested positive for the coronavirus or are considered close contacts of someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus as it is private medical information.
A spokesperson for the City of Yorkton told Global News the service awards are usually one large event. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, they were broken down into multiple smaller spaced-out sittings of no more than 30 people at the Gallagher Centre to keep with the physical distancing protocols laid out in the provincial public health order.
The RCMP reiterated the event followed the rules for indoor gatherings but acknowledged the officers, “who work together on a regular basis, did stand together momentarily for the photo-op after first receiving the awards individually.
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“As police officers, we understand that we are responsible for ensuring our actions do not put others at risk and we remain committed to doing our part to slow the spread of the virus,” said the RCMP statement.
RCMP members are directed to conduct a risk assessment of every situation they find themselves in to determine whether a cloth mask or personal protective equipment is required. It’s part of the operational duties, the media relations said.
The RCMP’s south Saskatchewan senior management team has reviewed what happened, said the media relations team, and has reminded the detachment “of the need to ensure the proper procedures are being followed, during operational and non-operational environments, as per the public health guidelines.”
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. 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. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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