Prince Albert, Sask. church ‘crossed the line’ with event linked to COVID-19 outbreak: mayor

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WATCH: A Prince Albert, Sask., church has been fined $14,000 after a multi-day event caused an outbreak of COVID-19 – Oct 13, 2020

A Prince Albert, Sask., church has been fined $14,000 after a multi-day event caused an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

A travelling evangelist spoke at the Full Gospel Outreach for several days, according to Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne. He said the event drew hundreds to the church, both from the city and further north.

Now, the provincial health authority said at least 25 cases of COVID-19 are linked to the centre.

Read more: Coronavirus: Saskatchewan anticipates Prince Albert outbreak to spread throughout north

“They crossed the line,” said Dionne, adding he doesn’t understand why the church wouldn’t follow guidelines when “every other” place of worship in the city has.

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“Who in the province of Saskatchewan has not heard social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands? I just can’t buy that,” he said.

“One guy defended himself and said, ‘Well when they came in we had face masks at the door and sanitation,’ so they knew some of the rules.”

This photo from one of the Full Gospel Outreach events shows participants standing closer than 6-feet, and not wearing masks. Courtesy: City of Prince Albert

A photo provided to Global News by the city shows the church packed with worshipers standing shoulder-to-shoulder and not wearing masks.

Read more: Footage shows packed dance floor at Saskatoon nightclub despite COVID-19 protocols

Supporters on social media are calling for donations to help foot the $14,000 fine handed out over the weekend for violating public health orders.

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At a press conference Tuesday, the province’s chief medical health officer wouldn’t comment specifically on the situation but said in general places of worship have not been an issue.

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“In the vast majority of cases, when we look at places of worship, when we look at other settings, people have been very cautious, judicious, complying with the guidelines, being very careful around each other,” Dr. Saqib Shahab said.

“The fine really is the last step. I think in most cases we should not even wait for it to get to that.”

Read more: Gathering sizes to be reduced as Saskatchewan coronavirus cases increase

Shahab said fines for non-compliance can range up to $2,000 for individuals, and upwards of $10,000 for businesses.

Shahab said as it gets colder people need to be more aware of their actions and continue to follow health guidelines.

Global News reached out to the church for comment on the fine and gathering. No one returned our calls.

You can find a full list of outbreaks and potential COVID-19 exposures in the province here.

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.

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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.

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

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