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Coronavirus: COVID-19 devastates Saskatchewan small town care homes

Click to play video 'COVID-19 devastates Saskatchewan small town care homes' COVID-19 devastates Saskatchewan small town care homes
WATCH: The death toll at a care home in Wakaw continues to rise, and that community is not alone in battling a surge in cases at a care home.

Five residents of a care home in Wilkie, Sask., have died from COVID-19 and 24 of the 26 residents contracted the disease, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA).

Global News has learned that six residents at Lakeview Pioneer Lodge in Wakaw have now passed away. All 44 residents were infected, along with 40 staff members. The interim CEO of the facility said several other staff members have symptoms and are waiting for test results.

It’s a grim toll, especially for two small towns. About 1,100 people live Wilkie and roughly 1,000 in Wakaw.

Read more: 3 die amid sweeping COVID-19 at long-term care home in Saskatchewan

“Of course, there’s some anxiety, right?” Wakaw mayor Steven Skoworodko said, speaking over Zoom.

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“People are not sure as to the impact that it will have on the community. And of course, they are nervous as to the effects of COVID-19.”

David Ziegler, the mayor of Wilkie, said a neighbour was one of the five who passed away.

“I just hear on the news every day that there’s deaths and cases in the province and… it comes to [the] rest home here, it is real close to home that we do have an outbreak now,” he said, speaking over the phone.

Both said they hadn’t noticed any changes in residents’ behaviour, though they both used the outbreaks to reinforce that everyone should follow public health guidelines during the pandemic.

They both also said the care homes house members of many local families.

The effects of the outbreaks have spread into the community in other ways. The SHA has sent health-care workers to both towns to help with the outbreaks to replace the staff who are isolating.

The new staff stay in nearby hotels.

Both mayors said the influx was a grim reminder of the severity of the outbreaks.

Skoworodko said that was causing increased anxiety, though he was very grateful they were there.

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Wayne Nogier, the interim CEO of the Wakaw home, said family members of residents have also come to the town to help their loved ones.

“They’re coming into this environment, recognizing that we’ve got active virus going on and wanting to work with their family members, focusing on hydration, hydration and nutrition,” Wayne Nogier said, speaking over Zoom.

“Those people are… they’ve been exceptional.”

Read more: More than 40% of Saskatchewan COVID-19 deaths in care home settings

He noted SHA staff trained the volunteers on how to stay safe around the virus.

He also said the community has started donated prepared meals, everything from granola bars to individually wrapped sandwiches.

“We recognize that things like deaths in our home, especially to the scale that we’ve seen them, are traumatic to everyone that lives in the community because everybody’s so intertwined” he said, speaking over Zoom.

Skoworodko said he hopes the help the town needs comes soon.

“Hopefully vaccinations start rolling out to the health care workers and eventually the community at large. And that’ll, I think, alleviate a lot of fears and concerns,” he said.

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In a statement, the SHA said it has been planning to ensure readiness since the start of the pandemic. Those efforts include ensuring staff have sufficient personal protective equipment, advanced cleaning and specific outbreak protocols.

“We plan, do, study and act on all of these policies and procedures to see if there are ways we can improve any of them,” the statement said, adding improvements were recorded and implemented.

Wilkie is about 180 km west of Saskatoon and Wakaw is about 100 km northeast.

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