A pharmacy operator in Maple Creek locked his doors Saturday morning ahead of a rally planned by anti-health order activist Chris “Sky” Saccoccia.
“Please note that the pharmacy will be closed Saturday, April 24,” said Lansdall Pharmacy operator Jason Williams in a Facebook post.
“This is being done to protect the safety and security of our staff and community and is a direct result of the planned anti-mask and anti-science protest planned for the community. As a provider of health care, we strongly disagree with this planned mass gathering. Please stay home and stay safe.”
Speaking to Global News Saturday, Williams said he’ll still be at work taking and delivering orders Saturday afternoon, but didn’t want to endanger staff or the public.
“As pharmacists, we’ve been right on the frontlines dealing with COVID-19 for over a year now. When we heard about the freedom rally, I discussed it with my staff, and the main concerns we have are the health and wellness of all of our patients and staff as well,” Williams said.
“We didn’t know how many people were going to come. We could have two, or we could have 200 people coming to Maple Creek.”
Williams said the decision was “best for his staff and community.”
“I don’t want people to be in a dangerous situation where I have customers in my store and then other people come in as well. Overall, the response has been that people in the community really appreciate that we’re doing this,” he said.
“I understand other businesses may want to be open or decide to close. That’s their choice. My main message is I want everybody to be safe.”
Maple Creek already recently made COVID-19 headlines after the SHA said at least 40 cases of COVID-19 involving the B.1.1.7 variant were been traced to a 100-plus ‘superspreader’ outdoor party that happened in the area over the Easter weekend.
“It was unfortunate that event happened. There is a lot of COVID-19 fatigue in this and every community, so I understand people wanting to blow off some steam,” Williams added.
“I think the important thing we learned from that event as a community — and perhaps should set an example for other communities — is that you think it won’t happen and then it does. We all have to remain vigilant in this. It’s not over yet.”
“It’s extremely unfortunate that there’s a large anti-mask rally planned for Maple Creek (Saturday) in the midst of what is widespread, community transmission of a very deadly virus. That’s the way COVID spreads. To hold a large gathering, when we just saw large gatherings result in growth of new cases within a community and illness within that community and soon we will see admissions and death from that, this is just repeating behavior,” Dr. Kevin Wasko, Physician Executive at SHA said.
In its latest update, the province reported 51 people with COVID-19 are in ICU in Saskatchewan, including 34 in Regina alone.
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, Regina hospitals usually house just 27 ICU beds.
Both Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Opposition Leader Ryan Meili condemned Saccoccia’s plans this week amid the rising pressure on health care resources in Saskatchewan.
“I don’t think this is any time for someone to be travelling halfway across the country, no less, to come in and advocate for Saskatchewan people to be not wearing masks, not following public health orders and doing it in an area where we just had the very first few cases of what is proved to be quite a bit more challenging virus,” Moe said Thursday.
Meili, meanwhile, was very vocal about his outrage concerning the possible event.
“He’s going to Maple Creek? When we have P.1 variants showing up in the southwest area of the province? He’s going to Maple Creek, where we had a major outbreak after a party? What an idiot. He should stay the hell away from Saskatchewan,” Meili told reporters Wednesday.
Saccoccia first spoke at a rally in Medicine Hat Saturday.
In a video live streamed to Twitch, he can be seen speaking to a crowd that looks to be at least in the dozens.
Saccoccia can be heard lamenting the effect the health order restrictions in place across Canada may have on small business, questioning the safety of the multiple vaccines approved as safe for use by Health Canada, and complaining about lost freedom.