SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Lloydminster Hospital to the health ministry on Sunday - but didn’t tell the public until three days later.

Dr. Mandiangu Nsungu, northern area medical health officer, said in a news conference Wednesday that the delay was to avoid panicking residents.

“The hope is always that you will control the situation because there is also a balance between sending an alarm to the community too soon. You have to balance that with the negative impact that may result in terms of panic. You have to find the right time to make that announcement in such a way that you actually do not panic the population for not much benefit.”

The province announced Wednesday that four new cases of COVID-19 in Lloydminster have been linked to a cluster based in Lloydminster Hospital.

Thirteen such cases in total have been identified, including five health care workers and eight patients, and transmission has occurred in the hospital setting, according to a news release.

As of April 29, the patients are being organized in separate units in Lloydminster Hospital.

Nsungu said there were five new hospital cases Tuesday and one new case Wednesday.

"We are talking about it publicly to the media today but the problem has been followed up since it started and action has been put in place. What we're doing now is to continue readjusting that action."

COVID-19 patients will still be admitted to Lloydminster Hospital. Non-COVID-19 patients requiring admission may be diverted to another hospital, the province says.

Key emergency department, emergency surgical and obstetrical services remain available at Lloydminster Hospital, though that may change based on the ongoing risk assessment by public health officials.

All health care workers who have been identified as close contacts with a confirmed case are being tested as the contact investigation continues, the province says.