PRINCE ALBERT -- Michael Hawkins is encouraging the public to be “very careful and extra cautious” after he landed in the ICU with COVID-19.

Hawkins, the bishop for the Diocese of Saskatchewan, lives in Prince Albert. His office is at St. Alban’s Anglican Cathedral.

The provincial government declared a workplace outbreak at the church on Nov. 27, but Hawkins doesn’t know where he contracted the virus. He said his coworker, Bishop Adam Halkett, caught COVID-19 through a different chain of transmission.

He said he had every symptom of COVID-19 except for a loss of smell and taste.

Hawkins said he started feeling ill on the afternoon of Nov. 13. He called HealthLine 811 the next morning, and several times in the following days, but didn’t hear back to schedule a test.

He found out he had COVID-19 after he went to the Victoria Hospital and received a rapid test on Wednesday, five days after he initially called 811.

“The fact that I called on Saturday and never got a call back about a test until Wednesday, by which time I was already in the hospital, that worries me a little,” said Hawkins.

“I am deeply concerned that public health is completely overwhelmed, and that was certainly my experience.”

He was in the hospital for 12 days, two of which were in the ICU.

“When I was in ICU, I think there were at least two other people on ventilators and I think one person died when I was in ICU. Then, just after I went up on the ward, another person died in ICU, someone I know.”

Hawkins said the church was taking the proper precautions to prevent any possible spread of the virus. This included mandating masks in the building in October, before the government implemented a mandatory masking policy. The church closed after the positive cases.

“It’s at least one lesson that all the precautions are not going to guarantee that you don’t get this. It says to me that this is out there in the community. You have to assume it’s just everywhere,” said Hawkins.

He said the virus got into his heart, resulting in symptoms similar to a heart attack.

Hawkins also said he got a notification through the COVID Alert app that he had been in contact with someone who tested positive. By that time, though, he was already in the hospital.

“The people and the government need to take this a bit more seriously,” said Hawkins.

“We don’t want to get behind, and I fear that’s what’s happening now.”