Sask. mayor says any return of COVID-19 restrictions must be province-wide
If the province were to re-impose COVID-19 restrictions, La Loche’s mayor says it should be all across Saskatchewan.
“I know that in the north there is an increase in cases. However, it should provincially-wide restrictions if they are to come back – not just targeting one part of the province and leave the rest out,” said Georgina Jolibois.
The provincial government lifted COVID-19 public health orders on July 11 after hitting its target of 70 per cent of people 12 and older getting their first dose of a vaccine.
Since then, northern Saskatchewan has seen a swift spike in cases – leaving the region with more than 400 cases per 100,000 people, the highest rate in Canada.
Jolibois said everyone in the province is connected. People from the south are travelling north for activities like camping and fishing, and people from the north are heading south for things like medical appointments.
“People are freely moving around and they’re not wearing a mask. I can only foresee the numbers going up.”
According to Jolibois, northern medical health officers are working on a proposal to the province about re-enforcing COVID-19 public health measures.
In an emailed statement in late July, the Ministry of Health said it would consider bringing back public health orders for certain areas at the request of local medical health officers.
Jolibois said the latest update shows 30 active cases in the Northern Village of La Loche. About 36 per cent of residents there have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Further north, chief and council of Black Lake First Nation lifted a lockdown in the community on Thursday.
Black Lake is served by the Athabasca Health Authority (AHA). The AHA’s CEO, Allan Adam, said the community has 26 active cases of COVID-19.
He said it’s been difficult to control the outbreak without any public health orders.
“Enforcing is hard to do because the police have nothing to work with, so usually we just rely on the good will of people,” he said.
Adam said the entire Athabasca region is sitting at 29 per cent of people fully vaccinated.
“Thirty per cent is not high enough for our region to be safe, to declare it safe within the range of herd immunity. So that’s the fear, is that we’re not there yet,” he said.
SLOW UPTAKE ON VACCINES
Adam said the smaller communities in the Athabasca region have a high vaccine rate, while communities with a larger population – like Black Lake – are lagging.
“If they’re under 100 people, almost everyone’s been vaccinated, and then some of the other communities like Fond du Lac have started to pick up now. At first, there was hesitancy,” he said.
“There are positive signs to this whole thing that the vaccine does work.”
In the last week or so, Adam said they’ve been seeing more recoveries than new cases.
Jolibois said the vaccine rate in La Loche is also slowly increasing. She said the community saw a high turnout at a vaccine clinic earlier this week, and is hoping for more people to come get their shots at a clinic planned for next week.