As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the community of Stanley Mission, Sask., the local First Nations chief is calling on the province to reinstate mandatory isolation for those who test positive for the virus.
The community, roughly 90 kilometres northeast of La Ronge, declared an outbreak last week. As of Wednesday, there were 120 active cases of COVID-19 in Stanley Mission.
Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson said Wednesday that half the active cases were variants of concern, including the delta variant, which is thought to be significantly more contagious than earlier strains of COVID-19.
She sent a letter to Saskatchewan's minister of health asking for a renewed order for mandatory isolation for those who test positive for the virus or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
"Before, when somebody was positive or a close contact then we were able to get help from the RCMP to be able to give warnings," she said.
"Usually it was first warning, second warning, third warning. Then if people weren't listening at all, then we had the detention centre, where people were forced to isolate."
Cook-Searson said while most people are following the recommendation to self-isolate after testing positive — or after being in close contact with someone who's tested positive — some are not.
She said some people who have tested positive have been seen out in the community, in contact with more people than necessary.
The Stanley Mission outbreak, she said, is larger in the community's unvaccinated population.
A government spokesperson said Thursday that Health Minister Paul Merriman received Cook-Searson's letter and is in the process of sending a response.
As for Cook-Searson's request to reinstate public health orders, the province said it is working in conjunction with Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab and is monitoring the situation.
Since the outbreak was declared last week, public health nursing staff have tested more than 600 people for COVID, Cook-Searson said.
"The nurses have been working tirelessly, non-stop, like 12 hour days or more, testing. They also provide rapid testing for anyone that's a close contact or has symptoms," she said.
A notice distributed to the community last week said only those from Stanley Mission are allowed in and out of the community, a curfew is in place, and contact tracing is being done in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Through the first waves of COVID-19, public health orders were in place requiring those who tested positive for the virus to isolate.
That requirement, along with many of the other restrictions put in place by the provincial government, are long gone.
Self-isolation is now only recommended for those who test positive or are deemed a close contact.
Cook-Searson said while there are only a few people who aren't following the recommendation to self-isolate, having the RCMP's help enforcing a public health order would help the situation in Stanley Mission.
Cook-Searson said support has come in from all over to fight the outbreak in Stanley Mission, particularly through the Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority, Indigenous Services Canada's First Nations Inuit health branch and the Prince Albert Grand Council.