Northern Sask. Medical Health Officer concerned about elevated COVID-19 cases

·2 min read

The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) is worried about a continuing high number of COVID-19 cases in some northern Saskatchewan communities.

As of Sunday afternoon, NITHA had reported 253 active cases of COVID-19, with seven people in hospital.

"We've had a number of cases in the past couple of weeks leading to the holidays and even during the holidays," said NITHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndbuka.

NITHA is made up of First Nations inside the Prince Albert Grand Council and Meadow Lake Tribal Councils, as well as the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and Lac La Ronge Indian Band.

Right now, the NITHA communities of Pelican Narrows, Southend, Stanley Mission and a Meadow Lake Tribal Council community are all under outbreak orders.

Outside of NITHA, the Saskatchewan Health Authority has declared outbreaks in Pinehouse, Ile-a-la-Crosse and the La Loche Health Centre.

Dr. Ndbuka believes many of the recent cases can be linked back to gatherings inside people's homes, as well as unnecessary travel outside of the community.

"These are high risk factors that are tending to cause an increase in cases," he said.

"We want to limit social interaction and keep that to a limited household."

The north has been dealing with isolated outbreaks for more than a year, as communities struggle to contain the spread of the virus.

There have been successes. Outbreaks at James Smith Cree Nation and Canoe Lake Cree First Nation were officially declared over just before Christmas.

As well, Dr. Ndbuka is holding out hope that a vaccine will be able to turn the tide in many northern communities.

On Monday, the province began immmunizing health-care workers and long-term care residents in the Far North West and Far North Central regions after receiving 4,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Ultimately, Ndbuka said communities will be able to lower their cases with even more hard work and determination.

"It's definitely possible," he said.

"The main thing is to continue to abide by the public health measures and avoid nonessential travel."