Sask. First Nation in lockdown with 82 confirmed COVID-19 cases and counting

·2 min read

The Big River First Nation is in lockdown as COVID-19 case numbers soar and one official expects more bad news in the coming days.

With an on-reserve population of 2,600 and 82 confirmed cases, the Big River First Nation has one of the highest per capita rates in Saskatchewan.

More than three per cent of Big River's population is infected. Saskatoon has recorded the highest total number of cases in the province, but its per capita rate is less than half of one per cent.

Most of the Big River cases remain active, with two in hospital, said Big River community navigator Ronnie Netmaker.

Netmaker said the school is closed and security guards "have been working non-stop to keep the community safe" at the four entrances to the First Nation, about 120 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert. Only residents and essential service workers are allowed to enter. Only adult residents are allowed out, and only for groceries or medical appointments.

Google Maps
Google Maps

Netmaker said band members were proud of the precautions they took at the start of the pandemic in the spring. Big River remained COVID-free until a few weeks ago. He said there are several possible sources for the current outbreak, but one confirmed link is the Prince Albert gospel church services that have spread COVID-19 throughout Northern Saskatchewan.

He said the band is doing its best to protect elders and those with health conditions. He said elders and children are having a hard time coping with the restrictions on socializing.

"The isolation is really getting to people. It's wearing them down," he said.

Netmaker said Big River could use more federal funding and other help for security, hygeine and other costs.

According to a Facebook post by the Big River First Nation Health Centre, officials expect the case count to grow because of the "hundreds" of close contacts identified to this point.

The post warns everyone to wash their hands, stay distanced and take all other precautions. It gives times and locations for the testing location in the community.

"If we don't work together we're going to see more and more cases and more sickness," the post says.

"Again we are in a critical state with COVID and we need to work together."

CBC News Graphics
CBC News Graphics

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