“It came as a shock to us because we did a lot of work in terms of trying to prevent COVID from entering our community. Our early success was based on a number of things. Number one, we took it to heart that this was an illness that could have very devastating effects in our community,” Shirt said in online video announcement on the Saddle Lake Cree Nation website.
Shirt urged residents to remain diligent in protecting themselves and others from contracting the disease. He noted the Cree Nation has been six months without a case and said the band will be going back to the basics to prevent any further cases.
“All programs except essential services will be closed during this time,” Shirt said.
He encouraged band members to monitor themselves and if they have symptoms such as a cough, a fever, shortness of breath, running nose or a sore throat symptoms to get tested.
“We want to take the stigma away from the virus if you do have it. There’s no shame attached to it because we don’t know where it came from so you are not to blame.”
He said the band is also encouraging people to get tested even if they are not experiencing any symptoms because they may be asymptomatic. Testing is being done at the First Nation's health centre.
The chief is asking band members to self-isolate and avoid contact with other people outside their homes especially with seniors and those with chronic illnesses.
“We are asking people to stay home as much as possible.”
Saddle Lake schools are set to reopen Sept. 21 with busses also scheduled to start transporting students on and off-reserve to school at that time. There is no word yet as to whether this timeline will now be impacted.