SADDLE LAKE - Saddle Lake Education Authority announced on Sunday that schools in the community would be closed to in-person services for three weeks, from Nov. 2 to Nov. 20, due to a recent rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases.
As of Oct. 31, the First Nation was reporting 16 cases of the respiratory virus.
"Due to the current situation and the increased number of positive cases of COVID in our community, the Saddle Lake Emergency Management Team with support of leadership, will be closing the programs and schools to in-person service," reads a letter addressed to parents, guardians and community members.
While schools will be closed to in-person services, teach staff are still committed to providing services, and will return to Scenario 4 of the SLEA re-entry plan, which provides a hybrid of remote learning with online and hardcopy student packages.
The notice will also include both on and off reserve busing, post-secondary programs, and daycare services. The measures a being taken "to support the health and safety of the staff and students that have been affected, and slow the spread of the virus," reads the letter.
A public notice was also released by Saddle Lake Cree Nation, stating the band had decided to close all programs and schools to in-person service.
"At this time, it is recommended to reinforce the safety precautions that were taken early on in this pandemic, which were successful in preventing the virus from entering our nation for almost six months," reads the letter from the band. Residents are being encouraged to stay home, restrict travel for essential items only, avoid social gatherings, sanitize and wash hands, wear a mask in public, and maintain social distancing.
The Saddle Lake Health Care Centre is closed until further notice.
“There have been a confirmed number of six cases of COVID-19 among the health staff,” reads a briefing note from the SLHCC, dated Oct. 31.
The centre was temporarily closed last week when the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported at the health centre, early in the week. Then on Oct. 29, another case was confirmed at the health care centre, resulting in the centre being closed longer than originally anticipated.
Theresa M. Cardinal, interim Health Director, confirmed on Wednesday that a thorough cleansing of the building was taking place, and at that time, the health care centre would only be closed for the day. However, the medical desk would be closed until Nov. 5.
On Oct. 29, an update was released, stating the SLHCC would be temporarily closed “until the declared outbreak is maintained.” Then, the Oct. 31 briefing note was released, stating that until the staff is back to full capacity, services with the health centre would be limited.
An Environment Health Officer (EHO) was expected to be on site on Wednesday to assist with an assessment.
The SLHCC Public Health Team is working with the FNIHB Medical Officer of Health, and the team is working with employees who have been in closer contact with the confirmed case. Employees have been made aware of the need to quarantine, self-monitor for symptoms, and they will be offered testing.
Medical staff have been doing appointments by phone for patients who had already been booked. No new patients will be booked until the reopening of the Health Care Centre Medical Desk.
SLHCC staff will be working from home to continue to provide essential support to its members. The Oct. 31 update also stated that there would be no COVID-19 tests being done on Nov. 1.
“COVID-19 has seen a rise in cases right across the province, and (Saddle Lake Cree Nation) is also seeing increases as well,” reads the Oct. 31 update, which is signed by Cardinal.