A fourth case of COVID-19 reported for the Far North region of Saskatchewan is actually in Saskatoon, according to Pinehouse Mayor Mike Natomagan.

It’s “very important” for people to be aware that although the case was categorized as belonging to the Far North, the individual has not been seen in Pinehouse since early December, Natomagan told National Observer.

Natomagan said the individual has family in Pinehouse, but has been residing in Saskatoon (not a part of the Far North region). He said the individual was categorized as a Far North resident based on a P.O. box address in Pinehouse.

Natomagan said that there are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pinehouse, a small northern village with a population of 1,074 located about 214 kilometers west of La Ronge by road.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced a fourth case of COVID-19 in the Far North region. The mayor of the village of Pinehouse says that the individual is in Saskatoon and has not visited his community since early December. Image source: Government of Saskatchewan.

Residents are concerned for the wellbeing of the individual, however.

“We’re a northern community where everybody is family. Of course we’re gonna be concerned with a community member that’s sick outside of our community,” Natomagan said.

Natomagan said the individual is in care in a hospital in Saskatoon, is in touch with family and is “doing well.”

The northern village is taking extra precautions, anyway. “We’re encouraging everybody to stay home. There’s nothing in the city. Everything is closed [in Saskatoon] anyway, so we’re doing the best we can to educate the community to do less travelling.”

Natomagan said the village is educating residents on the importance of following health authority guidelines and that they are equipped with supplies and testing kits should a resident present any symptoms at some point in the future.

It’s “very important” for people to be aware that although the case was categorized as belonging to the Far North, the individual has not been seen in Pinehouse since early December, Pinehouse mayor Mike Natomagan told National Observer.

“Stay home, practice social distancing, wash your hands, but most of all in the North the only way we’re gonna get it [COVID-19] is by the road [in and out of the community].”

The community has installed manned checkpoints and is monitoring traffic in and out.

“It is a concern, and that’s why we’re monitoring our road and we’ve been talking to the family that’s here. It can happen to anybody. We’ve got to listen to what the health authorities are telling us,” Natomagan said.

“We’re doing the best we can to protect our community. Especially our elders.”

The announcement of a fourth COVID-19 case in the Far North has raised concerns in a region where many communities have restricted access to stop the spread of the virus.

“We don’t have any interjurisdictional boundaries in Saskatchewan. We haven’t had that for other communicable diseases and other crises and we certainly don’t have that for COVID,” said Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab in a press briefing on Wednesday.

“So in that sense, while we encourage minimizing unnecessary travel between communities, if there are contacts across jurisdictions they are managed in a very seamless and timely way.”

Dr. Shahab was asked if categorizing the case as belonging to the Far North, given that the individual is in Saskatoon, could mislead residents and exacerbate fears in the region.

He said that as long as an infected individual is following health authority guidelines and all of their contacts have been traced, where they are isn’t important.

“Knowing where that individual is, or which community, is of absolutely no value because all the contacts are accounted for and followed-up.”

When reached for comment, a Saskatchewan Health Authority spokesperson said that they cannot confirm details beyond what is available on the government’s website or what has been discussed in press briefings.