A resident of the Lac La Ronge area has been identified as the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in the community. The individual was tested at the La Ronge Health Centre on Wednesday after developing symptoms.

While there is an ongoing coronavirus crisis in the La Loche area in northwest Saskatchewan, this would be the first case of COVID-19 in the Lac La Ronge area, which is in the northeast.

La Loche is dealing with a severe outbreak of the virus after it was brought to the community by workers moving back and forth from the Alberta oilsands.

So far, Lac La Ronge and the surrounding communities of La Ronge and Air Ronge have been spared from COVID-19. However, residents are afraid of spreading of the virus spreading in the community.

The Lac La Ronge First Nation is located between the Northern Village of Air Ronge and the Town of La Ronge. Thursday saw the first presumptive case of COVID-19 in the area. Photograph by Michael Bramadat-Willcock.

Lac La Ronge Indian Band executive director Gladys Christiansen told National Observer earlier this month that crowded housing is an issue on the reserve.

She said an outbreak would be “devastating.”

Crowded living conditions are a risk factor for the transmission of COVID-19 because when more than one person sleeps in the same room, the virus can spread between family members.

Residents in the Lac La Ronge area experience more severe crowded housing conditions compared to residents in La Loche, according to an analysis of data from Statistics Canada's 2016 census and the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The Lac La Ronge area’s crowded housing rate is more than three times higher than in La Loche, according to Statistics Canada data and the Canadian Institute for Health Information. 
The La Ronge Medical Clinic serves La Ronge, Lac La Ronge and Air Ronge residents. Photograph by Michael Bramadat-Willcock.

“We have just been advised that there is a presumptive case (of COVID-19) in the Lac La Ronge area … We have procedures in place for when cases are identified in the community, LLRIB Emergency Control Group communications co-ordinator Kevin Roberts told National Observer on Thursday.

Roberts urged residents to remain calm and follow physical-distancing guidelines. He said it’s important to follow the rules laid out in the public health order for northern Saskatchewan and to avoid unnecessary travel.

“We want the public to continue being diligent. We all need to do our part for the greater good of our community. I know there’s a lot of panic right now and I think we just need to be mindful that there's been a lot of work put into place behind the scenes to address these situations,” Roberts said.

A “no visitors” policy remains in effect for Lac La Ronge, with access to the reserve area limited to residents only.

“We do have an emergency response plan that we activated back on March 20, so we’ve been at this quite awhile and are prepared for situations like this. We’re at a comfortable point where we can address and handle the situation,” Roberts said.

LLRIB Health Services, Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority and Saskatchewan Health Authority public health officials have confirmed that a contact-tracing investigation is underway.

Tracking COVID-19

As of May 14, there are five (5) new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan, bringing the total to 582 reported cases. Source: Government of Saskatchewan.

The following customers are advised to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19

  • Fire Creek ​Gas Station in Saskatoon – May 4
  • Co-op Gas B​​​ar, La Ronge – May 4 to May 11
  • Robertson S​tore, La Ronge – May 11
  • Keethanow Su​permarket, La Ronge – May 5 to May 8
  • Keeth​​anow Gas Bar, La Ronge – May 4
  • Cravings Late Night Food, Air Ronge – May 1 to May 9

Sympt​oms of COVID-19 include

  • Fe​ver
  • Head​ache
  • C​​​hills
  • Cou​gh
  • Shortnes​​s of breath
  • Sore t​hroat
  • Runny n​​ose
  • Diminis​​hed sense of smell or taste

Residents sho​uld self-isolate and call HealthLine at 811 or their community health centre if they develop any of those symptoms.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority announced that as of Thursday, there are five new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 582; 178 of which are considered active.

Four of the new cases are in the far north and one is in the Regina region.

Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Local Journalism Initiative/Canada's National Observer.

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Praying for the residents of Northern Saskatchewan, stay strong.