Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said of the 322 active cases in the province, 244 of them are in Hutterite communities, as worrisome trends continue.
The premier said that most of the province’s 80 or so colonies have been co-operative in trying to contain COVID-19. However, there are some that have been resistant to testing and also unwilling to change parts of their communal lifestyle, such as worshipping and eating in large groups.
“This needs to change. … Every single one of us in this province has been asked to and the vast majority have changed how we are living each and every day,” said Moe, in a direct statement to Hutterite communities on Wednesday.
“You all need to as well. If you don’t, many will get sick in your community. Some will get very sick. Some will die.”
Moe said on Wednesday that health officials will visit all Hutterite colonies in Saskatchewan to provide information and guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Officials will also be making sure that non-essential travel restrictions are being followed, while continuing to perform testing and contact-tracing when necessary.
According to the Canadian Press, “Hutterites are Anabaptist religious groups who live communally in rural colonies across the Canadian and U.S. Prairies and share most personal property.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan announced 50 new cases of COVID-19, which marks its second-highest increase in daily cases since the start of the pandemic. Of those patients, 44 are from one “communal living setting” in the North region, according to a press release by provincial officials.
The Hutterian Safety Council has asked the Saskatchewan provincial government to stop identifying COVID-19 cases related to Hutterite colonies, since it has led to stigmatization issues in communities. Manitoba has stopped identifying Hutterite colonies in their daily reports as a result of similar issues, but Moe says that Saskatchewan officials have named other outbreaks in the past.
“No one in Saskatchewan should stigmatize anyone in their community, or is visiting their community, or should assume that because they may be Hutterite they have COVID,” said Moe.