Sixty new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Saskatchewan, which marks the largest single-day increase to its case count since the start of the pandemic.
Of the recent cases, 48 are from Hutterite colonies in the southwest and west-central regions of the province. That includes 43 cases that are located in a single commune in the regional municipality of Lawtonia.
As of Wednesday, there are 17 Hutterite communities with active cases.
“Of course, [it] does not mean to suggest the risk clearly only resides in these communities … The risk is widespread. There are sporadic cases throughout the province. But we do know that in community living settings, that is where you can get an explosive increase in cases,” said Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
The province’s previous record-high for daily cases was set last week. On July 16, 42 cases were announced, with the vast majority on Hutterite colonies in the southwest and west-central part of the province.
Officials in Saskatchewan are now “working with the leaders of all communities where a significant number of cases exist to enact further restrictions on all non-essential travel into and out of their communities. This includes travel between Hutterite communities,” a press release read.
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.”
Last week, officials said they didn’t want to enact further restrictions because of the cooperation they were receiving from Hutterite colonies. The relationship between Hutterite colonies and the Saskatchewan government was called into question in mid-June, when there was resistance to testing and the implementation of adequate COVID-19 protocols after outbreaks were declared in two Hutterite colonies inside the rural municipality of Maple Creek.
On Tuesday, the Hutterian Safety Council called on colonies in Western Canada to comply with regulations to help stave off stigmas. Cases of COVID-19 have also been identified among colonies in Manitoba and Alberta.
“The question we need to ask is, ‘What are a minority of our people doing that brings suffering like this upon the rest of us?’ Such situations are a golden opportunity to be a light to the world and show mainstream society that we have many great people among us,” said a blog post by the Hutterian Safety Council.
Throughout the pandemic, there have been 1,030 cases of COVID-19 throughout the province. That now includes 825 people who have recovered, up by 12 since Tuesday, while the death toll remains at 15.
Of the 190 active cases that remain, there are 93 are in the South region and 57 in the Central region of the province. The Far North now only has eight active cases, after it was home to 344 patients throughout the pandemic.
Travel restrictions were previously imposed on Saskatchewan’s Far North, when it was the epicentre of the province’s situation.
Among the active patients, there are 13 people in hospital, which includes three people in intensive care.
To date, 84,916 COVID‐19 tests have been performed in Saskatchewan.