Pelican Narrows is now officially the site of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) called the outbreak August 24 following a number of recent COVID-19 cases in the community, believed to be a variant of concern. As of August 25, the community now has 56 active COVID-19 cases, with over 200 people in isolation and four people hospitalized due to the disease.
"It has been confirmed that there is a Variant of Concern (VOC) in the community and although it has not yet been lab-confirmed, it is highly expected to be the Delta variant. The Delta variant is highly contagious and can cause more severe illness even in younger people including children," reads an announcement by Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) Health Services August 24. The statement is also signed off on by all five PBCN councillors from Pelican Narrows - Myrtle Ballantyne, Thomas Linklater, Elizabeth Michel, Ronald Michel and Sarah Swan, as well as emergency pandemic coordinator Brian McCallum.
"With 50 active cases through at least four separate groups and three people currently ill in hospital, we need the full cooperation of all community members to reduce the risk to others, especially those who are unable to be vaccinated at this time (such as our children under 12)."
Pelican Narrows is currently under tight restrictions to prevent further spread of COVID-19, including a blanket ban on gatherings or group activities, disallowing non-essential entry to the community for non-residents (unless they're emergency services), and disallowing residents to travel outside for non-essential reasons.
The community has a curfew in effect, ordering people to stay at home between 11 p.m.- 7 a.m. and explicitly ordering no food sales, garage sales or house parties. Masks are now mandated for all public spaces in Pelican Narrows, as of August 26.
Some cases have been linked by health workers to a pair of recent gatherings - people who later tested positive for COVID-19 were reported at a wedding in July and an anniversary celebration earlier this month.
"If you have symptoms or know that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 — please isolate immediately and contact the clinic for testing," reads the announcement.
"As your leadership, we are trying to protect our community members and everyone's cooperation during this difficult and challenging time is sincerely appreciated."
According to PBCN Health Services, several COVID-19 cases have been linked to the recent Chief Thunderstick National Championship hockey tournament, a tournament for Indigenous teams from several provinces played in Saskatoon - a total of 15 cases, including eight from Saskatchewan, have now been tied to the tournament. While PBCN has made a community announcement about possible exposure at the tournament, no cases from the tournament are confirmed to be in Pelican Narrows.