First confirmed appearance of novel coronavirus reported in English River First Nation

English River First Nation (ERFN) announced on Tuesday that four people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in its northern Saskatchewan community.

The test results were received Monday evening and mark the first confirmed appearance of the virus in the community, officials said.

READ MORE: Northern Saskatchewan First Nations communities concerned over lack of PPE for health-care workers

ERFN said those infected were already under self-isolation as they waited for the test results and will continue to isolate for at least 14 days under the supervision of public health officials.

Officials said they are already tracing the steps of the infected to determine if the virus has spread any further.

A state of emergency was declared by the ERFN band council on March 19. Officials said the declaration allowed for the initiation of their pandemic planning committee and the introduction of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the community.

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“Infectious diseases do not discriminate. We have seen that around the world and, despite our best efforts, it has made its way into our community,” ERFN Coun. Katrina Maurice said in a press release.

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“Now, we must contain the virus as best we can and we need everybody’s help to do that. We were taught to love our community in sickness and in health. Let’s start there.”

READ MORE: Nurse brought COVID-19 to facility in Saskatchewan’s far north, says FSIN

ERFN public health officials are asking people to report any symptoms to committee members Bernie Eaglechild at 306-240-4062 or Patsy Wolverine at 306-270-2252.

The provincial government announced four new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total in Saskatchewan to 320.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health said it can’t confirm details of any of the confirmed cases beyond what is available on its website or what has been discussed publicly in press briefings.

There are a number of reasons why specific communities are not mentioned when positive COVID-19 cases are identified or why we cannot go into details of cases, according to government officials.

Examples given by the ministry include:

  • specific communities cannot be mentioned due to privacy requirements;
  • public health may need to investigate where the case originated; and
  • details may identify the individual/patient.

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ERFN is roughly 500 kilometres north of Saskatoon.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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