COVID-19 testing in Meadow Lake was in full force on the weekend.

That’s because, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority, an individual who recently tested positive for the virus spent significant time at various locations throughout the community between Aug. 26 and 28 – locations that included Lions Park, as well as the playgrounds at Lakeview Elementary, Jubilee Elementary and Gateway Middle Schools.

“A number of our public health nurses who originally had the weekend off came back in and worked Sunday and Monday – morning to night – doing contact tracing to determine anyone who may have been in contact with this individual during that time period,” remarked Dr. Gavin Van de Venter, chief of staff at the Meadow Lake Hospital. “By Monday, 64 people had been tested for COVID-19 – so their efforts were really aggressive.”

As of this week’s news deadline, results of these tests were still outstanding, but Van de Venter said, if anyone does test positive, he or she will be required to self-isolate and follow all other related criteria before given the all clear.

“When an individual tests positive for COVID-19, a contact investigation immediately follows where public health reaches out to anyone who may be linked to that individual with COVID-19 and provide them with information on testing and self-isolation,” reiterated an SHA spokesperson.

One thing Van de Venter wants to make clear about the recent situation, however, is it is still safe for people to visit the aforementioned parks and playgrounds.

“It would only have been potentially dangerous to anyone who was there at the same time as the individual who initially tested positive for the virus,” he continued. “Also, if you’re asymptomatic and COVID-19 positive, your chances of spreading the virus are very low compared to someone who is showing symptoms… At this point there is no need to panic, no need to be fearful.”

But, this doesn’t mean the public can let its guard down.

“We know, with everything opening up again and with kids back in school now, we’re going to have a second wave (of COVID-19),” Van de Venter said. “It’s already happening in places like Australia and France. Luckily, we are well prepared for it – much more so than anyone was when the first wave hit. We need to be as vigilant as ever because I can guarantee it’s going to flare up again.”

Van de Venter also said it’s important to note people don’t need permission to get a COVID-19 test.

“You can get one for any reason or for no reason at all – you don’t have to justify it,” he said.

He also encourages everyone to continue to practice good personal hygiene, to social distance and to wear a mask in all situations that call for one.

“Wearing a mask lowers your chances of contracting the virus by 65 per cent, so it’s definitely worth wearing one,” he said. “People also need to be respectful of one another – if you meet someone on the walking path, give them a wide berth. If there are people in a grocery store aisle, wait until they leave before you enter. We need to be patient. The virus has affected everyone’s personal lives – even mine – but we need to look at the bigger picture.”

Van de Venter’s sentiments were echoed by Meadow Lake mayor Merlin Seymour.

“This is far from over,” Seymour noted. “Right now, the numbers in the province are awesome compared to those in other provinces, but COVID-19 is still out there and we still need to do our part.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 also recently resulted in the temporary closure of the Innovation Credit Union branch in Meadow Lake. The credit union closed Tuesday (Sept. 8) with officials noting the closure was the result of a positive COVID-19 test result within the branch location. The branch reopened the next morning after a vigourous, professional cleaning.

As of Sept. 9, Saskatchewan had a total of 1,670 reported cases of COVID-19. Of those 1,587 had recovered. In the Far North, the west district has had 349 cases with only three remaining active, while the central district has none and the east district has had six with zero active at this time.

by Phil Ambroziak