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Two Manitoba Hutterite colonies enter voluntary COVID-19 lockdown

Two Manitoba Hutterite colonies are in voluntary lockdown, after five new COVID-19 cases were announced Friday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/07/2020 (868 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two Manitoba Hutterite colonies are in voluntary lockdown, after five new COVID-19 cases were announced Friday.

Public Health officials said the cases — bringing the total number of Hutterites in the province to contract COVID-19 to seven in recent days — are a man and woman in their 60s, a man and woman in their 30s, and a woman in her 20s.

The new cases are all from a single colony in the Interlake-Eastman Health Region, officials said Friday.

The province says an investigation is continuing into the outbreak, and “any additional information will be provided as needed once investigations are complete to inform people of any public health risks.”

Mark Waldner, a spokesman for the Hutterian Safety Council, confirmed there are coronavirus cases on two colonies and they have gone into voluntary lockdown as a precaution. The safety council was formed to guide Hutterites through health matters.

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Two Manitoba Hutterite colonies are in voluntary lockdown, after five new COVID-19 cases were announced Friday.

“As per Public Health protocol, individual Hutterite communities are not identified by name, although Public Health went as far today as to say that the cases are on a Hutterite colony. I can verify that currently two Hutterite communities are impacted and there are no hospitalizations,” Waldner said Friday.

The jump in Manitoba cases at colonies comes at the same time as a spike in cases at Saskatchewan Hutterite colonies in recent days.

Saskatchewan health officials announced the “vast majority” of the 42 new cases announced Thursday were at colonies and neighbouring communities in southwest and west-central parts of the Prairie province. They have said they have found no linkage to the COVID-19 cases and a funeral for three teenage Hutterite girls who drowned last month in Alberta.

“There is no benefit to blaming or shaming people who test positive. We are called to care for and support each other.” – Arnold Hofer, Bishop of the Schmiedeleut (Group 1) Hutterites

As well, Waldner said while a Manitoba Hutterite confirmed earlier this week with COVID-19 was in Alberta, he did not contract the virus at the funeral. Instead, Waldner said the man contracted it while helping during the week-long search for one of the missing teens who drowned.

“Apparently, the individual was in the area on a business trip when the drownings occurred in Alberta around the middle of June,” Waldner said Friday.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS "The individual was involved with the HEART (Hutterian Emergency Aquatic Response Team) assisting in looking for the body of one of the three girls. He did not attend the funeral; his involvement was confined to assistance on the shore of the river," says Mark Waldner, a spokesman for the Hutterian Safety Council.

“The individual was involved with the HEART (Hutterian Emergency Aquatic Response Team) assisting in looking for the body of one of the three girls. He did not attend the funeral; his involvement was confined to assistance on the shore of the river.”

However, because of the positive diagnosis, the council said the colony the man resides at went into self-isolation, along with another Manitoba colony where a woman in her 20s has also tested positive.

“(Hutterian Safety Council) has been encouraged by the quick and strict implementation of protocols to prevent spread as soon as word of cases was received from Health Links,” the council said in a statement issued Thursday night.

“Communities immediately went into self-isolation and even members who only had third-party contact received testing… It is expected that more cases will develop in the coming days, and the Hutterian Safety Council will continue monitoring the situation in Hutterite communities and maintain close contact with Manitoba Health.”

The safety council’s position is to not name the colonies.

“HSC, along with Manitoba Health… wants to avoid reporting numbers and naming communities since this is a COVID issue, not a colony issue,” Waldner said.

“We feel that cultural profiling is not helpful and as such oppose naming specific communities. We are in contact with Manitoba Health, and we rely on their processes for informing the public about numbers and statistics.”

The Free Press confirmed earlier this week the man who had travelled to Alberta is a resident of the Springfield Hutterite Colony east of Winnipeg. A spokesman there said the man has been in isolation with his family since the positive test result. They have all now tested negative, but have been told to isolate for another week.

The woman, identified as a member of the Clearview Hutterite Colony west of Winnipeg, is also under isolation. A spokesman at Clearview said the woman contracted the virus after a visit from members of the Springfield colony.

“Communal lifestyle has certain vulnerabilities in regard to viral spread,” the safety council said in a statement.

“It has always been the expectation that as Manitoba began reopening, cases of COVID-19 would appear in Hutterite communities. Many communities diligently protected their most vulnerable citizens, and this continues.”

JESSE BOILY / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The Free Press confirmed earlier this week the man who had travelled to Alberta is a resident of the Springfield Hutterite Colony east of Winnipeg. A spokesman there said the man has been in isolation with his family since the positive test result.

In a statement to Manitoba Hutterite communities, Arnold Hofer, Bishop of the Schmiedeleut (Group 1) Hutterites and a minister from Acadia colony near Carberry, asked all members to co-operate with Manitoba Public Health and urged community leaders to “encourage members to get tested if they feel ill with COVID-like symptoms.

Hofer also said communities with COVID-19 cases should restrict travel to only what is essential, and should isolate both people and communities as needed.

“There is no benefit to blaming or shaming people who test positive,” he said. “We are called to care for and support each other.”

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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