REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and local Hutterite communities are working together to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 after some communities failed to implement the proper public health measures.

The details of the strategy is outlined in a joint statement from the SHA and the Hutterian Safety Council.

In March, the Hutterian Safety Council established the COVID-19 Safety Taskforce, which provides regional bulletins advising communities to reduce gatherings, practice physical distancing and proper hygiene. However, recent cases linked to two Hutterite communities are under investigation as related to local and interprovincial travel.

“In the spirit of openness, HSC wishes to acknowledge that there have been challenges getting some Hutterite communities to implement adequate COVID-19 protocols and to abide by the public health orders although most adapted with care and managed the transition somewhat easier than others,” the joint statement said.

The statement explains that a false sense of security is present in these communities due to the belief that they are isolated and insulated. HSC says it is working to dispel this belief

“While the remoteness and the separateness of our communities can be beneficial, it does not eliminate the risk of the virus entering our communities.”

The statement outlines another misunderstanding that the outbreaks in Hutterite communities would lead to an economic shutdown of the communities in question, which are integral in local food production. As a result, the SHA experienced resistance to testing services in these areas.

"While the vast majority embraced the leadership of the SHA and HSC, a small group has resisted intervention. This is regrettable, but also not wholly unexpected for a group of diverse people spread over a vast political and geographical area. Like the rest of society, Hutterite Communities feel the impact of disrupted routines and tradition infringing upon requests to adapt to public health orders measures,” the statement said.

The SHA and HSC are working to bring understanding to these fears, and encouraging leaders work with local health officials.

The SHA says communities that were “lax” in bringing in COVID-19 restrictions are now in training to get to increase safety. Strict protocols are in place in these areas now including self-isolation and additional hygiene practices. The health authority also thanks the communities in the Maple Creek area for cooperating with health officials during this outbreak.

The statement offers a reminder that stigmatizing communities involved in outbreaks is “not helpful.”

“Activities that single out or create unfair biases between neighbours and our unique communities are contrary to the spirits of unity, kindness, and generosity that define our province,” the statement said.

The Hutterian Safety Council is made up of community leaders, educators and first responder.