COVID-19 impacting smaller communities

April 3, 2020, 9:59 am
Rob Paul Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Windsor Bar and Grill in Fleming is temporarily closed due to COVID-19 and is providing takeout.

Towns all over Saskatchewan have felt the changes being made due to COVID-19.

Many small businesses have been forced to temporarily close, public gatherings have been cancelled, grocery stores have been flooded with shoppers stocking up on items.

Last week Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe ordered for non-essential businesses to close as the province enters what he calls, “the social distancing economy.”

With businesses being closed to promote social distancing, the limit of 25 people for a public gathering was decreased to 10 to help flatten the curve.

As of March 26, Saskatchewan has 95 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Adjustments have had to be made by all communities to handle the pandemic.

For Maryfield, Maryfield Mayor David Hill says they’re following what they’re told and closing what they need to.

“We’re following the guidelines set out by the province,” said Hill. “The hotel in town is only open for takeout orders and our village office and health clinic are closed to the public.”

In terms of plans, Hill says they’re making sure people are social distancing and if need be they will assist those who need to follow self-isolation guidelines.

“We have an emergency measures plan in place for certain situations,” said Hill. “We’ve met a couple times, the emergency measures officer, the RM, our healthcare officials so we’ve kind of come up with a bit of a plan.”

“We’re trying to set in place plans for people who are supposed to self-isolate and aren’t supposed to be going out to make sure they get medication or food or mail or anything that’s needed,” said Hill. “We have a plan in place to look after that.”

With a smaller community like Maryfield, Hill says there are advantages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In a bigger centre people can be away travelling and it might not be known. The thing with a small community is everybody knows where you’ve been or what you’re up to,” said Hill. “Everybody knows if you’ve been away.”

With adjustments needing to be made during this time, Hill says the Maryfield Corner Store has made it easier on the community.
“Our store does deliver in town and we have a local newsletter that goes out once a month and in there they asked if you want stuff from the store they’re asking for them to fax it in or email it,” said Hill.
For more susceptible members of the community, Hill says Maryfield has volunteers ready to help them when needed.
“If they can’t get down to get something then we do have volunteers lined up to help those people out,” said Hill.

In terms of the general feel around Maryfield right now, Hill says people are concerned with an unknown situation.

“There’s a little bit of everything out here,” said Hill. “Some are very aware of what’s going on and making us aware of people who shouldn’t be doing things.”

“I guess it’s a scary time for everybody,” said Hill. “It’s something that nobody has ever experienced before to this magnitude.”

Welwyn has dealt with much of the same as other communities with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It ended the season for our curling and skating rink,” said former Welwyn Mayor Andre Mailloux. “They closed the coffee shop and I don’t know if its ever been closed, it’s where the older people in town meet twice a day so it’s impacted them.”

Mailloux says the community of Welwyn has taken social distancing very seriously and even he has voluntarily self-quarantined to be on the cautious side.

“You don’t see a whole lot happening in town anywhere, my daughter returned from the states so we’re on voluntary quarantine,” said Mailloux.

There’s concern in Welwyn around COVID-19, but Mailloux says the community is aware of how to flatten the curve and protect each other.

“I imagine there’s a certain amount of worry,” said Mailloux. “We have quite a few elderly and they’re the most susceptible to it if it does come around, but there’s a general knowledge of how to handle this.”

When it comes to helping those who need it at this time, Mailloux said their community has been working together.

“We get our groceries in either Moosomin or Rocanville,” said Mailloux. “We have a couple of older people that we make sure to keep in contact with and find out whether they need anything or need us to get something for them.”

“We just had a couple in town come back from Texas,” said Mailloux. “So they’re in quarantine and we’ll stay in contact with them to see if there’s anything they need.”

“In a small community we all know someone who we look after,” said Mailloux.

In Fleming, Mayor Trent Green says the fallout from COVID-19 is being felt through the community.

“It’s like any community big or small, there’s been some people impacted by the layoffs already,” said Green. “That’s everywhere though.”

Even with a small community like Fleming, closures are changing things.

“We had to close the local hotel, they’re just serving takeout food, our community hall where you can have a morning coffee is closed,” said Green.

Green says, the importance of social distancing has been made clear to the community and they’re trying their best to practice it.

“The post office we put a sign up... a warning sign so people know to keep their social distance coming in and out of the post office,” said Green. “That’s probably the highest traffic area we have.”

In Fleming the community has been trying to help out those who aren’t able to function is the same capacity as normal due to the risk of COVID-19.

“My mother is older so I get her groceries and I’ve talked to a couple of friends who do the same for a neighbor,” said Green.

“Also because of the drive older people would have to catch a ride, but now with social distancing you don’t want to give them ride,” said Green. “It’s just as easy to pick up their groceries for them and try to help them out.”

Green says social distancing is critical for him and everybody needs to work together to stay safe because it could impact so many if just one person doesn’t follow the guidelines.

“I’m really ensuring I’m keeping it to seeing only my family and people at work because I work for SaskPower and we’re an essential service,” said Green. “We’re really distancing ourselves from everybody.”

“We’ve been informed if something happens to us the guys we work with would be quarantined and there’s four guys under myself so it impacts four other families if something happens to me,” said Green.

“It’s just work and home for me, I just go to the grocery store for necessities,” said Green.

Around Fleming it’s been quiet as people continue to work to flatten the curve, says Green.

“I’ve seen a few people out for walks in the evening, but they’re staying away from others,” said Green. “It’s about getting fresh air, but keeping social functions to a minimum.”

The community has worked together in Wapella to help handle the tough times COVID-19 has caused, says Wapella Mayor Sandy Hintz.

“At the grocery store we offer delivery to seniors, people in quarantine, or people not able to come to the store,” said Hintz.

“People around town are helping out seniors and the more susceptible and everybody is doing stuff like that,” said Hitnz.

Right now Wapella is following government leadership to deal with the crisis and everything non-essential has closed says Hintz.

“With our plan we’re following the government guidelines, the only thing left open is the grocery store,” said Hintz. “The restaurant is closed and bars are closed, except for takeout.”

“We’ve closed the public buildings like the rinks and the rec buildings because of the government guidelines,” said Hintz.

Hintz says that the community has done more to flatten the curve with social distancing since it began to hit Canada hard.

“From what I see everybody is doing their part,” said Hintz. “I think at the beginning people weren’t taking it seriously, but now everybody is.”

The feeling around Wapella has changed says Hintz as COVID-19 continues to escalate in Canada.

“I think everybody is worried, but there’s no hysteria,” said Hintz. “Everybody is cautious and just trying to do their part to stop it from spreading to the people that are more susceptible to it.”

In Wapella the sense of community has helped with the unknown situation going forward.

“Everybody has come together and is doing what we’ve got to do right now,” said Hintz.