'Nobody has COVID-19 and we're not quarantined': Alberta Hutterite colony refutes outbreak claim
A sign at the entrance to the Willow Creek Hutterite colony in southern Alberta prompting visitors to take additional safety precautions during the global COVID-19 pandemic
CALGARY -- Members of a southern Alberta Hutterite colony say claims that they are under quarantine as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak are ridiculous.
On Thursday morning, the town of Claresholm, M.D. of Willow Creek and Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid issued a joint statement indicating the Willow Creek Hutterite Colony was under quarantine as a result of an outbreak of COVID-19.
News of an outbreak confused Carol Wipf, a Willow Creek Colony member who says there have been no cases of COVID-19 and the five members who were tested were confirmed as negative.
"Nobody has COVID-19 and we're not quarantined," Wipf told CTV News.
Wipf says that regular handwashing is prevalent on the colony but face masks are not being used as "we don't believe in that."
She adds that no members of the colony attended the funeral for three girls from another colony who drowned in the St. Mary River in June. In early July, Alberta Health said there was potential COVID-19 exposure at the memorial service.
The joint statement of the neighbouring town, the municipal district and the local MLA was removed and replaced with a new version late Thursday morning with no specific mention of an outbreak on the Willow Creek colony.
"An outbreak of COVID-19 has affected the Hutterite colonies in the Claresholm area," read the updated version of the statement. "The colonies are working with (Alberta Health Services) to quarantine and stop the spread of the virus where necessary."
M.D. of Willow Creek officials confirm there are nine colonies within its boundaries.
In both versions of the statement, MLA Roger Reid addressed reports that some businesses and residents of Claresholm had been discriminating against Hutterite community members as a result of COVID-19 concerns.
"We must work together to ensure all members of our community are kept safe and positioned for a quick recovery," said Reid. "Discrimination to anyone is unacceptable, and will not be tolerated."
According to the statement, AHS is working with the affected colonies to ensure quarantine restrictions are being adhered to and that there is no risk to the general public.
"We are disappointed that the information related to this is perhaps stigmatizing certain elements of our community, " said Doug Macpherson, Claresholm's mayor. "Everybody assumed the worst and the rumours were running rampant. So, through a joint news release, we hoping to clarify that it's not running rampant in the M.D. It is contained."
Alberta Health has not responded to CTV News' request for confirmation of the Willow Creek colony's claim of no COVID-19 cases.