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Split between 3 cities, Saskatchewan family finds COVID-19 coping a challenge

Normally, Sheena Nault would be celebrating Easter with her family.

This year, she’s only able to call her relatives because the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping them apart.

She says that’s even more distressing because things are getting worse.

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“It’s scary that they could get sick, but it’s also terrifying that they have to deal with everything alone,” she said.

The pandemic, fueled by variants of concern, is continuing to spread. And on Sunday, the number of people receiving intensive care rose to a record high.

But the third wave is washing over the province at different rates.

Nault, her mother Tammy and best friend Jess Boss — who she describes more as an adopted sister — live in different cities in Saskatchewan.

They’re experiencing the third wave differently, but it’s having the same effect.

Boss is in Regina, the hotspot.

The number of active cases is nearly four times greater than in Saskatoon, which has the next highest count. And the city is home to more than 80 per cent of the cases caused by the variants of concern, most of which are the more contagious B.1.1.7 strain first discovered in the U.K.

The provincial government imposed the strictest public health guidelines in Saskatchewan.

Residents can’t visit other households, restaurants are only permitted to offer curbside pick-up or delivery and travel is not recommended unless absolutely necessary.

Boss said coping can be a challenge.

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“She doesn’t even know my new stepson, she doesn’t know my new boyfriend, she doesn’t know their personalities at all,” she said of Sheena.

“All I want to do is just spend the night talking to her, and I can’t. It’s not the same when to talk to someone on the phone.”

Tammy lives in Moose Jaw, about 70 km west of Regina.

The city and region around it are seeing similar upticks in cases. The provincial government has advised residents to abide by the restrictions in Regina, but haven’t implemented any yet.

“You… get scared again of the new variant that’s coming,” Tammy said, speaking over Zoom.

“So we were scared before and we’re even more scared now.”

She told Global News being away from her family has taken a great toll on her mental health. She said she’s had weeks where she only got out of bed four times.

“I am very family-oriented. I have had a lot of depression over the last year,” she said.

Sheena is in Saskatoon, the least affected city of the three cities. But an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan is warning the variants will likely spread there soon.

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“I think the big issue with the two cities is time right now. It’s like looking into the future,” Dr. Cory Neudorf said.

The key to limiting the spread, he said, is the government putting more restrictions in place as soon as infections start to trend upward in the city.

“The biggest thing to learn, as we’ve seen from other country’s response to these new variants, is you have to watch for them and then act aggressively as soon as you find them, because things are going to take off very quickly,” he said, speaking via Zoom.

“Give an inch and we’re going to take a mile on this.”

Sheena Nault says knowing what’s coming doesn’t make it any easier.

She’s worried about her family and every phone call is bittersweet.

“It’s just a matter of time,” she said.

“I’m not scared, I’m anxious.”

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