Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan announced on Wednesday last week that 48 of the 60 new cases of COVID–19 reported that day in the province had occurred in Hutterite colonies. The Canadian media published many news stories about the development.

Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan
Premier Scott Moe of Saskatchewan (Photo by Andrew Scheer in Wikimedia, Creative Commons license)

According to a report in Global News, the premier said that his government is “working with these local (Hutterite) leaders to limit essential travel to only a small number of designated individuals. This includes travel between Hutterite communities.” He is asking all other Hutterites to avoid traveling.

Moe indicated that most of the colonies have been cooperating but there have been exceptions. The government has gotten a few reports of Hutterites ignoring the guidelines and traveling out of their colonies for reasons that were not essential. A few people have traveled despite not feeling well. Out of the 48 new cases among the Hutterites, 43 occurred in just one colony.

The article lists 17 colonies that already had cases of the coronavirus before the record number was reported last Wednesday. Dr. Saqib Shahab, the chief health official for the province, attributed the outbreaks of the virus to the “strong … social connections” among the Hutterites. He said that asymptomatic people have been responsible for several cases. In many of those 17, only one or two cases of the disease occurred because the affected individuals were aware of their symptoms, they quickly self-isolated, and they got tested.

Dr. Shahab added that many colonies heeded the COVID-19 guidelines developed by the province and the Hutterian Safety Council. Those colonies that have correctly followed the guidelines have not had any cases.

Hutterite women wear modest dresses in the light of a South Dakota sunset
Hutterite women wear modest dresses in the light of a South Dakota sunset (Photo by Rainer Mueller in Wikipedia, Creative Commons license)

The CBC reported on Tuesday last week, the day before the government released the grim news about the spike in cases, that there have been reports of Hutterites being denied admission to stores and services in their communities because of all the negative stories about them related to the pandemic.

The chair of the Hutterian Safety Council, David Tschetter, said that the rise in the numbers of infected people in the colonies has prompted discrimination throughout Saskatchewan. “We’ve heard reports that the mentality is that every Hutterite now has COVID in a certain area of the province. And of course, this is naive,” he said.

The council did acknowledge that some Hutterites have ignored the COVID-19 regulations set up by the province. A statement from the council admitted it was no surprise that some Hutterites were experiencing shunning. There was resistance earlier in some colonies to the implementation of the COVID-19 protocols and to the legitimate public health orders.

Hutterites on horseback in Alberta, 1982
Hutterites on horseback in Alberta, 1982 (Photo by pverdonk in Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Mr. Tschetter sought to smooth over the reports of poor behavior by some of the Hutterites. With about 50,000 of them living in Western Canada, it would be unreasonable to expect every one to follow the protocols diligently. “It’s not a cultural thing. The human nature of our existence is all over the map and our culture is no exception.”

This CBC news story certainly does not paint a rosy portrait of the Hutterite acceptance of COVID-19 restrictions the way an earlier news story on this website did. That report, first posted on April 16, 2020, indicated from a variety of news sources that the Hutterites were not having any problems complying with the restrictions imposed by the government to cope with the pandemic. Evidently there were problems that we failed to discern back in April.