EDMONTON -- Work is underway to ensure Alberta’s Hutterite colonies are equipped with the information they need to tackle COVID-19. 

Dr. Len Wade, a family physician in Vulcan who also works in the local emergency room, has been holding information sessions with Hutterite colonies in his area to explain what COVID-19 is and how people can protect themselves. It’s a population Wade said Alberta Health considers vulnerable because of its communal lifestyle. 

“They don’t have their elderly nursing homes. They care for them in their colony. So that’s the vulnerable population and so we need to be certain they’re taking all the necessary precautions to protect those members of their colony,” Wade said. 

The Hutterite Safety Council has also set up a task force to keep Hutterite leaders informed. The council is sending out regular bulletins to make sure everyone has the latest information. 

George Waldner from Wheatland Colony said his community of 115 people will no longer be eating together or going to church in groups larger than 50 people. And he’s also encouraging people to avoid cities if they can. 

“We have told all of our people to stay close to home. If they have doctor's appointments or if it’s an emergency, yes. Otherwise, stay away,” Waldner said. 

Wheatland Colony produces eggs, milk, chickens and pork. Waldner said they have a new rule that no one can come to the farm, unless they call him first in order to limit the amount of traffic coming and going. 

“We have to keep it safe if we want to keep the food chain going to feed the world,” Waldner said. 

Wade said he has noticed some frustration among the people who he’s spoken with. They pointed out it’s difficult to work with cattle and maintain a physical distance from those helping you. But overall, Wade said the colonies have been very receptive and grateful for the information.  

“They’re the ones who are going to  be best at trying to apply these principals of social distance and isolation to their particular situations,” Wade said.