Two high schools in the Calgary area have recently been affected by COVID-19 outbreaks, and questions are being raised about whether these outbreaks may be due to indoor social gatherings.
Bow Valley High School and Bowness High School were brought up during Monday afternoon’s COVID-19 update.
At the time, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, was asked if contract tracers have had any luck in determining whether there was a social gathering that led to either of the outbreaks at the two schools.
Dr. Hinshaw explained that, while this is a concern, it has not yet been confirmed. She cautioned young Albertans to think twice if they are considering having an indoor social gathering.
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“It’s critical that the behaviours not just inside of school, but outside of school, are those that prevent the spread of COVID,” said Dr. Hinshaw.
“Anyone who might be considering having an indoor gathering needs to remember that a single indoor gathering can cause the spread of COVID-19 from one person to many overnight … That spread can put other people’s lives at risk.”
Dr. Hinshaw reminded the public that indoor social gatherings are currently not permitted under public health orders.
According to the government’s website, COVID-19 outbreaks in schools are reported when five or more cases are confirmed in an investigation, where the disease could have been acquired or transmitted in the school.
As a result of being placed under Outbreak Status on the Provincial COVID-19 Status Map last week, Bowness High School transitioned all 1,184 of its students to online instruction beginning March 8.
Online classes will support stability of learning for Bowness High School students until they return to in-person classes on March 17.
Bow Valley High School in Cochrane notified students and their families that the school was placed on Outbreak Status on March 6.
Just over half of Bow Valley High School students are at home isolating and engaging in online learning until they are able to return to school as determined by Alberta Health Services.
Tara de Weerd, Director of Communications for Rocky View Schools, told Daily Hive that Bow Valley High School has been able to remain open for in-person classes as they have enough substitute teachers available to replace those who are isolating.
“Calgary Board of Education schools and employees have worked very hard over the past year to ensure that government health and safety guidelines are met, to maintain safe learning environments and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Megan Geyer, Communications Advisor for Calgary Board of Education, told Daily Hive in an email.
“We all share the responsibility to follow all health and safety guidelines, whether in school or outside of school time, to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on schools and learning.”
There are currently 64 schools in Alberta listed as having outbreaks on the government’s website. An outbreak investigation is considered over when there have been no new confirmed cases in the school for 28 days.