Hinshaw addresses pandemic back-to-school concerns

Aug 27 2020, 3:34 pm

Alberta is still seeing more than 100 new coronavirus cases per day a week before students are slated to go back to school.

The province discovered 108 new cases on Thursday, a slight decrease from the 127 new cases discovered on Wednesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced at a news conference. She also revealed two more Albertans have died from the virus, bringing the province’s death toll to 237.

“With school opening next week, I know concerns over the pandemic are adding to the usual back-to-school jitters,” she said.

Hinshaw counselled parents and kids to read Alberta Education’s resource guides to put their nerves at ease. The documents summarize scientific evidence from other education settings around the world and provide a roadmap for what schools will do if there’s a coronavirus case on campus.

Anyone who develops symptoms at home shouldn’t go to school, and those who become sick at school will be isolated immediately and sent home as soon as possible. If the sick student tests positive for coronavirus, Alberta Health Services staff will trace and notify their contacts.

Only the close contacts of that student will be required to self-isolate, which AHS defines as anyone in the same room as them without PPE for more than 15 minutes in a day, or someone the student hugged, kissed, or shared a drink with.

An outbreak will be declared at a school when there are two or more cases in a 14 day time period, or when there are two or more cases linked to the school setting.

The documents don’t define when a school will close due to a coronavirus outbreak, because Hinshaw wants each outbreak to be looked at individually.

“Let’s say there’s a social event outside school. There may be significant spread and many people at school affected,” she said. “A school outbreak may be declared as a precaution, but does not necessarily mean the school environment is unsafe and should be closed.”

AHS will be carefully monitoring the situation in schools, but officials are not “pre-determining specific triggers for school closure,” Hinshaw said.

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