Alberta launches online COVID-19 map to track cases in schools

Alberta has launched an online map to help parents track COVID-19 cases in schools across the province.

The new tool, unveiled Wednesday by the chief medical officer of health, will list every school that reports two or more cases within a 14-day period where the virus could have been acquired or transmitted within the school itself.

The province has confirmed 16 cases present at 16 different schools, and in each case the illness was acquired outside the school setting, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said at her latest news conference.

"So far, none of the 16 schools that AHS has reported to us have met that threshold," Hinshaw said. "If needed in the future, the map will also list schools that have shifted into Scenario 2 or 3 to protect the health of students.

"I know that some have asked why we are focusing on that number when other sites are reporting higher numbers," she said. "The answer is that we are striving to help parents best understand the risk of exposure that their children face.

"I think it is important that I explain why I feel this is the correct approach. As a parent, learning that a teacher or other student who were never in the school while infectious, and contracted COVID-19 at a party or while on vacation, does not help me understand if my child is at risk.

"In a school context, there is risk for students and staff only when an infectious person is present that they may have come in contact with."

Tracking cases

The best way to assess safety is to track cases where an infectious person has been present in school and cases where transmission has happened in school, Hinhsaw said.

"Other numbers are not relevant to school transmission risk, and simply cause confusion and anxiety."

Hinshaw said the province is exploring ways to report all schools where a single case has been identified where someone spent time in a school while infectious.

"We are working to understand the perspectives of school stakeholders on this, as it is important that we balance transparency and confidentiality as we always do," she said. "I will update Albertans on this work in the coming days, and we are committed to continue improving the online map."

For more than six months, Albertans have been watching the COVID-19 numbers rise and fall.

An illness that for weeks shut down much of the economy has now infected almost 15,000 people in Alberta, about 3.3 people for every 1,000.

It has killed 248, most of them elderly.

On Wednesday the province reported 1,585 active cases, down from 1,692 on Tuesday, with 98 new cases.

The regional breakdown of active cases on Wednesday was:

  • Calgary zone: 655

  • Edmonton zone: 613

  • North zone: 214

  • Central zone: 48

  • South zone: 45

  • Unknown: 10

Forty-five people were being treated in hospital for the illness, including seven in ICU beds.

The province conducted 10,500 tests over the past 24 hours.