Alberta has seen its first case of COVID-19 that was believed to be contracted in a school setting, health officials confirmed on September 18th.
“This is not unexpected and not a cause for alarm. However, I know that many are anxious about school safety and I felt it was important to share this information with you and to talk about what it means,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
Hinshaw said the case was contracted at Waverley School in Edmonton.
“To date, AHS has identified two cases that were infectious while in the school, one of whom seems to have been the source for the other,” she said. “While it is always difficult to say with 100 percent certainty where transmission happens, given the facts in this situation, it seems to be a likely explanation.”
Hinshaw said anyone who is considered a close contact to those infected either has been or will be contacted by AHS. She also said it’s possible to see more indications of transmission related to these two cases. A total of seven staff and 12 students were isolating in relation to the outbreak as of Friday, and the class where the cases were confirmed had moved to online learning. The school was also deep cleaned.
Hinshaw said it’s crucial that members of the public, and media, not point fingers at this school simply because it’s the first site to have spread in its population, citing the already heightened anxieties and worries many in the school community are dealing with.
“Parents with a child in that school need to know this school has done nothing wrong,” she said. “The school should not be targeted with accusations of being unsafe.”
In an emailed statement on Friday afternoon, Opposition NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said she was “deeply concerned” with the news of in-school spread of the virus. “My heart goes out to the students, staff, families and community of Waverley School,” she said. “I continue to be extremely disappointed that [Education] Minister Adriana LaGrange has failed to attend any of the updates since schools reopened to answer for her cuts and bad choices. It is not too late for this government to prevent additional cases of transmission within schools. I urge Minister LaGrange to cap class sizes at 15, provide additional space and staffing, and act on the other recommendations we provided her in July in our Safe Schools, Successful Students report.”
As of Friday, 14 schools in the province had outbreaks of COVID-19, meaning they had two or more cases in their school community. One school, St. Wilfred Elementary School in Calgary, was on the watch list, meaning it had five or more cases of the virus.
Carol Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette