Public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools is resuming in Alberta, including initiating contact notification in schools, clarifying COVID-19 outbreak definitions, providing rapid testing kits and encouraging school authorities to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination policies for adults.
“As we have said all along, as the pandemic evolves we will make adjustments when necessary to keep students and staff safe. The actions we are taking right now will help students to continue learning safely in person as we combat this fourth wave. Keeping students, parents and school communities safe remains our top priority,” said Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education during the Oct. 5 announcement.
Alberta Health will identify each school online that has at least two COVID-19 cases and school COVID-19 outbreaks will be publicly reported when 10 or more COVID-19 cases are recorded within a 14-day period that were infectious while at school.
Parents will also be informed if their child may have been exposed to a COVID-19 case who was infectious while at school as of Oct. 12. Once Alberta Health Services (AHS)-led contact notification is in place, parents will be able to check an online map to view alerts and outbreaks at schools. The targeted rapid testing program will be available for kindergarten to Grade 6 schools experiencing outbreaks. Tests will be provided for distribution to parents and staff starting in late October. The voluntary tests will be administered at home by parents as a screening tool only for students who are asymptomatic.
Last week, Alberta announced the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act to help protect hospitals and other facilities that provide health services. This law, which provides similar protection as the province does to railways, highways, and pipelines, carries punishments for trespassing, interfering with operations and construction, and causing damage.
The Government of Alberta announced the additional step to protect Albertans on Sept. 28. Premier Jason Kenney denounced protesters plaguing hospitals and healthcare workers on the front lines during his announcement.
“Our hospitals are facing unprecedented pressure because of those who have chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Our healthcare workers have been doing amazing work throughout COVID-19 and we have seen similar protests in other provinces like BC that actually impaired ambulance access to hospitals,” he said.
Kenney noted that Albertans have the right to protest but that it cannot come at the expense of Albertans who need essential healthcare like cancer treatment or emergency services or of those who provide that care.
Penalties for individuals start at a minimum of $1,000 and up to $10,000 for first offences and $25,000 for subsequent offences, or a term of imprisonment of up to six months, or both. For corporations, a minimum fine of $10,000 and up to $200,000.
As of Oct. 3, Hinton had 83 active cases of COVID-19, while Yellowhead County had 229 active cases. This is an increase from the week prior. Kenney noted that the only reason Alberta had available ICU beds is because AHS added 197 surge spaces, which is more than double the ICU beds that are normally maintained.
As of Oct. 4, 84.5 per cent of eligible Albertans received one dose and 75.1 per cent are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated individuals make up 73.67 per cent of all current hospitalizations, while 21.85 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice