Alberta’s chief medical health officer is recommending the approximately 90,000 school staff and teachers seek out a COVID-19 test before classes get underway.
“There is still no risk-free approach to living with COVID-19,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday.
“It is natural that many feel anxious about the coming school year. I believe that when everyone in the school community does their part, we can limit the number of cases and keep children, staff and teachers as safe as possible.”
In her briefing, Hinshaw said that there were an additional 121 cases in the province Wednesday, with 1,040 active cases.
She noted that 10,632 patients have recovered, while 50 people are in hospital, with 13 in the ICU.
She also announced a new death, bringing the toll to 216.
“This is a reminder that COVID-19 continues to be with us and we cannot turn our backs on this virus,” she said.
As for returning to school, Hinshaw recommended testing for students only if they exhibit symptoms, or they have pre-existing medical conditions, similar to signs of COVID-19.
“This is because, in students, our priority is to make testing available with ongoing mild symptoms that may mimic COVID-19, such as allergies,” she said.
“All parents should monitor children for new symptoms. This is part of the daily routine that all parents must start getting used to.”
Testing for teachers and staff will be an “entirely voluntary” process, said Hinshaw.
“However, asymptomatic testing in school settings will help us with a baseline understanding for school re-entry,” she said.
“And ultimately, help us more closely monitor the virus in the coming year.”
Hinshaw also asked Albertans who are not showing symptoms and have not come into contact with someone who has it, to wait until after Sept. 1 for testing.
In the briefing, Hinshaw explained that a policy is in the works for schools if a student or teacher tests positive. Hinshaw said those protocols will be available soon.
“There is no magic bullet for COVID-19. Testing, while a powerful tool, is only one layer that we are using to limit the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
“Even more important are the other measures, such as daily symptom screening, enhanced sanitizing and washing hands, use of masks and adjusting class routines and school approaches to minimize spread.”
According to geospatial data available on the government’s website, Red Deer now has 10 active cases, with three active in Red Deer County.
Kneehill County and Starland County each have two active cases. Ponoka County and Mountain View County each have one active case.
Lacombe County sits at four active cases, while Lacombe has four cases. The County of Stettler has six active cases, with Camrose and the County of Paintearth with just one active case.
The County of Wetaskiwin and Wetaskiwin have no active cases.