More than 50 Alberta schools are competing with active COVID-19 outbreaks, but more than 700 other schools are wary of infection clusters.
The new Alberta Health Outbreak List, posted online Wednesday afternoon, outlines the impact of the fourth wave of infectious disease in classrooms, as the province resumes public reporting of school outbreaks.
“It’s a good decision, but I think it’s too late,” said Lori Hill, an Edmonton mother and teacher at Edmonton Public School.
“There are many families that have already seen children sick and family members sick from the cases we’ve seen in schools.”
According to the list, 54 schools have been declared outbreaks, meaning 10 cases or more have been identified. Schools have influenced from Medicine Hat to Fort McMurray.
Here is a description of the school outbreak from the health sector as of Wednesday afternoon:
- Middle zone: 21
- Calgary Zone: 11
- North Zone: 11
- Edmonton Zone: 10
- South Zone: 1
Another 702 schools, meanwhile, are on alert – announcing when two or more cases will be identified in 14 days.
Of the schools on alert, 490 identified two to four cases. More than 212 schools are in the second alarm category, identifying five to nine cases.
No school-specific case counts were provided in the data released Wednesday.
Alberta Health said the school outbreak list is updated daily and a more detailed map of the outbreak data is in development.
Teachers complain of a lack of contact detection
The Alberta government has previously stopped providing any information about the school outbreak after schools shut down detection and lifted the need to segregate students after a positive case.
But Premier Jason Kenny on Tuesday announced a significant change in how Covid-19 cases will be handled in schools.
Schools with more than two students who were infectious while in school are now publicly listed.
Contact tracing will resume on October 12 when students return from Thanksgiving weekend. The province plans to hand out rapid tests in late October to schools in the outbreak.
Hill believes her nine-year-old daughter succumbed to COVID-19 during a September outbreak at Westglen School in northwest Edmonton. She blames the lack of contact detection on her family for being ill.
Hill said that by forcing school administrators to act as contact tracers, the province allowed the vaccine to spread to non-vaccinated children.
Concerned about the growing number of cases at the school, Hill decided to drag her daughter out of the classroom on September 23.
That night, she slept with her daughter in a cough, fever and chest pain.
Hill, her daughter and her husband all tested positive for COVID-19.
On September 23, after parents reported more than 30 cases of students, Westglen announced that they were temporarily moving to online learning.
As of Wednesday, 84 cases had been reported to the school.
As announced Tuesday, Alberta Health Services is investigating all school outbreaks over a two-week period. Initially, school officials perform contact discovery and notification using data provided by AHS.
Students in kindergarten 6th grade go online if there are three or more epidemics in one class over a five-day period.
Families of classroom students who are sent home are asked to avoid public places, monitor symptoms and check if the child begins to show symptoms. Families do not need to quarantine.
An outbreak investigation is considered when there are no new confirmed cases in the school for 28 days.
The province is asking for six million rapid-test kits to send home to parents of non-vaccinated children.
‘I Feel Furious’
Jenna Prior has four children, too young to be vaccinated. Her eldest son, a seven-year-old Westglen student, tested positive for COVID-19 last month.
Her other children also fell ill, fearing that her entire family would be infected.
“I felt great anger because my kids were sick and we did everything right,” Pryor said.
“This is just another example of our leadership failing us.”
On Tuesday, before the new measures were announced, Edmonton Public School trustees requested the closure of all schools for two weeks as part of a “firebrake” lockdown.
Rosanna Anderson, who has three young children enrolled in Edmonton public schools, supports the proposed lockdown.
As the cases increase among young people, she fears her children will bring home the disease from school.
“His father is immunocompromised, which puts a burden on us,” he said.
“I feel like kids need to go online to take some of the pressure off our already depleted health care system.”
As of Wednesday, there were 18,912 active cases in Alberta, with 1,083 Covid patients in hospital. Approximately 30 percent of Alberta’s active cases are between one and 19 years old.