More details expected next week on public health measures for schools

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On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hinshaw, the Minister of Health, Jason Copping, and the Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange, announced some further public health measures that are required for schools. The measures are to further protect students, staff, and school communities so that in-person learning can safely continue.

Public Reporting

Alberta Health will now be posting public information concerning COVID-19 cases in schools.  You will be able to access the information here.  The definition for ‘Outbreak’ status has changed, and this will now be reported as 10 or more COVID-19 cases with a 14-day period.  

We understand that next week, AHS will start informing us of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in individuals who attended school while infectious.  In these instances, we will be requested to provide notice to parents/guardians of identified contacts.  Although we are already sending similar notifications to parents/guardians in a classroom when a reported case was in attendance, AHS will provide us with a notification letter.  The notification letter will recommend that parents/guardians monitor for symptoms, and contacts are not required to isolate.   

Also beginning next week, if three or more COVID-19 cases are identified within a five-day period in a Kindergarten to Grade 6 class, AHS will issue an exclusion notification, shifting students to at-home learning for 10 days. These exclusion notifications will be provided to us on a class-by-class basis after confirming information with AHS.   In these instances, students would be shifted to at-home learning, but they would not be legally required to isolate.  

Please continue to submit cases of COVID-19 that are reported to you through our form.  As we experienced last year, this information will be important to verify with AHS.  As students who are receiving contact notifications or shifting to at-home learning are not expected to isolate, we do not expect that AHS will request contact tracing information be collected and submitted to AHS in all instances.  Should we be requested for contact tracing information, we will carry out the process as we have in the past.  

Absenteeism Reporting

We are no longer required to automatically report 10% illness to AHS.  Should you have 10% absenteeism due to a specific illness (i.e. gastrointestinal illness), we would report this to AHS.

Rapid testing

Starting in late-October, rapid testing will begin for Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools experiencing outbreaks (Again, 10 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 within 14 days).  The rapid testing program will be voluntary.  If they choose, children, students, and staff will be provided with rapid testing kits to test twice per week for four weeks. These tests are for those individuals that are asymptomatic and are to be done at home.

With this in mind, the Division encourages everyone to follow the current public health restrictions to ensure our post-Thanksgiving return to school is as smooth as possible.

As we receive specific details and updated guidance on these changes, I will include this in our COVID-19 Response Process.  As always, please feel free to contact me should you have any questions.