The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association said the lack of contact tracing has left schools and teachers finding out information anecdotally on their own.
“Not to have the data this year by AHS (Alberta Health Services) and by government is causing a lot of anxiety for those who are trying to keep COVID out of schools,” Jason Schilling said.
AHS is no longer informing school authorities of individual cases of COVID-19.
Schools are expected to let AHS know when 10 per cent of students are home because they are or may be sick. AHS will then investigate and may declare an outbreak of a respiratory illness at the school.
“When you look at a school of 2,000 kids, that’s 200 kids that are absent. And by that point, it’s almost too late,” Schilling said.
“Teachers want to be in school with their students, but they have to ensure that it’s safe and in order to do that you need to know the numbers and the data that they’re dealing with.”
The Edmonton Catholic School District told Global News on Friday that AHS has declared one outbreak within its school division.
The Edmonton Public School Division says it is not aware of any schools in the district that have had an outbreak declared.
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has four schools listed on its outbreak list.
The CBE also announced Friday that starting on Monday, schools will begin providing its own notifications to specific classes when families self-report an AHS confirmed case of COVID-19 to their school.
Schilling said the province’s stance on schools has led to a lack of consistency.
“Here in Alberta, you could have schools across the street from each other with different plans in place.”
Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician in Calgary, has been outspoken about the province’s response to the pandemic.
He said he’s been hearing from teachers worried about being in the classroom.
“They’re not hearing enough about airborne transmission and mitigation in ventilation and filtration from their school boards and they’re frightened by that,” Vipond said.
At an event in Rocky Mountain House Friday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro was asked about the outbreaks in schools and lack of contact tracing.
“We do have case investigations still and I think sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand that there is still case investigations going, but not what public health officials call contact tracing,” Shandro said.
“The purpose of contact tracing in schools would be for the mandatory isolation and Dr. Hinshaw has been weighing the evidence when it comes to the other non-COVID related health data for children who are school aged and what those mandatory isolations meant to them.”
On Thursday evening, the Parkland School Division confirmed three schools have been put under “outbreak” status: Prescott Learning Centre, Duffield School and Tomahawk School.
On Friday morning, Elk Island Public Schools confirmed there is one outbreak at Woodbridge Farms Elementary. EIPS said the declaration was triggered by AHS.
As of Friday, no one from the province was able to confirm whether schools with outbreaks will again be listed on the province’s website.
An Alberta Health spokesperson said via email: “We are working on the reporting framework right now and will provide details when they become available.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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