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Government announcement: Protecting students and staff in the fourth wave

Today, the Alberta government announced steps to protect students, parents, teachers and staff with more tools to help fight against COVID-19.
To keep students learning safely in person, Alberta’s government is resuming public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools, 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.
“This school year is different from the last thanks to the power of vaccines. More than 84 per cent of eligible Albertans have at least one dose and 75 per cent of eligible Albertans are fully vaccinated. But the fourth wave of COVID-19 continues to threaten our health-care system – and our youngest residents cannot get vaccinated yet. To protect our children and school communities, Alberta’s government is taking action to give schools the supports they need.”
- Jason Kenney, Premier
“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.”
- Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education
“Enhanced reporting, rapid testing and contact notification in schools helps protect students, provides more information for parents and enables schools and public health teams to limit the impact of COVID-19 on student learning. It reminds us to keep reaching out to our fellow Albertans to protect our friends, neighbours and children by getting vaccinated.”
- Jason Copping, Minister of Health
Public reporting, outbreak definition and contact notification in schools
Public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools will resume on Oct. 6, with Alberta Health identifying online each school with at least two COVID-19 cases.
Also effective Oct. 6, 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.
Starting Oct. 12, parents will also be informed if their child may have been exposed to a COVID-19 case who was infectious while at school. At this time, school authorities will support an interim process for contact notification using data supplied daily by Alberta Health Services. An updated guidance document will be provided directly to school authorities to support them through this process.
Alberta Health Services will take over the lead on contact notification in schools within the next several weeks. Once AHS-led contact notification is in place, parents will be able to check an online map to view alerts and outbreaks at schools.
“By returning to reporting infectious cases to schools like we did last year, we are providing schools the tools and information they need during a challenging fourth wave. I encourage everyone to do their part: get vaccinated if you haven’t already and follow all public health measures to protect those around you.”
- Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health
At-home rapid testing kits
Alberta’s government will be offering a targeted rapid testing program for kindergarten to Grade 6 schools experiencing outbreaks, as vaccines are not yet available to this age group.
Tests will initially be provided for distribution to parents and staff starting in late October, and will begin with schools that are in an outbreak status at that time with 10 or more cases of COVID-19 that were infectious while in school. The rapid testing will be voluntary and tests will be administered at home by parents as a screening tool only for students who are asymptomatic.
Proof of vaccination for staff and visitors strongly encouraged
Alberta’s government is strongly encouraging all school authorities to develop policies that require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for teachers, staff and anyone who enters a school. This does not apply to students. A school authority cannot deny students access to education due to immunization status.
Quick facts
• As of Oct. 4, 84.5 per cent of eligible Albertans have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 75.1 per cent are fully vaccinated.
o 77.4 per cent of children aged 12 to 14 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination, and 78.4 per cent of those aged 15 to 19.
o Children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated.
• Alberta Health will publicly report the name of each school with at least two COVID-19 cases, categorized by the following:
o Alert – two to four cases
o Alert – five to nine cases
o Outbreak – 10-plus cases
• An outbreak investigation will be completed by AHS for schools with 10 or more cases within a 14-day period.
• On an interim basis, school authorities will determine close contacts for students in schools using criteria provided by AHS and will notify families of close contacts in a school setting only.
• Students in kindergarten to Grade 6 will shift to learning at home if there are three or more infectious cases in the class in a five-day period. Families will be asked to avoid public places, monitor for symptoms and get tested if the student becomes symptomatic, but will not otherwise be required to quarantine.
• All individuals who have COVID-19 are required to isolate and remain at home for 14 days, regardless of their age.
• Public health measures remain in place in schools including:
o Mandatory masking for students in grades 4 and up, plus staff and teachers in all grades.
o Elementary schools are to implement class cohorting.
o Indoor sports, fitness, recreation and performance activities are permitted in schools, with requirements to maintain two-metre physical distancing where possible.
o Masks and distancing are not required by youth under age 18 while engaged in physical activity.
o Students and staff should screen daily for symptoms using the Alberta Health Daily Checklist.
o Isolate if you have core COVID-19 symptoms or test positive.
o If there is a case in your child’s class or school, monitor your child closely for symptoms.
o Follow best practices to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

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