Alberta leaders face pressure to help schools as COVID-19 cases spread among students

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is facing mounting pressure from parents, teachers and official opposition to restore contact tracing in schools as COVID-19 spreads rapidly among students.

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An advocacy group called Support Our Students says that at least 10 percent of elementary and middle schools have active outbreaks.

The group has been tracking infections in schools since September. When the province ended contact tracing and removed the need to isolate students after close contact with a positive case.

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Krista Lee, a mother of two girls in Edmonton, said, “I fail to argue how those in power can go to bed every night knowing they have done everything to keep our children safe during this fourth wave.” Haven’t done anything.” .

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“We have the Red Cross coming into our province, the army is showing up, nurses from Newfoundland and Labrador are showing up in our province. It is a sign that things are not going well and, if we know this, why don’t we stand to say, ‘We have to do something for the most vulnerable who cannot be vaccinated’ – And that is our child.”

Amanda McNaughton, a federal public activist in Calgary and mother of two teenage boys, said the lack of data needed to make decisions has been disappointing.

“Last year, if there was an issue in our child’s class, we would be told immediately. At least we knew someone was over it,” said McNaughton, whose husband has stage 4 colon cancer.

“This year we don’t have that comfort zone. I want to see that data is being gathered and … decisions (made) to ensure that nothing that kills my husband is brought home.”

Lee and McNaughton say they are in a constant state of worry as their children continue to go to school.

Edmonton Public Schools passed a resolution Tuesday requesting that the Alberta government close all schools for two weeks as part of a “firebreak” lockdown.

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“It’s a call for help, after all,” said school board chair Trisha Estabrooks.

“No one wants to be in this situation. I would argue that if notification measures, contact tracing and measures to isolate close contacts were taken, I very much doubt we would be in this situation. It shouldn’t be like this.” Was.”

Premier Jason Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange were to hold a news conference with Alberta’s minister of health, the chief medical officer of health and the head of Alberta health services later today.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health confirmed that the province is not reporting school cases as of the previous school year.

Lisa Glover said, “Outbreaks in schools can be caused by many different respiratory viruses, not just COVID.”

“A reporting framework for outbreaks of all respiratory diseases in schools is expected to be finalized soon.”

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Glover did not respond to questions about when it would be implemented.

The NDP opposition urged the premier to use the military to conduct contact tracing in schools. Eight critical care nurses with the Canadian Armed Forces are on hand to help Alberta hospitals that are overwhelmed by COVID-19.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said that many military members who do not have a clinical background can be trained to contact trace.

On Monday, Edmonton Public Schools announced that all staff must have full vaccinations or routinely test negative. Edmonton Catholic schools followed suit on Tuesday.

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