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Article meant to ease parents back to school concerns raises eyebrows

Click to play video: 'Article meant to ease parents back to school concerns raises eyebrows' Article meant to ease parents back to school concerns raises eyebrows
WATCH ABOVE: An infectious disease expert in Edmonton admits she could have been more clear when she said it may not be possible to catch COVID-19 by simply being in the same room as an infected person. Tom Vernon has the details. – Aug 20, 2020

An infectious disease physician from the Stollery Children’s Hospital said she could have been more clear when she said in an op-ed published in the Edmonton Journal that it might not be possible to acquire COVID-19 by simply by being in the same room as an infected person.

The article by Dr. Joan Robinson, titled “Alberta parents shouldn’t feel guilty about sending their kids to school,” was published on Wednesday and was intended to ease parents’ concerns about their children contracting COVID-19.

READ MORE: Dozens protest Alberta’s back-to-school plan outside education minister’s Red Deer office

“Infection with this virus differs from infection with other respiratory viruses in that children of all ages generally have milder disease than do adults,” Dr. Robinson stated in the piece.

The article then speaks about school staff rightfully being concerned about their risk, but suggested they are probably more likely to acquire COVID-19 outside of work.

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“Good hand washing prior to touching food or one’s face and avoidance of close contact with others whenever practical are strategies that are likely to be effective,” Dr. Robinson wrote.

“It is exceedingly rare and maybe not even possible to acquire the virus simply by being in the same room as an infected person,” the sentence continues.

That part of the line has raised a number of eyebrows, and Dr. Robinson admitted in an author’s note added after the article was published that she could have been more clear.

“The intended meaning was that one can only get the virus by being in the same room as an infected person if you touch the same objects or are in close contact,” the note read.

Click to play video: 'Infectious disease COVID-19 op-ed sparks controversy after being shared by UCP' Infectious disease COVID-19 op-ed sparks controversy after being shared by UCP
Infectious disease COVID-19 op-ed sparks controversy after being shared by UCP – Aug 20, 2020

Dr. Robinson reiterated that point in an interview with Global News on Thursday, saying the line had been broken up into two sentences during editing, adding to the confusion.

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“It makes it sound like I’m saying you cannot get COVID by being in the same room as an infected person, that’s not at all what I meant, that’s not at all what I believe.”

The article was shared by Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP Caucus on Facebook and Twitter, and the Opposition NDP believes it is undermining public health guidance.

“Every Albertan who read that opinion piece was left scratching their head,” NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said in a release.

“For months now, Albertans have been staying out of schools and businesses, cancelling events and working from home in order to avoid gathering indoors. All of the most serious outbreaks in Alberta are due to people living, working, or gathering in close quarters.”

READ MORE: Alberta Teachers’ Association requests school year delay at meeting with education minister

The premier’s office responded with a statement, saying it is not interested in responding to smears.

“”Dr. Robinson is a highly respected pediatric infectious disease physician at the Stollery Children’s Hospital,” reads the statement from Harrison Fleming, the deputy press secretary for Premier Jason Kenney.

“The doctor has been published over 200 times and has been cited more than 6,000 times by her peers.”

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When asked her opinion, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she didn’t have any issues with the article.

“From reading the original article, based on how I interpret it as a physician and based on the correction of the author, is that her perspective would be very similar to mine,” Hinshaw said.

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw elaborates on COVID-19 airborne transmission in light of op-ed' Hinshaw elaborates on COVID-19 airborne transmission in light of op-ed
Hinshaw elaborates on COVID-19 airborne transmission in light of op-ed – Aug 20, 2020

Most Alberta students are set to return to the classroom on Sept. 2.

While school boards have developed their own policies and procedures, the province has mandated children in grades 4 to 12 wear masks while in common areas and when they are unable to be physically distant inside the classroom.

READ MORE: Alberta Grade 4-12 students, teachers will be required to wear masks in schools this fall

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