Advertisement

Alberta records 1st ‘likely’ case of in-school transmission of COVID-19

Click to play video 'Alberta records 1st ‘likely’ case of in-class COVID-19 transmission at school in Edmonton' Alberta records 1st ‘likely’ case of in-class COVID-19 transmission at school in Edmonton
Alberta's chief medical officer of health says the province likely has it's first transmission of COVID-19 in a school. Dr. Deena Hinshaw says it appears there are two infections at Edmonton's Waverley School, with one case being the source of the other. Julia Wong reports.

Alberta has seen its first case of COVID-19 that was believed to be contracted in a school setting, health officials confirmed on Friday.

“This is not unexpected and not a cause for alarm. However, I know that many are anxious about school safety and I felt it was important to share this information with you and to talk about what it means,” chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.

Read more: Coronavirus: What schools in Alberta have COVID-19 outbreaks

Hinshaw said the case was contracted at Waverley School in Edmonton.

“To date, AHS has identified two cases that were infectious while in the school, one of whom seems to have been the source for the other,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

“While it is always difficult to say with 100 per cent certainty where transmission happens, given the facts in this situation, it seems to be a likely explanation.”

Hinshaw said anyone who is considered a close contact to those infected either has been or will be contacted by AHS. She also said it’s possible to see more indications of transmission related to these two cases.

Click to play video '‘It doesn’t mean that this school is bad’: Hinshaw asks for compassion while reporting COVID-19 cases' ‘It doesn’t mean that this school is bad’: Hinshaw asks for compassion while reporting COVID-19 cases
‘It doesn’t mean that this school is bad’: Hinshaw asks for compassion while reporting COVID-19 cases

Hinshaw said it’s crucial that members of the public, and media, not point fingers at this school simply because it’s the first site to have spread in its population, citing the already heightened anxieties and worries many in the school community are dealing with.

“Parents with a child in that school need to know this school has done nothing wrong,” she said. “The school should not be targeted with accusations of being unsafe.”

Story continues below advertisement
Waverley School in Edmonton is the site of Alberta’s first likely case of COVID-19 transmission in a school.
Waverley School in Edmonton is the site of Alberta’s first likely case of COVID-19 transmission in a school. Global News

Hinshaw also stressed that anyone confirmed to have COVID-19 should not be shamed or stigmatized in the public.

“These students, staff and all their close contacts should be treated with support and understanding,” she said.

Click to play video 'Dr. Hinshaw asks media to seek balance while reporting on COVID-19 cases in schools' Dr. Hinshaw asks media to seek balance while reporting on COVID-19 cases in schools
Dr. Hinshaw asks media to seek balance while reporting on COVID-19 cases in schools

Hinshaw said there was nothing to suggest Waverley School will have to transition to a different learning model as a result of these cases.

Story continues below advertisement

“Identifying in-school transmission potential quickly and taking action is crucial to limiting the spread and keeping schools safe,” Hinshaw said, adding that officials are doing everything they can to speed up test turnaround times so parents of children with symptoms can get results as soon as possible.

Read more: Adriana LaGrange defends Alberta’s COVID-19 school plans in Global News interview

She also asked for patience on behalf of Alberta parents as they work toward better understanding who is considered a close contact in school settings.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

“We’re working very hard to look at all of the cases we’ve had over the past couple of weeks to determine where we are seeing that potential for transmission risk to be able to target close contacts more precisely and not require a whole classroom to stay home,” Hinshaw said.

When asked about whether Alberta will move to accept the mouth-rinse test that B.C. recently announced for children, Hinshaw said it is something officials are looking into

However, Hinshaw said adopting a new testing model would require a lot of ground work including ensuring Alberta has the proper means of collecting those tests, that the labs can process them, and that the hardware is valid and will provide accurate results.

Click to play video 'Alberta working with lab to look at mouth rinse and saliva COVID-19 tests' Alberta working with lab to look at mouth rinse and saliva COVID-19 tests
Alberta working with lab to look at mouth rinse and saliva COVID-19 tests

The Edmonton Public School Board said it was notified on Thursday of the in-school transmission, as part of the contact-tracing process.

Story continues below advertisement

A total of seven staff and 12 students were isolating in relation to the outbreak as of Friday, and the class where the cases were confirmed had moved to online learning. The school was also deep cleaned.

In an emailed statement on Friday afternoon, Opposition NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said she was “deeply concerned” with the news of in-school spread of the virus.

“My heart goes out to the students, staff, families and community of Waverley School,” she said.

“I continue to be extremely disappointed that [Education] Minister Adriana LaGrange has failed to attend any of the updates since schools reopened to answer for her cuts and bad choices.
Story continues below advertisement

“It is not too late for this government to prevent additional cases of transmission within schools. I urge Minister LaGrange to cap class sizes at 15, provide additional space and staffing, and act on the other recommendations we provided her in July in our Safe Schools, Successful Students report.”

As of Friday, 14 schools in the province had outbreaks of COVID-19, meaning they had two or more cases in their school community. One school, St. Wilfred Elementary School in Calgary, was on the watch list, meaning it had five or more cases of the virus.

Read more: Still no timeline for when Alberta will have access to federal COVID-19 tracking app

A total of 57 of more than 2,000 schools in the province have reported having a case of COVID-19 in their population, and a total of 78 people have been at a school while infectious, Hinshaw said.

The majority of Alberta’s students have been back at school for a couple of weeks under the province’s re-entry Scenario 1; near-normal daily operations with additional health measures. Those additional health measures include increased hand sanitization, students in Grades 4 to 12 wearing face masks, and at some schools, staggered start, end and break times.

Click to play video 'Alberta identifies 1st COVID-19 case likely transmitted within school' Alberta identifies 1st COVID-19 case likely transmitted within school
Alberta identifies 1st COVID-19 case likely transmitted within school

Friday cases of COVID-19

Alberta reported 107 more cases of COVID-19 from a total of 11,313 tests completed.

Story continues below advertisement

One additional person died as a result of the coronavirus, a woman in her 50s in the North zone, bringing Alberta’s pandemic death toll to 255.

The province has a total of 1,424 active cases of COVID-19. Of those active cases, 711 are in the Edmonton zone, 450 in the Calgary zone, 24 in the Central zone, 38 in the South zone and 197 in the North zone. Four active cases have not been linked to any particular zone.

Read more: Alberta school delays in-classroom learning by 2 weeks due to COVID-19 case

Forty-four Albertans were being treated in hospital as of Friday, with seven in intensive care.

A total of 16,381 Albertans have fallen ill with COVID-19, 14,702 of whom have recovered.

Alberta laboratories have completed 1,180,696 coronavirus tests on 909,443 people.​

Advertisement