Maskwacis schools closed for the week to ‘control spread of COVID-19’

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The Maskwacis Chiefs declared a lockdown to help control the spread of COVID-19, the Maskwacis Education Schools Commission wrote in an update on its website Sunday.

All MESC schools and administration buildings will be closed Oct. 13 to 16, the update said.

It said essential services would continue.

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

“Maskwacîs Education Schools Commission (MESC) is working closely with the Maskwacîs Emergency Operations Center to keep our students, staff and families safe,” the commission added.

According to the website, Maskwacîs Directors of Emergency management will reassess the situation at the end of the week.

The site lists 11 schools as part of the MESC.

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“We’d like to remind everyone that public health orders for self-isolation are mandatory, families contacted by MHS and/or AHS must follow their directions. Our thoughts remain with those that have tested positive, and we wish them a safe and speedy recovery.”

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

The commission’s last online update said there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 at Ermineskin Kindergarten on Sept. 24. MESC closed the school until Sept. 28 so it could be cleaned, disinfected and quarantined. Maskwacis Health Services worked with the school group to identify close contacts.

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MESC said the positive case was the result of community spread, not school spread.

Randy Littlechild, the CEO of Maskwacis Health Services, said since the pandemic began in March, there have been 39 cases of COVID-19 in Maskwacis, 26 of which were considered active on Oct. 14.

Littlechild said the First Nations community didn’t see any COVID-19 cases until July, when three cases were reported. Cases started to increase in mid-September, he said.

“At the end of September it just sort of ballooned out,” he said Wednesday.

Littlechild said health officials are concerned, but added they are encouraging public health guidelines such as physical distancing, hand washing and face coverings.

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ATCO trailers were purchased at the beginning of the pandemic to house those who cannot safely self-isolate, Littlechild explained.

“We will put them into individual rooms with their own toilet, shower, TV, internet… and we provide the food for them. Right now, I have 20 individuals in those trailers right now self-isolating. That’s only if they can’t safely self-isolate at home,” he said.

“I’m feeling positive but at the same though, considering the amount of tests we’re doing here — we’ve done over 8,200 tests. In the last week we did 1,000 tests — you’re bound to find some positive cases,” he continued. “I am pretty sure that we will probably end up with a few more positive cases.”

Littlechild said that as of Wednesday, there was one person hospitalized with COVID-19.