Alberta’s top doctor announced Thursday that the province is modifying its COVID-19 symptom checklist for school-aged children starting Monday.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw explained anyone with any of the core symptoms — fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste, loss of smell — must still isolate for 10 days or test negative for COVID-19 and recover from all symptoms before resuming normal activities.
However, Alberta Health is removing runny nose and sore throat as symptoms requiring mandatory isolation and testing in children.
Hinshaw said if a child under 18 years old is experiencing only one of those symptoms, they should stay home and have their symptoms monitored for 24 hours. If their condition improves, testing isn’t required and once they feel better and their symptoms have disappeared, they can return to normal activities.
However, if they have more than one symptom, they should be tested for COVID-19 and stay home.
This change takes effect Monday and applies to all settings children under 18 are involved in, including sports cohorts and child-care sites.
“We are shifting to a more strategic approach,” Hinshaw explained, adding the decision was based on Alberta evidence and findings from other jurisdictions who have made similar changes.
She said less than one per cent of Alberta children who reported having a sore throat as their only symptom tested positive for COVID-19.
Of those who reported a runny nose as their only symptom, less than 0.5 per cent tested positive for COVID-19.
“This shows us that these symptoms by themselves are very poor indicators that a child has COVID-19. Two or more symptoms change the risk.”
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The one-symptom guidance only applies to children who have not had contact with a confirmed case.
It also doesn’t change the symptom checklist for Albertans over the age of 18.
“We are seeing different symptom trends in adults,” Hinshaw explained.
“We must strike a difficult but necessary balance in responding to COVID-19.
“We must follow the evidence and take the steps needed to prevent cases from rising exponentially and overwhelming our health system. At the same time, every element of Albertans’ health is important. We must also limit the harms our measures can have as much as possible,” Hinshaw said.
“The choice is not between implementing another lockdown or letting COVID-19 run unimpeded.
“Instead, we must make it as easy and safe as possible for Albertans to live with this virus for the foreseeable future. This means implementing targeted measures when needed… but it also means using our own evidence and learnings from other jurisdictions to relax other measures that are not adding value when we can safely do so.”
On Thursday, over the last 24 hours, Alberta confirmed 477 new cases of COVID-19. Labs completed 12,153 tests and 21,803 Albertans have recovered.
There are 4,921 active cases across the province; 2,277 cases in the Edmonton zone and 1,879 in the Calgary zone.
As of Thursday, 130 Albertans are in hospital with COVID-19; 18 of whom are in intensive care.
“In the Edmonton zone, the impact of COVID cases is still causing elective surgeries to be postponed,” Hinshaw said. “The need to protect our health system from being overwhelmed is part of the reason we announced new mandatory measures for Edmonton and Calgary on Monday.
“We all need to everything possible to limit the spread.”
The province also reported five deaths due to COVID-19, bringing Alberta’s death toll to 318.
A man in his 40s from the South zone, a woman in her 80s from the Calgary zone (linked to the Agecare Skypointe outbreak), a man in his 90s from the Calgary zone who was not linked to continuing care, a man in his 90s from the Calgary zone (linked to the Mount Royal Revera outbreak) and a woman in her 90s (linked to the Edmonton General Care Centre outbreak) have died.
A total of five deaths have been linked to the Edmonton General site outbreak.
Calgary Correctional Centre outbreak
As of Thursday, there are 100 inmates and 18 staff members at the Calgary Correctional Centre who have tested positive for COVID-19, Alberta Health Services said.
In addition, six inmates who tested positive previously have been released and are isolating at home, an AHS spokesperson told Global News.
“The increase in inmate case numbers stems primarily from re-swabbing of previously negative inmates on Oct. 27 as ordered by the medical officer of health,” AHS said.
Hinshaw on flu vaccine
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health thanked the 597,000 Albertans who have already received their flu shot. That’s an increase of more than 50,000 doses from this time last year, she said.
“Thank you for doing your part to help stop the spread of influenza and for helping our health system stay focused on the pandemic response,” Hinshaw said.
Plea about Halloween
“After every holiday, we have seen a rise in cases,” Hinshaw said.
“Please be wise and be safe. Follow the guidance we have provided.”
She stressed that if people are trick-or-treating, they should do so only with their household or cohort and wear a mask.
For teens and adults, Hinshaw said: “This is not the year for large Halloween parties. Please keep your gatherings as small as possible no matter where you live.”