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Alberta teachers frustrated, anxious about COVID-19 outbreaks: union

Click to play video: 'Alberta teachers frustrated, anxious about COVID-19 outbreaks: union' Alberta teachers frustrated, anxious about COVID-19 outbreaks: union
The Alberta Teachers' Association and some doctors are sounding the alarm: it's been about a week since kids went back to class and already a number of Alberta schools have had a COVID-19 outbreak. Fletcher Kent has more on the noon news – Sep 10, 2021

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association said the lack of contact tracing has left schools and teachers finding out information anecdotally on their own.

“Not to have the data this year by AHS (Alberta Health Services) and by government is causing a lot of anxiety for those who are trying to keep COVID out of schools,” Jason Schilling said.

Read more: Several Alberta schools experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks early in 2021-22 school year

AHS is no longer informing school authorities of individual cases of COVID-19.

Click to play video: 'Alberta teachers frustrated, anxious about COVID-19 outbreaks: union' Alberta teachers frustrated, anxious about COVID-19 outbreaks: union
Alberta teachers frustrated, anxious about COVID-19 outbreaks: union – Sep 10, 2021

Schools are expected to let AHS know when 10 per cent of students are home because they are or may be sick. AHS will then investigate and may declare an outbreak of a respiratory illness at the school.

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“When you look at a school of 2,000 kids, that’s 200 kids that are absent. And by that point, it’s almost too late,” Schilling said.

“Teachers want to be in school with their students, but they have to ensure that it’s safe and in order to do that you need to know the numbers and the data that they’re dealing with.”

Click to play video: 'Several Alberta schools experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks early in 2021-22 school year' Several Alberta schools experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks early in 2021-22 school year
Several Alberta schools experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks early in 2021-22 school year – Sep 9, 2021

The Edmonton Catholic School District told Global News on Friday that AHS has declared one outbreak within its school division.

The Edmonton Public School Division says it is not aware of any schools in the district that have had an outbreak declared.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has four schools listed on its outbreak list.

The CBE also announced Friday that starting on Monday, schools will begin providing their own notifications to specific classes when families self-report an AHS confirmed case of COVID-19 to their school.

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Read more: Alberta to adjust COVID-19 masking, isolation, testing rules over next month

Schilling said the province’s stance on schools has led to a lack of consistency.

“Here in Alberta, you could have schools across the street from each other with different plans in place.”

Dr. Joe Vipond, an emergency room physician in Calgary, has been outspoken about the province’s response to the pandemic.

He said he’s been hearing from teachers worried about being in the classroom.

“They’re not hearing enough about airborne transmission and mitigation in ventilation and filtration from their school boards and they’re frightened by that,” Vipond said.

Click to play video: 'Questions raised over mask policies in Alberta schools' Questions raised over mask policies in Alberta schools
Questions raised over mask policies in Alberta schools – Sep 7, 2021

At an event in Rocky Mountain House Friday, Health Minister Tyler Shandro was asked about the outbreaks in schools and lack of contact tracing.

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“We do have case investigations still and I think sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand that there is still case investigations going, but not what public health officials call contact tracing,” Shandro said.

“The purpose of contact tracing in schools would be for the mandatory isolation and Dr. Hinshaw has been weighing the evidence when it comes to the other non-COVID related health data for children who are school-aged and what those mandatory isolations meant to them.”

Click to play video: 'Hinshaw admits Alberta’s move to treat COVID-19 like endemic was ‘too early’' Hinshaw admits Alberta’s move to treat COVID-19 like endemic was ‘too early’
Hinshaw admits Alberta’s move to treat COVID-19 like endemic was ‘too early’ – Sep 9, 2021

On Thursday evening, the Parkland School Division confirmed three schools have been put under “outbreak” status: Prescott Learning Centre, Duffield School and Tomahawk School.

On Friday morning, Elk Island Public Schools confirmed there is one outbreak at Woodbridge Farms Elementary. EIPS said the declaration was triggered by AHS.

As of Friday, no one from the province was able to confirm whether schools with outbreaks will again be listed on the province’s website.

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An Alberta Health spokesperson said via email: “We are working on the reporting framework right now and will provide details when they become available.”

With files from Morgan Black & Kirby Bourne 

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