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Alberta experts tap parents to create information for parenting with COVID

Children wearing face masks paint in a kindergarten in Ankara, Turkey, on June 1, 2021. Credit Image: © Mustafa Kaya/Xinhua via ZUMA Press

Parents unsure of how to navigate caring for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic have a new toolkit in their corner thanks to a pair of University of Alberta professors.

“The purpose behind this work is to break down barriers, to make complex health information accessible,” Shannon Scott, U of A nursing professor and Canada Research chair, said.

Videos and interactive infographics released by Scott and pediatrics professor Lisa Hartling cover caring for a child sick with COVID-19, vaccinations and how to socialize children during the pandemic and beyond.

For the past 15 years, Scott and Hartling have created similar resources for parents, addressing issues like croup.

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The final materials are designed for and with parents.

“This is not armchair theorizing. It’s not a bunch of academics sitting in offices thinking, ‘Hey, this is what parents need to know,’” Scott said. “We actually actively involve parents in all stages of development of these tools.”

Shortly after the pandemic’s onset in March 2020, the duo interviewed parents about their experiences with their children in the once-in-a-lifetime event. Scott said there was a lot of stigma around having a child who caught COVID in the first two waves of the pandemic, and saw that stigma decrease during the third wave – around the end of 2020.

“In the early interviews, parents talked a lot about confusion and uncertainty related to the changing recommendations around isolation and how to navigate this piece,” Scott said, noting more reliable information was more readily available as the early stages of the pandemic continued. “Of course, there are still lots of questions out there, but there was a bit more clear pathways in terms of where to access for certain types of information.”

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More recent interviews revealed a new sentiment to Hartling.

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“They just really needed affirmation that it was okay to have questions, that everybody had many, many questions, and they really struggled over decisions for their child,” Hartling said. “I think they needed affirmation that decision-making in itself is challenging.

“We heard that parents were frustrated with the changing information, changing guidelines, etc., and where to go to and how to tell if something was reliable and valid, so we really tried in our tools to point parents to resources and organizations that are trustworthy.”

The videos are going to be added to the rotation of similar videos seen in more than 380 AHS facilities across the province. Health care systems in provinces like Manitoba and B.C. also use the videos the duo have helped create.

Translating Emergency Knowledge for Kids (TREKK) is another way for the COVID-related information to emergency departments.

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“It is a network that partners general emergency departments with pediatric emergency departments,” Scott said. We’ve helped develop that knowledge mobilization initiative over the last decade-plus.

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“They are great at disseminating information across the country and to parents.”

The bite-sized videos and infographics are also being shared online and on social media.

There are plans to translate the info into other languages, but that part of the project lacks funding.

COVID claims more lives in Alberta

The latest COVID-19 information release from the province showed the coronavirus continues to take lives in Alberta.

In the week ending Dec. 5, 46 new deaths were determined to be from COVID-19, bringing the pandemic death toll to 5,262. All of the deaths appear to be in Albertans 60+.

Hospitalizations and ICU cases were down from the week prior. Hospitalizations were down 35 to 1,042 this week, and ICU cases dipped by 8 to 38.

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The seven-day average positivity rate on PCR tests increased nearly half a per cent to 14.17 per cent, and the seven-day total of new documented cases was 1,147, 167 fewer from the previous week.

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PCR tests in Alberta are restricted to people with clinical risks or who live and/or work in high-risk settings.

Two hospitals in the Edmonton Zone, two in the Calgary Zone and one in the South Zone had COVID-19 outbreaks declared in the past week.

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Edmonton’s Misericordia Community Hospital had an outbreak declared on Nov. 30 when seven people tested positive in one unit and another unit had two people test positive for COVID on Dec. 2.

On Monday, the Royal Alexandra Hospital had a unit declare an outbreak when seven patients tested positive.

Calgary’s South Health Campus had a unit declare an outbreak on Wednesday and the Strathmore District Health Centre declared an outbreak on Monday when five patients tested positive.

The Chinook Regional Hospital also declared an outbreak in a unit on Monday, after three patients tested positive for COVID-19.

An outbreak is declared when it’s determined there has been COVID transmission in hospital.

Provincewide, 90 per cent of the 223 ICU beds were occupied on Wednesday.

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