EDMONTON, AB – The province announced new measures Tuesday in an effort to help slow and prevent COVID-19 transmission in schools.
Classes have only been in session for just over a month yet several districts across the province are experiencing high rates of student absenteeism due to illness.
In response, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says contact notification in schools will begin, in a phased approach, after Thanksgiving.
She says “we will be supporting school authorities as they determine close contacts of individuals who were infectious while attending school and they will notify families of those close contacts. Over the long term, and by mid-November, AHS will take over notifying parents of contacts within school settings.”
LaGrange says starting Wednesday, Oct. 6, Alberta Health will also be reporting the names of schools with at least two confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The Health Minister went on to say a targeted at-home rapid test program will be offered to elementary schools experiencing outbreaks of ten or more cases of COVID-19 that were infectious while at school, adding “this will give us another way to protect our youngest children who cannot yet be vaccinated.”
The province is strongly encouraging all school authorities to develop policies that require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for teachers, staff and anyone who enters a school, students notwithstanding.
Health Minister Jason Copping was also on hand Tuesday to announce an expanded vaccine rollout with Albertans 75 and older and FNMI people 65 and older now eligible to book a third booster dose as long as as six months has passed since their last shot.
And, Premier Jason Kenney is urging Albertans to follow the rules around indoor gatherings this long weekend or risk putting more pressure on over-stressed hospitals.
He says Thanksgiving celebrations last year sparked a second wave of COVID-19 which led to a surge of hospitalizations and ICU admissions.
“We simply cannot afford a repeat scenario. Not with this dangerous Delta variant that is still circulating and with our hospitals under such severe pressure. So all other rules remain the same and if they’re followed, we’ll avoid the scenario that played out last fall.”
Indoor gatherings for the unvaccinated are prohibited while outdoor gatherings are now capped at 20, down from 200.
Vaccinated Albertans can gather indoors with two other households up to a maximum of ten people over the age of 12.
There were 663 new cases of COVID-19 reported province-wide on Oct. 4 out of 8,018 tests which equates to a provincial positivity rate of about 8.3 percent.
There were 26 deaths and six of them were in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services: one in Lethbridge, two in Medicine Hat, one in Cypress County, one in Brooks, one in Cardston County. Specific community breakdowns as far as age and gender aren’t readily available but the South Zone cases involve men in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and two women in their 60’s.
Lethbridge also reported 35 new cases, and with 40 recoveries factored in, the number of active cases dropped by six to 481.