Calgary

More than 1,850 Calgary students and staff self-isolate due to COVID-19

Hundreds of students and staff at Calgary schools are currently self-isolating due to potential exposure to COVID-19, although only three schools out of more than 2,400 in Alberta have seen in-school transmission of the coronavirus.

Only 3 schools out of more than 2,400 in Alberta have seen in-school transmission of coronavirus

More than 1,850 students and staff in Calgary are isolating due to coming into contact with a COVID-19 case. (David Bajer/CBC)

Hundreds of students and staff at Calgary schools are currently self-isolating due to potential exposure to COVID-19. 

Schools reopened in-person classes just a few weeks ago. As of Monday, there were 126 confirmed cases at 81 schools across Alberta.

Of those schools with positive cases, 19 are classified as outbreaks, which means there have been two or more positive cases at the school.

Once a case is confirmed, the current protocol is to have an entire classroom self-isolate for the mandated 14 days. 

I recognize that having an entire class isolated has a significant impact on parents and families, and I understand that there's frustration on the lack of ability to plan.- Dr. Deena Hinshaw

Alberta Health is not currently tracking the total number of students and staff affected, but Calgary's two school districts were able to share how many in each community have been ordered to quarantine.

As of Monday afternoon, 1,400 students and more than 90 staff with the Calgary Board of Education were self-isolating. 

The Calgary Catholic School District could only provide numbers accurate to Thursday, when 356 students and 22 staff were self-isolating. 

Those numbers do not include students home with symptoms like a cough, or runny nose.

Across Alberta, about 742,000 students are enrolled at more than 2,400 schools. In Edmonton, at least 1,000 students and staff were in isolation as of Friday.

Thousands of parents across the province are also faced with potentially needing to stay home from work, find child care or educate children at home with little warning, after a positive case in the classroom. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said on Monday that she has heard concerns from parents about the impact of their children suddenly needing to isolate for two weeks. 

"I recognize that having an entire class isolated has a significant impact on parents and families, and I understand that there's frustration on the lack of ability to plan," she said.

"Right now we are taking a very cautious approach, so when there is a single infectious case in a classroom, that entire class is asked to stay home for that 14-day period, and we are watching very closely our experiences with those class cohorts to understand how we can be more targeted so we don't have to have the whole class stay home in future."

Even if students test negative for COVID-19 after a classmate tests positive, they can't return to class until the 14-day period is over as it could take time for the illness to manifest.

What's really critical for schools is that schools don't become a place where transmission happens.- Dr. Deena Hinshaw

Hinshaw said there are important health benefits to children from being in school, and said the numbers of school-aged students who have tested positive overall is more of an indicator of community case counts than in-school transmission.

To date, three schools have recorded cases of in-school transmission of the coronavirus.

Hinshaw said the number of weekly cases in school-aged children hit its peak when the province hit its highest case-count in mid-April, when 216 children aged five to 19 had COVID-19. At that point schools had already been closed for weeks. 

Since schools reopened, numbers in that age group increased to 183 in the week of Sept. 9 to 15, and decreased this past week to 122.

"What's really critical for schools is that schools don't become a place where transmission happens," she said. 

She also said the province is working to increase testing speeds for students who are self-isolating due to displaying symptoms of COVID-19, so they can quickly get back to class.

"We recognize that getting test results as quickly as possible, and getting tested as quickly as possible, both of those are really important."

With files from CBC Edmonton

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