1st COVID-19 outbreaks at Alberta schools confirmed in Calgary and Lethbridge

Alberta has reported its first COVID-19 outbreaks at schools, with health officials confirming that two or more people with COVID-19 had attended two public high schools in Calgary and Lethbridge while infectious.

Alberta Health Services defines an outbreak as 2 or more confirmed cases at same school within 14-day period

Two or more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at Henry Wise Wood High School in southwest Calgary. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Alberta has reported its first COVID-19 outbreaks at schools, at two public high schools in Calgary and Lethbridge.

In south Calgary, parents and staff at Henry Wise Wood High School received a letter from Alberta Health Services Wednesday evening confirming that two or more people with COVID-19 had attended the school while infectious.

"Public Health staff are investigating to determine who may have been exposed at your school to cases of COVID-19 during their infectious period," AHS wrote in the letter. 

In an emailed statement to CBC News, AHS said an outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed cases at the same school within 14 days.

"Any individual considered exposed to this case will be contacted directly by Alberta Health Services, per standard contact tracing procedures," said AHS. "Infection prevention control measures (physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, environmental cleaning) have also been reviewed with the school."

In Lethbridge, parents and staff at Chinook High School  received a similar letter on Wednesday, stating an outbreak has been confirmed at the school.

According to a statement on the school's website, AHS notified the division that there are two COVID-19 cases, and that any close contacts of those infected will be contacted by the school through an emailed letter and individually by AHS.

The statement said Chinook High School will remain open, based on advice from AHS.

'There's anxiety,' says parent

Virginia Wong, whose daughter attends Henry Wise Wood High School, said parents need more information.

"I wasn't surprised, but I was disappointed that the outbreak occurred after two days of full in-person learning, and I felt fearful for myself as well as for the students.

"There's no clear direction for them, so there's anxiety," Wong said.

Although Wednesday was only the second day of school,  she said she's unable to transfer her daughter into online learning because registration has closed.

The news of the outbreaks Wednesday came a few hours after the province confirmed that although there are 16 Covid-19 cases at 16 Alberta schools, no school at that point had reported two or more cases within a 14-day period. 

At the Wednesday news conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical health officer also announced the launch of an online map that will list every school that reports two or more cases within a 14-day period where the virus could have been acquired or transmitted within the school itself.

However, the map had not been updated to include the Calgary or Lethbridge outbreaks.

Other schools with reported cases

In Edmonton, schools with cases — but not outbreaks — include Archbishop MacDonald High School, Louis St. Laurent, École Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc and Ross Sheppard High, a public school in northwest Edmonton that has sent nearly 100 students into isolation.

Individual coronavirus cases have also been identified at Calgary schools, including Divine Mercy Catholic Elementary, Bowness High School, Bridlewood School, St. Angela School, St. Rose of Lima School, Lester B. Pearson High School, Notre Dame High School, St. Francis High School and Arbour Lake School, as well as W.H. Croxford High School in Airdrie.

One new case has been recorded at St. Wilfrid Elementary School in northeast Calgary — making a total of two cases there.

In other parts of Alberta, Raymond High School in Raymond and Lawrence Grassi Middle School in Canmore are also dealing with individual cases.


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