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198 Alberta schools have COVID-19 outbreaks: Support Our Students

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CALGARY -

There are at least 198 schools in the province dealing with outbreaks and absenteeism of 10 per cent or greater, according to information compiled by a non-profit parents group.

Support Our Students collects the data from households that have received notification letters from Alberta Health Services (AHS) and is not affiliated with public health.

An outbreak is declared after an AHS investigation into a school is experiencing 10 per cent or greater rate of absenteeism, a change from the previous threshold of two or more cases.

Close contacts no longer need to quarantine and AHS Public Health is no longer notifying close contacts. Household contacts of positive cases are strongly recommended to stay home for two weeks if they are not fully vaccinated.

A parent in Edmonton wrote an open letter to the province as her son became one of 69 out of 350 students at their school to test positive for the virus.

Alison Turner is calling for the province to resume notifying close contacts to slow the spread.

The Canadian Paediatric Society also sent an open letter calling for mandatory reporting and contact tracing in schools, vaccine mandates for all adults working in schools and childcare settings, and masking for everyone age two and up.

Children are particularly vulnerable as Health Canada has not yet approved vaccines for children 11 and younger.

However, Pfizer has recently submitted data for an initial trial for its vaccine for kids 11 and under to the FDA in the U.S., with plans for a formal request for emergency use in the coming weeks. 

While there is no timeline for when a similar request will go to Health Canada, officials in Toronto have said plans are underway to roll out the vaccine when it does get the green light here. 

Toronto Public Health announced Monday that it formed a COVID-19 vaccination planning group to get ready for an eventual rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for children in Canada.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw has maintained that Alberta's schools are not a significant driver of spread and children are less likely to suffer severe outcomes. 

On Tuesday, the ATA released a statement calling on Alberta's UCP government to introduce a mandate requiring all teachers and staffs in schools being vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The Alberta NDP said it supports the ATA's announcement on mandatory vaccines to slow the spread of COVID-19 among unvaccinated children. 

“It’s outrageous that the UCP is hiding information about COVID cases in schools from students, staff and families," Sarah Hoffman, NDP critic for Education, said. 

"Everyone should have the right to make informed decisions about their own safety, but the UCP refuses to release the information that would allow Albertans to do that."

The province says 333 in-school COVID-19 clinics have been cancelled in Alberta including 88 in the Calgary zone.

Alberta Health Services says the majority of cancellations was a lack of consent from parents but says it has been able to accommodate schools with less than 20 consents in an effort to reduce barriers to immunization and make it as accessible as possible for the school population.

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