CALGARY -- Children across the province are being told to visit family members while they can before heading back to school next month. 

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, has recommended kids isolate from their grandparents once they head back to class in an effort to be "extra vigilant" and protect others. 

She says that while COVID-19 symptoms are milder in children than in adults, they can still carry the disease and infect others including the elderly, who are more susceptible or may have pre-existing health conditions. 

"We are hard-wired to want to be together," Hinshaw said. "However, even when organized by even the most well-meaning family members, it can be challenging to maintain physical distance with loved ones, or to ask your parents or grandparents to wash your hands, and to ensure that nieces or nephews who are sick stay away and don't come."

The recommendation to distance from close family members comes as case numbers rise across the province in relation to family gatherings, weddings, funerals, backyard parties, and prayer meetups. 

Hinshaw said social connections are essential to maintaining good mental health, although there is higher concern for viral spread as loved ones are more inclined to embrace each other or not tell sick members to stay away. 

Small family meetups are still likely to happen regardless, but some precautions can be taken. 

"I urge the host of any type of gathering, big or small, to keep a written list of attendees for at least two weeks," Hinshaw said. 

"It may seem silly to write down which family members come over for a visit, but quick access to information speeds up contact tracing immensely, keeping this information will not get people in trouble and it has the potential to save lives."