Parents worry notification lags may lead to unknowing COVID-19 contacts attending school
CALGARY -- Some Alberta teachers and parents say a flaw in the COVID-19 reporting system is leading to potential virus exposure in schools.
Those who spoke to CTV News say on multiple occasions, staff and students who were in close contact with a positive case went back to class for multiple days before they were told to self-isolate.
It’s believed the contact tracing lag has impacted at least five schools.
At Calgary’s Sir Winston Churchill High School, multiple staff members say it took three days for close contacts of a positive person to be warned by AHS. At Branton Middle School, they say the delay was two days.
On both occasions, staff believe the superintendent and school administration knew about the person who contracted COVID-19 in a timely manner. The problem, according to some, is that Alberta Health Services (AHS) was slow to pass down the formal self-isolation order.
“We are hearing this isn’t just happening in one school, one division or one region,” said Support Our Students executive director Medeana Moussa.
“We are hearing that there is a lag in reporting to other classmates across the province. If there is a lag impact from notification, you’re just going to increase exposure.”
In Grande Prairie, a letter sent to parents says the school division — even after identifying the case — had “not received direction from AHS.”
It adds, “due to the daily caseload in the province at this time, (AHS) has been experiencing delays in their contact tracing process.”
CTV News reached out to AHS for an on-camera interview, but the request was denied.
Instead, a spokesperson sent a statement saying in part that AHS, “Aims to make contact with the superintendent and school administration within 48 hours of receiving that positive test result.”
By that standard, the spokesperson says what happened at Branton Middle School — close contacts of a positive test on Sunday night not being notified until Tuesday afternoon — was “a success.”
The statement says that “before hearing from AHS, the school can make sure they are ready to be able to provide contact information for any potentially exposed staff/student.”
AHS currently has dozens of job postings that deal in contact tracing.