Contact tracing returns to Alberta schools

In a reversal of the province’s back-to-school plan, parents whose children are exposed to COVID-19 at school will be contacted by Alberta Health Services, Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday afternoon.

Alberta Health will once again post COVID-19 cases online when a school has more than two infections beginning on Wednesday. School authorities will start contact notification on Oct. 12 and AHS will begin contact tracing in November.

Contact tracing involves health officials conducting detailed tracing with potential community contacts, an Alberta Health spokesperson told CTV News Edmonton. "In contact notification, school and health officials will determine contacts for students in the school, and notification focuses on close contacts in the school setting only."

An outbreak will be declared when a school has 10 or more cases within a 14-day period.

In late October, the Alberta government will provide rapid tests to K-6 schools with outbreaks as students under the age of 12 are not eligible to get vaccinated, the province said.

These rapid tests will be voluntary and administered by parents at home.

The province is also “strongly encouraging” school divisions to implement a proof-of-vaccination program, or ask staff to show a negative COVID-19 test.

“This fourth wave has made things challenging, especially for the families of children who are yet not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and certainly for our schools," Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said.

“We’re focusing on schools right now because the sharp rise in school-age cases and the challenges involved in preventing transmission," Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said, adding a quarter of active COVID-19 cases are in the 5-19 age group.

Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools are requiring all staff to be fully vaccinated.

TUESDAY’S COVID-19 NUMBERS

Dr. Hinshaw reported 663 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday after just over 8,000 tests.

She also reported 26 deaths, increasing the province’s death toll to 2,778 since March of 2020.

Alberta has 19,456 active cases and 1,094 patients in hospital, including 252 in intensive care.

Out of eligible Albertans, 84.5 per cent have one dose and 75.1 per cent have two.

Albertans 75 and older and First Nations, Inuit and Metis people 65 and older can book a booster shot of the vaccine starting at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, Premier Jason Kenney announced. The eligible group can get a third dose six months after their second.