ATHABASCA – Socializing outside of school, more than anything, is behind the recent spike in active COVID-19 cases in younger people around the province, and specifically in Athabasca, says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.
At a noon press conference April 12 to announce the province would be moving into Phase 2C of its vaccination rollout, the premier was asked about school transmission numbers and the rising case rate in younger demographics by Globe and Mail reporter James Keller.
The spread of the virus and its variants are seeing their fastest growth in teenagers, the 20-29 and 30-39 categories, said Kenney.
“And I think the answer to all of the above is primarily socializing. Dr. Hinshaw’s expert view on this is the same as public health experts across the country, and I believe around the world, which is that the amount of in-school transmission is tiny,” he said, noting just 1,370 cases of in-school transmission, or less than one per cent, of the 700,000 students in Alberta schools.
“So, the problem there does not appear to be in school transmission. I think the teenagers in particular have a tendency to socialize, understandably.”
He then went on to mention Athabasca specifically, and the outbreak at Edwin Parr Composite School that shut down the town’s three schools to in-person learning through April 16.
“Again, it was out-of-school transmission,” said Kenney. “In one case, a bunch of kids from one of those schools were brought together by their parents for a birthday party. And apparently, the virus had a 100 per cent attack rate at that birthday party. All of the kids who came to that birthday party got sick and so it was social activities outside the school, that that led to that transmission.”
The latest update from Aspen View Public Schools April 8 provided numbers from the end of the day before, with 101 active cases and nearly 800 school-related close contacts — students, staff, bus riders and drivers — who were all advised to stay home.
AVPS and Alberta Education initially announced EPC students would begin online learning April 6, but students at Landing Trail Intermediate School and Whispering Hills Primary School would follow suit until April 9, but as the outbreak grew, that has since been extended through April 16.
“As a general rule, the vast majority of school boards want to continue offering online instruction. We think that they are right to do so,” said Kenney. “As you know, there is a growing body of data that children have been significantly setback in their learning over the past year, because of the interruption in classroom instruction. So, I'll say it again, that the last thing we should suspend, in my view is the opportunity for in classroom instruction.”
The Athabasca region’s three municipalities — the town, county and Village of Boyle — are down to 249 active cases as of April 12. The Boyle area accounts for six of them. There has been one death and 248 recoveries, for a total of 498 cases since the first was reported in the region last April, about five weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared.
The active case rate per 100,000 residents fell below 2,000 since yesterday, and now sits at 1,904.7
Westlock County has 29 active cases, and the County of Barrhead’s case count is at 57. Both regions have reported two deaths as a result of the virus.
Across the province, 1,136 new cases were reported, 679 of them were variants, bringing the number of active cases to 14,849. There are 390 people in the hospital, and 90 of them are in intensive care units (ICUs). Five more people have died in the last 24 hours and to 2,018 since March 2020.
The province also administered 16,501 vaccines in the last 24 hours, out of 864,941 in total, and 177,560 people have now been fully vaccinated.
More information on vaccinations can be found here. In Athabasca, Value Drug Mart, RX Drug Mart, Loblaw Pharmacy and the Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy are all offering vaccinations. The Boyle RX Drug Mart is also offering vaccines, but the next available appointment is not until April 21, according to the Blue Cross website where all locations are available.
Aspen View reminds parents and guardians, as well as staff, to monitor for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. The Alberta Health daily checklist can be found here. The school division asks the checklist be completed each day prior to attending school.
If any of the core symptoms listed on the Alberta Health daily checklist are observed, it is advised to keep your child at home and fill out the online Alberta Health Services COVID-19 self-assessment or call Health Link at 811.
More information from Alberta Health on the variants can be found here
And Alberta’s mandatory public health restrictions can be viewed here.
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