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COVID-19 outbreak at SACHS

Outbreaks at Gish, SACHS
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Two St. Albert schools were grappling with outbreaks of COVID-19 this week as the disease continued to spread amongst city students. 

St. Albert Catholic High School families got a letter from school staff Oct. 14 informing them that a student from the school had tested positive for COVID-19.  

The student was last at school Oct. 6 and did not show any symptoms at the time, said GSACRD deputy superintendent Rhonda Nixon. The student self-isolated and got tested, and the student’s parents told the school about the test results on Oct. 12. School staff informed everyone in student’s class cohort that same day, and cleaned and disinfected the building that night. Oct. 14 was the first day of regular classes at the school after the Thanksgiving long weekend.  

The school learned of two additional postive cases at the school on Oct. 17 and Oct. 19, Nixon said. That pushed the school into outbreak status (defined as two or more cases in a school within 14 days that could have been acquired at the school). Alberta Health Services had yet to disclose when these people were last at school.

Nixon said 88 students and three staff members in Grades 10 and 12 were now isolating at home. Affected areas of the school had been deep-cleaned, and health officials were now contacting anyone who may have been in close contact with the three individuals. 

Meanwhile, St. Albert Public spokesperson Paula Power said in an email Oct. 19 that the COVID-19 outbreak at Elmer S. Gish had grown to 15 people as of Oct. 16. 

“We suspect there will be more as students continue to undergo testing,” she said.  

Gish officials reported the school’s first positive COVID-19 diagnosis on Oct. 6. That rose rapidly in the weeks that followed, prompting the province to put the school under outbreak and then watch status (which is when the province works directly with the school to monitor an outbreak). Over 140 teachers and students were isolating at home at last count.  

Single cases

Other schools have also reported single cases. Power said one person at Wild Rose Elementary has tested positive and was last at the school on Oct. 14. As this person took a bus, 55 students and 3 staff members at Wild Rose and Robert Rundle were now isolating at home.  

Sir George Simpson families learned of a second positive diagnosis at their school on Oct. 19. The school’s last case was on Sept. 18. Power said the diagnosed person was last in school on Oct. 16 and developed symptoms over the weekend. One class of 24 students and four teachers was now isolating at home, and the school was disinfected Oct. 19.  

W.D. Cuts families learned Oct. 15 that a student at their school had been diagnosed with COVID-19. School staff had learned of the diagnosis that same day. Surprisingly, no one from the school apart from that student had to isolate as a result. 

Power said that the student in question was last at the school on Oct. 9 but did not develop symptoms until Oct. 12. Health officials said that 48-hour gap, combined with the fact that the student had been following all guidelines around masks, hygiene, and physical distancing, meant that that no exposure to the disease had happened at the school and that no one else had to go into isolation. 

Power said the school was sanitized and disinfected after staff learned of the student's diagnosis. 

Note that the Gazette has decided to change how it covers COVID-19 cases in schools going forward. The Gazette will continue to report outbreaks, but will no longer report individual cases.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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