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UPDATE: COVID watch declared at Gish

142 now in isolation
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Oct. 14 update

AHS placed the school under "watch" status as of Oct. 13. Watch status means that health officials were working with the school to review and possibly improve its COVID-control measures, St. Albert Public spokesperson Paula Power explained. Some 21 Alberta schools were under watch status as of Oct. 14.

Over 140 people are now in isolation at home after a COVID-19 outbreak at Elmer S. Gish School.  

Elmer S. Gish principal John Strembitsky sent a letter to families Oct. 6 that said a person at the school had tested positive for COVID-19.  

He sent a second letter on Oct. 9 saying that additional cases had been detected.   

By Oct. 10, Alberta Health Services had declared an outbreak at the school.  

Strembitsky said the person with the first case was last at Gish on Friday Oct. 2 and developed a headache and a temperature after school. The person self-isolated, tested positive for COVID-19, and told the school Oct. 6. 

Power said in an email that health officials had identified eight people in five different class cohorts with COVID-19 at Gish as of Oct. 13. The latest any of them had been at the school was Oct. 9. Some 125 students and 17 staffers (including educational assistants, administrators, a student teacher, and a substitute teacher) – roughly 16 per cent of the school’s population – were now isolating at home.  

Power said the school was cleaned and disinfected for the third time in a week over the Thanksgiving weekend.  

Strembitsky said the isolated students were being taught by their teachers online while at home. Some staff and students would be able to return to school as early as Oct. 21 (14 days after their last contact with a person with COVID-19) if they tested negative for COVID-19 and showed no symptoms of the disease. 

"This is not anybody’s fault,” Strembitsky said, and the school was following all provincial guidelines in regards to the pandemic.  

Strembitsky thanked parents for reporting these diagnoses as they came in. He asked parents and students to wear masks, keep their cohorts as small as possible, and use the province’s COVID-19 screening tool before heading to school. 

“If students aren’t close to 100 per cent healthy, they shouldn’t be attending school.”

Gish was the third St. Albert school site to experience a COVID-19 outbreak during fall 2020. Outbreaks were previously reported at Richard S. Fowler Junior High and the SIGIS Child Care Society's out-of-school care centre at Leo Nickerson


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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