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Outbreak guide welcome, says CESD superintendent

Document outlines plans for stakeholder cooperation
MVT Standalone Sundre River Vall students bus
Students at Sundre's River Valley School, all appropriately masked as per provincial regulations, get off a school bus and head to classes on Sept. 1. In-person classes in the 11,000-student Chinook's Edge School Division were suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and resumed Sept. 1. Dan Singleton/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – The newly released resource guide outlining how schools should deal with COVID-19 outbreaks now that classes have resumed is a worthwhile and welcome tool, says Chinook’s Edge School Division superintendent Kurt Sacher.

“It’s good for us,” said Sacher. “The fact that Alberta Health will help us out right out of the gate if there is a worst case scenario. They have also provided us with sample letters to communicate, so we feel well positioned in a worse case scenario. We are set up to get the year going.”

The guide states, in part, that, “closures of specific classes, cohorts or schools may occur dependent on the outcome of an Alberta Health investigation. Public health measures for outbreak management are at the discretion of the zone medical officer of health.”

The resource guide outlines tools available to school divisions when responding at any COVID-19 outbreaks in the school setting, including what to do when there are symptomatic students and/or staff members.

It also outlines how to report information and what information to provide to students, teachers, parents, visitors and volunteers.

The guide has been sent out to all schools including public, separate, francophone, charter and independent, as well as to early childhood services, and online and distant learning programs.

The guide itself is broken down into six key sections: standard practice; symptoms only; alert declared; outbreak declared; public reporting; and outbreak over.

The guide outlines what should be done should one student develop symptoms of COVID-19 infection, the child should be asked to wear a non-medical mask, the children should be isolated in a separate room, the child’s parent or guardian should be notified to pick up the student immediately.

If close contact is required with the student, staff members should also use a face shield or eye protection, as well as the required face covering.

If there is one confirmed case in a school setting, the school will be placed on alert status. Under that status when instructed by Alberta Health Services, the school must inform parents/guardians of one case in the school and what actions are being taken to mitigate the risk of spread.

If there are two or more confirmed cases, the school will be placed on an outbreak alert. Under that status school administrators will information parents/guardians, and schools are required to work collaboratively with Alberta Health Services Public Health under the authority of the zone medical officer of health or designate in order to manage the outbreak and adhere to any recommendations.

If there are five or more confirmed cases, the outbreak would be publicly reported on the Alberta Health outbreak website, and would see the zone medical officer make recommendations or provide orders to effectively control the outbreak.

The complete resource guide is available for viewing on the Alberta Health website.