Coronavirus Update From AHS - Classes Cancelled Effective March 16, 2020
March 15, 2020 - Parkland School Division would like to offer parents and guardians an update on the developing health concern related to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The safety of our students and staff is always first priority. When it comes to matters such as this, the Division will always take the lead from and follow the recommendations from Canada's and Alberta's health agencies, which are the Public Health Agency of Canada and Alberta Health Services.
On Sunday March 15, 2020 - the province enacted the aggressive measure to curb the spread of COVID-19 by closing all Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools in the province. More information will be posted here as it becomes available.
On Saturday March 14, 2020 - Alberta Health Services offered this update:
Recommendations outlined included the following steps to protect the health of students and staff:
- eliminate large congregations of students
- ensure no more than 250 people are in the same room at any given time
- cancel sports or other extracurricular activities that involve physical contact
- follow guidelines for schools and child care programs
On Friday March 13, 2020, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health stated that schools will remain open as aggressive steps have already been implemented. The CMO stated that there have been other countries who have successfully contained the spread of the virus without closing schools as part of their strategy and that the World Health Organization is not recommending the closure of schools as one of the effective aggressive strategies at this time.
On Thursday March 12th, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health issued the following update:
Effective immediately, the Alberta government is asking all large gatherings or international events in the province to be cancelled and advising Albertans against travel outside of the country.
Alberta is asking organizers to cancel any events that have more than 250 attendees. This includes large sporting events, conferences and community events. It does not extend to places of worship, grocery stores, airports or shopping centres.
Any event that has more than 50 attendees and expects to have international participants, or involves critical infrastructure staff, seniors, or other high-risk populations should also be cancelled.
Events that do not meet these criteria can proceed, but risk mitigation must be in place, such as sanitizer stations and distancing between attendees.
At this time, schools and daycares can remain open but steps should be taken to ensure that no more than 250 individuals are in the same room at any given time.
Effective March 12, all Albertans who are currently outside the country should self-isolate on their return for 14 days, independent of the country they were visiting.
From a Facilities Services perspective, the Division has increased the extent and frequency of cleaning in all buildings, focusing on door handles, taps and other frequently-touched surfaces.
All planned travel is under review. At this point, Parkland School Division is not cancelling all field trips. Individual trips are being evaluated and some cancellations are likely.
Schools monitor attendance on a daily basis and if there is an overall absentee rate of 10% or more, for the same reason, this is reported to Alberta Health Services. (For example, this occurs during the cold and influenza season.)
Alberta is still considered low-risk for the virus, as there are 39 identified cases in the province, all related to travel. Naturally, we encourage everyone to adhere to the Alberta Health Services recommendations for measures to prevent the spread of any respiratory virus, which include:
- Making sure everyone in households washes their hands with soap and water often. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if hands are not visibly dirty.
- Avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Using a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it in a garbage bag lined with a plastic bag. Wash your hands immediately after that. If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve.
- Staying home if you're sick. If children are sick, keep them home from school.
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are used often and/or shared by everyone in your home.
Alberta Health Services has asked school divisions throughout the province to distribute the following information:
- March 3 Letter For Parents - English
- March 3 Letter For Parents - French
- Self-Isolation Information - English
- Self-Isolation Information - French
While AHS is working very proactively to ensure school communities stay informed about Coronavirus, it is important to remember that the current risk to Albertans is low. There are 39 confirmed or probable cases of the COVID-19 in Alberta at this time. Most are related to travel.
If the situation changes and further measures are needed (quarantine, etc.), Parkland School Division will take our lead from those health agencies mentioned above. It's important to note that school divisions do not decide to close schools in extreme cases - public health agencies do.
For further reading, families are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Parkland School Division's Administrative Procedures that deal specifically with communicable diseases and pandemic response.