County gains COVID case

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

While Hinton’s active COVID-19 cases remained at four this week, Yellowhead County gained one active case over the last weekend.

Hinton’s emergency operating centre (EOC) is not pursuing a reinstatement of the state of local emergency (SOLE) at this time. 

Throughout the province, only two municipal SOLE’s are in place, and the province remains at a level 2 operational level for their Provincial Operations Centre. 

“Our EOC is in contact with representatives from the Hinton Healthcare Centre, and they have not requested any support from us to offset the pressures of the cases in Hinton, as they are managing well,” said Hinton CAO Emily Olsen.

Council is discussing holding an Emergency Advisory Committee meeting to review and discuss Hinton’s position at this point in the pandemic, but no meeting date has been set.

“With additional cases in Hinton and area, it is a reminder that the pandemic is not over, and that physical distancing, masks, handwashing, testing and self isolating when experiencing symptoms are still extremely important measures to take to keep yourself and others safe,” Olsen said.

As of Aug. 3, Alberta had 11,146 cases of COVID-19, with 1,191 active cases. The number of deaths has risen to 201 and 9,754 individuals have recovered.

The province announced on Aug. 4 that school health measures now include mandatory masks for grade 4 to 12 students and all staff in spaces where two-metre distancing is not possible. All students and staff in public, separate, Francophone, charter, and independent schools will receive two reusable masks from Alberta’s government. 

More than 1.6 million masks will be distributed to 740,000 students and 90,000 staff, and additional single-use masks will be available at schools, if required.

This means students will be required to wear masks in all shared and common areas such as hallways and on buses. 

Mask use for kindergarten to Grade 3 students will continue to be optional, due to challenges with proper fit and compliance. Evidence shows that children under 10 may be less likely than older children or adults to transmit COVID-19, stated a release from the province.

“After reviewing the emerging evidence, it is clear that masks can play an important role in limiting the spread of COVID-19. I am not making this updated recommendation lightly, but acting on the best current evidence available,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health for Alberta.

School re-entry guidelines will continue to be adjusted based on current medical advice.

School staff will also receive one reusable face shield for their use in the schools at their own discretion. 

About 466,000 litres of hand sanitizer will be distributed between all school authorities, based on student population.

Each school will receive two contactless thermometers to assist with managing student and staff health, to be used at the discretion of the school authority.

All supplies will be distributed to school authorities prior to the 2020-21 school year, and can then be distributed to individual schools based on their needs.

Both Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) and Evergreen Catholic Separate School Division (ECSSD) have indicated they are developing return-to-school plans to meet their needs based on direction provided under the provincial school re-entry plan.

The chosen back-to-school scenario by the provincial government will allow near-normal daily operations with health measures, but school authorities are required to be prepared to move between the three scenarios outlined in the provincial school re-entry plan.

AHS continues to expand testing capacity and reduce turnaround times for testing, including for in-school staff, teachers, and students.

Last week, the province announced that asymptomatic testing would be expanded at community pharmacies. Any pharmacy in the province that wants to participate and is able to meet the safety requirements can offer testing to Albertans who have no symptoms and no known exposure to COVID-19.

During a pilot program in June, an initial group of pilot pharmacies safely tested more than 10,300 Albertans, increasing testing capacity. As of July 30, almost 677,000 COVID-19 tests had been completed across the province.

Reach out to your pharmacy for more information about how to arrange a test. A list of participating pharmacies is available through Alberta Blue Cross.