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COVID case sends students home

Masha Scheele
reporter@hintonvoice.ca


Precautionary measure impacts seven classes at EMV

Seven classes at Ecole Mountain View were sent home as the result of an individual from the elementary school testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, Nov. 30.

“We are sending home people as a precautionary measure and there’s one positive COVID-19 case here, it affects a lot of people, but there has only been one COVID case. Our hope is that everybody will stay home as a precaution and will be safe and will be OK,” said Kurt Scobie, principal of Mountain View.

Scobie explained that this is not considered an outbreak, but students will have to monitor for symptoms during their 14 days of required isolation after last contact with the case.

In the meantime, teachers will provide students with at-home assignments and learning until they return to school on Dec. 9.

Teachers are working on what the next six class days will look like and will send out packages to their students.

“I think the teachers feel it is easier overall to move into online learning. It’s not the same difficulty as there was in March,” Scobie said.

The school was notified of the positive COVID-19 result on the morning of Nov. 30, but the individual had been self-isolating since the onset of symptoms on Nov. 25.

Through contact tracing, anyone who was in close contact on Nov. 23, 24, and 25 was notified.

School staff immediately determined that the individual worked within close proximity of students in two Grade three classes who were then sent home.

“You want everybody to be safe and you don’t want to send anybody home scared. We were sending home Grade three’s in the middle of the day. Their teachers did a fantastic job of keeping them calm, being supportive for them, all of it. Answering all the questions they needed to,” Scobie said.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) explained that anyone in the same room as the individual for at least 15 minutes, masked or not, would be considered a close contact.

The individual was wearing a mask for the duration of their time in each classroom.

After speaking with AHS, five more classes were notified that the individual had been in their classroom and they would be required to stay home as well. 

Families from one grade one, grade two, grade six, and two grade five classes were contacted.

Scobie said that while the process went smoothly, contacting the families and caretakers was difficult. Teachers and staff don’t want to send students home and want to provide the best learning environment as possible, he added.

“We feel bad and nobody wants to be the person that has COVID. Everybody that’s here cares about these kids and wants to do the best by them and it’s devastating to be the person that has covid and feels they’ve disappointed everyone,” Scobie said.

Parents were very understanding and staff were able to answer as many questions as they could.

Scobie explained that siblings of primary contacts can still continue coming to school and only primary contacts have to stay home to isolate.

All classes are cleaned every day and affected classrooms will undergo a deep clean.

Students don’t have to get tested unless they show symptoms. Pending any other positive cases, students and teachers will return to school on Dec. 9. 

Families of students and staff were reminded to monitor for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and fill out the online Alberta Health Services COVID-19 self-assessment or call Health Link at 811 if they notice symptoms.

Scobie noted that the health unit has been very supportive as well as the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD).

“Everytime we’re confused about something and we ask, we get answers. I get answers from my division that are good and I get answers from AHS that’s been good,” Scobie said.

Dr. Kelly Harding, assistant superintendent at GYPSD, stated that the division is proud of how their teachers are handling the situation and are focusing on kids learning. 

“From a division perspective, we are very appreciative of the hard work of every school leader and the families and the staff who contribute to keeping the school risk free of transmission,” she said.

Diana Rinne, senior communications advisor at AHS, noted that an SMS text system was implemented to quickly notify persons of their positive COVID-19 test results.

“This means that people are getting test results 24/7 and receive the instructions to immediately isolate. As such, when students test positive for COVID-19, parents often receive a text message ahead of being phoned by AHS and will often notify their child’s school before AHS has completed contact tracing,” Rinne said.

AHS is prioritizing school-aged children for case investigations and contact tracing and streamlining the process to ensure that teachers and school staff are easily identified for prioritization as well.  

With confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise across Alberta, local Dr. Noel Corser stated that Hinton’s hospital is also feeling the pressure.

“Our hospital doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is affected by the overall health system – currently Jasper is unable to admit new patients so they may come here, and we’ve had to open space for Edmonton patients because Edmonton is overflowing,” Corser stated.

When Edmonton is severely backed up, it’s more likely that patients who need Edmonton-level care won’t be able to get it, and that’s scary, he reiterated.

Corser stated that people should not avoid coming to the hospital if they’re sick, which happened to some extent in the spring, and led to worse outcomes in some cases.

People should avoid leaving their house if they’re sick for any reason other than going to the hospital, he added.

“We got lucky in the spring, and have been lucky since then. Ignoring the public health advice is a bit like drinking and driving–you can get away with it for a while, but sooner or later you’re going to kill somebody,” Corser said.

Doing the right thing will get Alberta through this, he added, which means abiding by the restrictions.

During the council meeting on Dec. 1, CAO Emily Olsen noted that the mandatory mask bylaw has been received well with some questions and without any enforcement issues. There had been no complaints about anyone not following the bylaw.

As of Dec. 1, Hinton had 12 active cases of COVID-19 in its region.

Due to a provincial order passed on Nov. 27, all regions and municipalities that entered into enhanced status during the order, like Hinton, will remain in an enhanced status until at least Dec. 15, Olsen added.“That’s been confirmed that Hinton has passed that threshold after Nov. 27 and will remain enhanced until further notice,” Olsen said.