Childhood COVID cases hit record high as more schools see outbreaks



“What is happening with children now was completely predictable and completely preventable”

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COVID-19 cases among Alberta children have reached record highs as more schools face epidemics and absences continue to rise amid the province’s pandemic crisis.


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Alberta doctors say the only solution is a “firewall” – including school closures – after provincial data showed children in Alberta hit seven-day average of 68 cases per 100,000 last week, the highest for people aged 5 to 11 since the start of the pandemic.

The next highest peak occurred in May 2021, when children aged 5 to 11 reached an average of 54 cases per 100,000 over seven days.

“The provincial government continues to hold the belief that schools are safe and that they are not transmission engines. Yet we can see that they in fact are, and transmission is occurring in record numbers, ”said Dr Shazma Mithani, an emergency physician who treats COVID patients at the Royal Alexandra and Stollery Children’s Hospitals in Edmonton.


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Mithani has been warning since August that without more restrictions such as school closures, community transmission will increase, as will severe consequences in children.

“We have to stop the transmission of this virus, and now, unfortunately, that means we have to close the schools,” Mithani said.

“We cannot wait for a terrible outcome, like the death of a child. It would be so devastating on so many levels. And it would be entirely the fault of policy makers if this were to happen.

“What is happening with children now was completely predictable and completely preventable. “

Premier Jason Kenney appeared Tuesday with several other provincial officials to announce they would pass legislation to protect access to hospitals from anti-vaccination protesters.


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But even admitting that the pressures on hospital capacity won’t abate until at least the end of October, no new restrictions have been introduced.

In fact, Kenney said the province is “determined” to keep schools open for the benefit of students, parents and the outside community.

“We prioritize schools, knowing that there are very real impacts on mental health and well-being. Not having the opportunity to socialize and teach in the classroom can be very difficult, ”Kenney said.

Yet more than 198 schools across Alberta are under outbreak notification, meaning at least 10 percent of their school population is absent due to respiratory illness. And that’s already a big jump from the end of last week, when the numbers hovered around 160 schools.


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But the number of actual COVID cases in schools remains unknown after the province abandoned case tracking, providing resources for contact tracing and ensuring that students and staff exposed to positive cases stay home for avoid further spread.

The Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District do not make public the number of positive cases in their schools because they can only be reported voluntarily by families and may not represent an exact total.

  1. Calgary Board Chair, Marilyn Dennis, speaks to media on Monday, March 16, 2020.

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  2. Calgary children return to school at Guy Weadick Elementary School in Temple on Wednesday, September 1, 2021.

    Calgary school board demands province re-establish contact tracing as cases increase in elementary schools

  3. Students at Stanley Jones School enter class on Tuesday, September 1, 2020. It was the first day for students at the Calgary Board of Education resuming amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Calgary school board takes responsibility for informing families of COVID-19 cases

  4. Niitsitapi Learning Center is presented in Southeast Calgary on Thursday, September 9, 2021.

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Dr. Tahseen Ladha, a pediatrician and assistant professor of public health at the University of Alberta, agreed the province should proceed with a “firewall,” which means shutting down all non-essential services and shutting down schools.


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“The schools, which are essential, must close. Unfortunately, we’ve left this for so long that we can’t get out of it now without closing the schools.

“But we also need to provide supports to families who may need to stay at home with children.”

Ladha also argued that as cases in children increase, the severe consequences will also increase.

“If we continue to allow this rapid increase, when you increase the number of cases in children, you will increase the number of cases in children with serious results.

“And it will be a very scary thing when that happens.”

This week, the Canadian Pediatric Society also raised concerns about the increase in cases in children, sending a letter to the province calling for the reinstatement of testing, tracing and isolation protocols in schools.


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“Not only are we extremely concerned about the direct health impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in Alberta on children and youth, we are also concerned about the threat to their access to education, community supports and essential services, ”reads the letter, signed by Dr. Ruth Grimes, President of the Society, and Dr. Raphael Sharon, Board Representative for Alberta.

The company is also calling for vaccines to be mandatory for all education workers in schools, including teachers, teaching assistants and other support staff.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association also supports immunization mandates for education workers.

But while school districts said it was up to the province to implement the mandates, provincial officials said it was up to individual school districts as employers to put them in place.

Medeana Moussa, spokesperson for advocacy group Support Our Students, said families continue to feel abandoned as fear and uncertainty about COVID exposures in schools continue to rise.

“Students are already facing disruption in their education due to the fear, stress and anxiety around COVID, and the lack of information from this government. “

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