1st COVID-19 outbreaks at Alberta schools confirmed in Calgary and Lethbridge


Alberta has reported its first COVID-19 outbreaks at public high schools in Calgary and Lethbridge.

In south Calgary, parents and staff at Henry Wise Wood High School received a letter from Alberta Health Services Wednesday evening confirming that two or more people with COVID-19 had attended the school while infectious.

“Public Health staff are investigating to determine who may have been exposed at your school to cases of COVID-19 during their infectious period,” AHS wrote n the letter. 

In an emailed statement to CBC News, AHS said that an outbreak is defined as two or more confirmed cases at the same school within 14 days.

“Any individual considered exposed to this case will be contacted directly by Alberta Health Services, per standard contact tracing procedures. Infection prevention control measures (physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, environmental cleaning) have also been reviewed with the school,” said AHS. 

In Lethbridge, parents and staff at Chinook High School  received a similar letter on Wednesday, stating that an outbreak has been confirmed at the school

According to a statement on the school’s website, AHS has notified the division that there are two COVID-19 cases and that any close contacts will be contacted by the school through an emailed letter and individually by AHS.

“At this time, based on advice from AHS, Chinook High School will remain open,” read the online statement.

The news of the outbreaks comes a few hours after the province confirmed Wednesday afternoon that none of the 16 schools with cases reported two or more within a 14-day period. 

At the Wednesday news conference, the province also announced the launch of an online map that will list every school that reports two or more cases within a 14-day period, in situations where the virus could have been acquired or transmitted within the school itself. However, the map has not been updated to include the Calgary or Lethrbridge outbreaks.

“We are working to understand the perspectives of school stakeholders on this, as it is important that we balance transparency and confidentiality as we always do,” she said. “I will update Albertans on this work in the coming days, and we are committed to continue improving the online map.” 

Parents respond

Virginia Wong’s daughter attends Henry Wise Wood High School and says parents need more information.

“I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed that the outbreak occurred after two days of full in-person learning and I felt fearful for myself as well as for the students. There’s no clear direction for them, so there’s anxiety,” she said.

Despite it only being the second day of school, Wong says she is unable to transfer her daughter into online learning through the hub.

“I opted out of hub learning for many reasons but because I thought for the classes my daughter was taking that it would be better off in person in the long run,” she said.

“But now I don’t have that [online] option because they closed registration and they’re not allowing people to move from in-person to hub learning.”

Other schools with reported cases

In Edmonton, schools with cases — but not outbreaks — include Archbishop MacDonald High School, Louis St. Laurent, École Sainte-Jeanne-d’Arc and Ross Sheppard High, a public school in northwest Edmonton that has sent nearly 100 students into isolation.

Individual coronavirus cases have also been identified at Calgary schools, including Divine Mercy Catholic Elementary, Bowness High School, Bridlewood School, St. Angela School, St. Rose of Lima School, Lester B. Pearson High School, Notre Dame High School, St. Francis High School and Arbour Lake School, as well as W.H. Croxford High School in Airdrie.

One new case has been recorded at St. Wilfrid Elementary School in northeast Calgary— making a total of two cases there.

In other parts of Alberta, Raymond High School in Raymond and Lawrence Grassi Middle School in Canmore are also dealing with individual cases.

Read more at CBC.ca