Alberta public health measures set to expire on Monday will remain in place for another six weeks, while newly announced back-to-school guidelines don’t mandate in-class masks but will include school-based vaccinations, Alberta’s top public health doctor announced Friday.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, also announced that mandatory isolation for 10 days for those with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result will also continue until Sept. 27.
“The last time I stood in front of you I shared with you the plan to shift towards a more sustainable approach to COVID-19, where we could use an enhanced version of the public health systems that manage other respiratory viruses to also manage COVID,” Hinshaw said.
“At that time, I promised you that we would closely monitor COVID-19 for a two-week period, and adapt as needed before the remaining changes came into effect on Aug. 16.”
She said non-ICU hospitalizations are trending higher than anticipated and emerging evidence from the U.S. about pediatric cases with the delta variant prompted her to recommend deferring the changes originally scheduled for Monday.
Measures that will remain in place until Sept. 27 include:
- Mandatory masking orders in publicly accessible transit, taxis and ride-shares
- Mandatory isolation for 10 days for those with COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test result
- Testing at assessment centres for any symptomatic individual
Hinshaw announced Friday that masking will not be required provincially in school settings, but school officials have the authority to put in local measures — such as physical distancing, cohorting and mandatory masking — if those decisions are right for them and their communities, she said.
Starting Sept. 7, temporary COVID-19 vaccine clinics in schools for students in grades 7 to 12 and for teachers and staff.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said that at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, those measures are “best left” to local authorities to decide for themselves.
“Thanks to the power of vaccines and the dedication of Albertans, parents, students and school staff can look forward to a normal school year this September, which includes a return to in-person classes, field trips, team sports, extracurricular clubs, school celebrations and reconnecting with friends and colleagues,” LaGrange said.
“I am very much looking forward to a normal school experience this fall and I know there are many, many Alberta parents and students who are also looking forward to it.”
Edmonton Catholic and public school boards wrote to LaGrange and Health Minister Tyler Shandro this week, seeking authority to mandate masks in schools and require people sick with COVID-19 to isolate.
The letter, made public Thursday, cited the prevalence of the delta strain of the coronavirus, Canada entering a fourth wave of disease and vaccination rates that are short of what is needed for herd immunity.
New cases of COVID-19 this week have reached the highest level since late May.
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