Coronavirus: No Alberta school closures at this time, says Dr. Deena Hinshaw

No evidence of community spread of coronavirus yet, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw - Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health.

IMPORTANT UPDATE TO THIS STORY. CLASSES NOW CANCELLED – STORY HERE.

Calgary schools will remain open, despite mounting questions from teachers and parents about their health safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, school boards in southern Alberta, including Calgary, cancelled extra-curricular activities and other inter-school events that involved large gatherings. At the same time, the province restricted gatherings of 250 people or more.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, in her daily briefing where media were informed of another six coronavirus cases, she said she understands the worry from families and teachers.

“We have seen other provinces and countries close schools as a preventive measure,” she said.

“What is important to know is that school closures are not universally agreed on as an effective intervention to prevent spread.”

FURTHER READING: Does closing schools slow the spread of coronavirus? (Links to other reads in this, too)

FURTHER READING: School closures and class suspensions: WHO – 2009 H1n1 pandemic

Alberta’s aggressive public health measures the first step

Dr. Hinshaw said that in the areas where school closures have been enacted, they haven’t taken the same aggressive public health measures as have been done in Alberta.

She also said that the World Health Organization doesn’t recommend school closures as the only way to prevent spread among children.

“Given the current situation in Alberta, the fact that any school closure would need to be in place for months, not weeks, to be effective, the fact that students may still be at risk of spreading infection in other settings besides schools, even if schools were closed, I have advised that school closures not be implemented at this time,” Hinshaw said.

Steps should still be taken to limit groups to less than 250 people.

During Friday’s media update, the province said a new, online self-assessment tool would be available for people to run through a checklist to see if they should pursue further COVID-19 treatment. You can find it here (should go live within 24 hours, province said.)

Dr. Hinshaw also said that they’re not requiring post-secondary schools close either.

She once again reiterated that COVID-19 spread is best stopped through proper hygiene: Hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing and if using the washroom. Avoid touching your face. If you’re feeling ill – stay home.

No community-acquired cases, said Dr. Hinshaw

Dr. Hinshaw said the situation is rapidly evolving and much consideration has been given to school closures.

“Given that at the moment, we again, have no community acquired cases of COVID-19 in this province, and given that we know that the World Health Organization again has said that there are multiple ways to keep the school environment safe given that we know that some countries that have been very successful in containing the spread of COVID have not, in fact, closed their schools,” she said.

“And given that any school closure, in my opinion, would need to be in place for many months in order to be effective, this is not a decision to be made lightly or a decision to be made in the short term.

“And so, I believe that by working very closely together with school boards in schools, we can help them put in place measures to make that school environment as safe as possible.”

Hinshaw said a province-wide closure of schools wouldn’t be the best thing for reducing risk of students, teachers and staff.

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4 Comments

  1. Deena you need to close the schools. And keep people that are living with someone with Covid -19 under isolation. Very disappointed by your lack of positive action.

  2. I’m an elementary school teacher and young students aren’t very good about washing hands. They like to pick their nose. Deena must have been home schooled. I don’t agree with waiting until we have a bigger problem. Disappointed not following other provinces action to take preventative measures.

  3. I am a high school student in Alberta. I do not understand why we are not closing schools for a period of time. We are jeopardizing students and teachers well-being. Also, if Alberta health made a rule that stated, the maximum amount of people at a “function” is 250 people, schools are well over that amount, I just don’t understand why we can not close schools for a period of time to maintain students and teachers healthy lives. What Deena said makes no sense to me at all. We can have alternate ways of maintaining our marks and staying on schedule for school, such as “e-learning”. I just do not understand why Deena suggests to keep on putting the possibility of people getting harmed out there.

  4. Dr. Hinshaw says, “that COVID-19 spread is best stopped through proper hygiene: Hand washing with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing and if using the washroom. Avoid touching your face.”

    How is she not taking children’s hygiene into consideration, isn’t she a mother ? Has she never been to an elementry school? Kids are sticking their fingers in their eyes, nose, mouth, and then touching the friends faces, books, playground equipment, the list goes on. It is absolutely ridiculous that she is not taking steps to close the schools for a period of time until things seem like they are getting under control. Shame on her when this gets out of hand for the children, teachers, families, and then everybody.

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