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Coronavirus: Daily briefing – Schools, flights and self-assessment uptake

If Alberta schools were closed as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), they likely wouldn’t open again until September – at the earliest, said Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

At the Saturday briefing, Dr. Deena Hinshaw updated media on 10 new COVID-19 cases in the province. That brings the provincial total to 39.

Of the newest cases – six in the Calgary Zone and four in the Edmonton Zone – eight are travel related. Two of the cases were still under investigation for ties to travellers.

Two of the cases, one in each zone, were admitted into intensive care. These patients are in their 60s.

“We have taken aggressive measures to limit the acceleration of spread, but we will not be able to completely stop it. I want to emphasize that we cannot be complacent, we must be vigilant,” Dr. Hinshaw said.

“And we must look out for each other by practicing good hygiene and employing other preventive measures such as social distancing where appropriate.”

School closures discussed around the province

Hinshaw revisited the discussion around Alberta school closures. She said there was a productive meeting with school boards, school authorities and other education stakeholders.

As a parent, she said she understands the concerns.

“If we do make the decision to close schools, it will be considering long term closure,” she said.

 “This pandemic will not end in a matter of weeks, and there won’t be a clear opportunity to reopen schools, likely not until September at the earliest.”

Later in the briefing, she said school closures, in order to be effective in preventing the spread, would have to be between eight and 12 weeks, leaving most school divisions near their summer break.

“I’m carefully monitoring Alberta’s situation on a minute-by-minute basis. I am prepared to consider all options including directing the closure of an individual school, a group of schools, a school division, or all in the province if the situation warrants it,” she said.

They have also shared a new guideline for schools and childcare facilities for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Other coronavirus updates from the briefing

Starting today, they will be announcing flight exposure locations.

“We will be posting the flight information for any flight or portion of a flight for passengers that may have been exposed to COVID-19,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

“We are asking for Albertans to help us by checking this information.”

Hinshaw also thanked Albertans for their uptake in using the online self-assessment tool. More than 300,000 people used the checklist in the past 24 hours since it opened online.

“By using the self-assessment tool you have helped to ease the pressure on Health Link 8-1-1 phone lines,” she said.