Friday, September 30, 2022

Alberta extends winter break for K-12 until January 10, as Alberta reports record-breaking 4,000 new COVID-19 cases

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Alberta has extended the winter break for students in kindergarten through Class 12 until January 10, as the province reported an estimated record-breaking 4,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.

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The students were initially planning to return to school next Tuesday. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said on Thursday evening that the decision to delay return to school was made after a cabinet committee meeting earlier in the day.

She said during the winter break she heard concerns about Omicron Edition’s rising cases and how it would affect schools, including staffing challenges for teachers, bus drivers, patrons, educational assistants, administrators and maintenance workers.

“Schools are expecting a large number of students absenteeism, making it difficult for teachers to manage learning individually and at home at the same time,” he said.

“School authorities will use this week to gather more information and prepare instructions for students starting on January 10,” she said.

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“I believe this additional time will prepare school officials for a successful startup.”

LaGrange said the province recognizes that the delay will cause learning disruptions and therefore also cancel diploma exams, which are scheduled to begin on January 11.

In addition to the delay, LaGrange said that on January 10, 8.6 million at-home rapid tests will be distributed to Alberta’s schools and 16.5 million medical-grade masks will be provided for staff and students.

“This will bring convenience and is an additional measure to reduce the risk of in-school transmission,” she said.

Alberta follows other provinces that announced delays in in-person schooling, including British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, which pushed return to school to January 10, while classes in New Brunswick to January 18 and Newfoundland are scheduled to return. And the Labrador has been online indefinitely.

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Meanwhile the province provided estimated COVID-19 numbers on Thursday.

Nearly 4,000 new cases were reported, breaking Wednesday’s record of 2,775. The positivity rate is estimated to be 30 percent.

There are 371 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 22 from Wednesday. Of those, 48 are in intensive care units, a decrease of nine.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across Canada, a new study from Ontario suggests that the impact on the health care system will be significant, even if the severity of the omicron is less likely to lead to hospitalization or death.

Alberta Health Services is monitoring the situation in the province and preparing for potential impacts on staffing and patient care.

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“Other jurisdictions have seen an increase in the number of health care workers taking sick days as a result of Omicron. We are also beginning to see possible early signs of this,” spokesman James Wood said in a statement.

“As of today, health care services are not being affected, although we plan for increased illness of the workforce. Plans include moving staff members to top priority areas, using alternative models of care and expanding the available workforce. Priority for testing to the maximum includes (health care workers).”

He said that reduction in services and surgeries could also be considered to redeploy the staff in the highest areas of need.

Woods said the number of COVID-19 positive health care workers so far in December, according to preliminary data, is in line with recent months.

The rate of illness in December 2019 was 5.3 per cent, while the rate of illness in December 2020 was 5.6 per cent. The rate of illness in November 2021 was 5.4%.

“We anticipate that we will see an increase in sick rates in the coming days as the omicron continues to spread,” Woods said.

more to come.

—With files from Lisa Johnson and The Canadian Press

[email protected]

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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