Alberta’s top doctor says her kids will return to school, but no wrong answers

EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer says her children will return to the classroom in September, but that every parent will have to weigh what’s right for their family.

“As a parent of school-aged children, I have decided the value of in-school learning outweighs the risks for my family,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing.

But she says there’s no wrong decision when it comes to in-school or online learning.

“Each parent is uniquely positioned to make the best decision for their family and school authorities have worked to provide innovative options to support student learning, wherever that may be.”

Hinshaw said it’s important to look at the big picture and not dwell on one or two examples of successes or failures elsewhere in the world.

“There is a dizzying array of information available on schools and COVID-19 transmission in children,” she said.

“It can feel hard to make sense of it all, especially when it sometimes seems to be contradictory.”

Hinshaw said a broad look at the available evidence suggests kids are less likely to get seriously sick if infected and that childhood infections don’t seem to drive community spread.

It also shows that younger children are less likely to infect others than older ones, who seem to transmit the virus at the same rate as adults.

Hinshaw said successful school reopenings seem to be linked to how much transmission is happening in the wider community, outside of schools.

In Georgia, for instance, there have been outbreaks in schools, but she noted the state also has a new daily case rate 12 times higher than Alberta’s.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association has called on Alberta’s United Conservative government to delay the start of the school year until after Sept. 7.

Association president Jason Schilling made the announcement Wednesday after meeting with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to discuss concerns about the province’s back-to-school plan.

The government has said students are to return to class as early as Sept. 1.

Schilling said teachers, principals and other staff need more time to prepare for students.

He said there needs to be increased physical distancing through reduced class sizes, funding for better protective equipment, and better plans for screening and testing students and staff for COVID-19.

Alberta reported 103 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, compared to 89 new infections a day earlier.

There are now 1,084 active cases, more than half in the Edmonton zone. Forty three people are in hospital, including 12 in intensive care.

The province reported one more death, bringing the total to 228.

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