NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman is calling on the provincial government to reinstate contact tracing in schools and also provide some sort of indicator that would trigger provincial-wide school closure. (Advocate file photo)

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman is calling on the provincial government to reinstate contact tracing in schools and also provide some sort of indicator that would trigger provincial-wide school closure. (Advocate file photo)

NDP calls for government to reinstate contact tracing in schools as COVID-19 cases rise

Alberta’s NDP is calling on the provincial government to reinstate COVID-19 contact tracing in schools and install an early warning system about potential school closures due to rapid spread of the virus.

NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said in a press conference Wednesday that there are almost as many cases among school-aged children as there were in the second wave, when schools were closed.

There are nearly 5,000 active cases in the province among children between the ages of 5-19.

“These are incredibly anxious times in Alberta schools, for students, staff, and families,” said Hoffman. “Thousands of Albertans are infected with COVID-19 every week, our hospitals are overwhelmed, and the UCP government seems more focused on their own political drama than on keeping people safe.”

On Tuesday, Donalda School shifted to online learning because of COVID-19 and West Central School in Rocky Mountain House made the shift due to “operational concerns.”

Last May, as the third wave was at its peak, all schools in the province shifted to online learning to help control the spread of the virus.

Hoffman also called for the UCP government to share all of its COVID information with schools and provide some indicator that would trigger a province-wide school closure, along with daily updates on where that indicator is.

“I don’t want Alberta schools to be closed. But if we reach a point where that must happen to keep people safe, it can’t be another surprise. This throws everyone into chaos, especially working families,” said Hoffman.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Tuesday health officials are watching the data closely in regards to cases in schools.

“Certainly more cases in any age group is concerning and we are watching closely the numbers in all of our age groups,” Hinshaw said.

“We have not seen to date, a different kind of experience with respect to kids and severe outcomes than we’ve seen in previous waves. However, if we have more cases, than even with the same percent of kids to have severe outcomes, we will see an increase in the number of kids that end up needing hospital care.”

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