Albertans say it’s time for the province to let the public know which schools have variant COVID-19 cases.
As of Wednesday, Alberta has seen a total of 775 cases of the U.K. and South African variants, including 142 in Central zone.
Wing Li, communications director with advocacy group Support Our Students Alberta, said information about variants at schools has been sparse.
The latest update stated there were 35 schools with variant cases, but the province does not identify exactly which schools have variants.
“This week it went from 31 schools to 35 schools in a span of three days. This is a sign we just need more information so we can track properly what precautions need to be taken,” Li said.
“These are kids we’re talking about. We want them to stay in school. Not knowing compounds that anxiety.”
Provincial data showed St. Teresa of Avila School, St. Patrick’s Community School, St. Joseph High School, and St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School were dealing with COVID outbreaks of 10 or more cases, and Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School had five to nine cases.
Li said right now some schools alert families about variants and there needs to be consistency to eliminate the rumours. The number of variants will likely increase in the months ahead.
“Be upfront. It makes people feel empowered and gives them that information to be informed and make their own decisions about their behaviour and choices.
“Children particularly are going to be susceptible because they can’t get the vaccine just because of their age. We’re concerned about the variants for that reason, and we don’t know yet how it affects them.”
Li said the province’s new rapid testing pilot underway at a few Calgary schools may well be connected to the rise in variants.
Jason Schilling, Alberta Teachers’ Association president, said teachers have been advocating for rapid testing at schools since last fall. School staff should also be a priority when it comes to vaccination.
“The government has made keeping schools open a priority. It’s the most ideal space to be teaching so we want school staff to be vaccinated. Especially if we see the variants come in, it just gives that extra level of safety for folks working in schools and their families,” Schilling said.
He said the ATA has also been asking for transparent numbers when it comes to COVID cases, and is keeping the pressure on government to be proactive with the threat of variants.
“We need to look at providing that extra support. That’s going to require extra funding from government and to make sure our contact tracing is done as soon as possible.”