The UCP has hit back after the NDP claimed the governing party covered up COVID-19 cases in schools. On Friday, the NDP released a document that showed a number of schools in Central Alberta had severe COVID-19 outbreaks. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The UCP has hit back after the NDP claimed the governing party covered up COVID-19 cases in schools. On Friday, the NDP released a document that showed a number of schools in Central Alberta had severe COVID-19 outbreaks. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

UCP responds to claims they covered up COVID-19 cases in schools

After the Alberta NDP claimed that the UCP hid data on COVID-19 cases in schools, the province’s governing party has issued a response.

Friday evening, Nicole Sparrow, press secretary for Alberta’s Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange said it’s unfortunate that the opposition party would “misrepresent the facts” around COVID-19 cases in schools.

“It is unfortunate that the Opposition has either misunderstood or misrepresented the facts around COVID-19 in our schools, especially when their actions might needlessly cause fear for parents, teachers and students. The safety of our schools has always been our top priority throughout the pandemic,” Sparrow said in an email.

“Alberta Education continues to work closely with Alberta Health and Dr. (Deena) Hinshaw’s team to monitor the impacts of COVID on our schools. We will continue to listen to the advice of our chief medical officer and do what is necessary to ensure a safe and successful school year.”

On Friday, the NDP released a document that outlined COVID-19 outbreaks in a number of Central Alberta schools over the past several weeks, many of which included outbreaks of the Delta variant.

Some of those schools were in LaGrange’s Red Deer-North riding.

At least five schools in the region had more than 65 cases of the virus.

The UCP said that three of the schools the NDP mentioned, Bentley School, Ponoka Elementary and Stettler Elementary had lower active case numbers than were cited.

According to the UCP, Bentley School had nine active cases of the virus on Oct. 5, while the NDP document had the school with 66 cases after an outbreak was declared on Sept. 27.

Ponoka Elementary had 89 cases in the NDP document but only had 14 active as of Oct. 5 according to the provincial government. Stettler Elementary had seven active in data provided by the UCP, while the NDP document noted the school had 89 cases after an outbreak was declared on Sept. 23.

In her email response, Sparrow also said the UCP has committed to making changes to help keep students safe. She pointed to an announcement about the province’s new rapid COVID-19 test program, which will be rolled out in select K-6 schools where there are outbreaks of the virus.

She also noted that the province has resumed public reporting of COVID-19 in schools. For the month of September, that data was not publicly available, after the province made the decision in August to not follow the same protocols for school reporting that they did last year.

“This is on top of the health measures already in place in schools such as mandatory masking for all school staff and students in Grade 4 and up, class cohorting in elementary schools, staying home when sick, proper hand hygiene, daily screening for symptoms using the Alberta Health Daily Checklist and isolating if they have core COVID-19 symptoms,” Sparrow said.

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