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Thursday , 15 April 2021

9 positive COVID cases at Smoky Lake school; 10 new in Cold Lake, 15 in Lac La Biche

COVID-19 update for the Lakeland area

There are currently nine active cases of COVID-19 associated with H.A. Kostash School in Smoky Lake.

According to Ross Hunter, a communications officer for Aspen View Public Schools the division was informed of the additional positive on Nov. 29 and made the decision to close the school for a deep clean on Nov. 30.

“Alberta Health has the purview to direct us to take additional measures. They have not done so at this point. The decision to close the school on Monday and do the deep clean was an Aspen View decision,” said Hunter.

Staff and students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 were able to return to school on Dec. 1, while students from Grade 7 to 12 continue their learning at home as directed by the province last week.

The H.A. Kostash outbreak began Nov. 22, with 88 students and six staff identified as close contacts. The school was informed of three more positive tests on Nov. 27, with an additional six students and seven staff considered close contacts.

Another positive was identified on Nov. 30, with nine students and four staff being close contacts. The division received notice of the most recent case on Dec. 2, with ten students and four staff as close contacts.

“Some of those may have been close contacts of subsequent cases (both connected to the school or otherwise), so their self-isolation periods may have been extended,” said Hunter, explaining why he was unable to give an accurate number for how many staff and students are currently isolating in relation to the outbreak.

Anyone from the initial Nov. 22 group whose quarantine was not extended is eligible to return to school today.

Aspen View superintendent Neil O’Shea said “Aspen View and H.A. Kostash School administration are diligently following Alberta Health Services guidance to ensure the necessary steps are taken to protect the health and safety of students and staff.”

In the St. Paul Regional Education Division, there are cases of COVID-19 at St. Paul Regional High School, St. Paul Elementary School, and Two Hills Mennonite School.

According to superintendent Glen Brodziak, the division contacted “in the neighbourhood of 50 students and three staff” in relation to the St. Paul Regional High School case. He said that number comes after a review of the attendance records from Nov. 26 and Nov. 27.

“Our exact wording is out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that you isolate,” said Brodziak, noting the division was informed by someone other than AHS about the positive. He declined to be more specific to protect the privacy of the person with COVID-19.

“Given that we understand how overwhelmed that system is, and how hard they’re working, we are saying we strongly recommend because technically AHS has the authority. But we’re trying to find that balance to keep our staff and our students and our community all safe,” said Brodziak.

According to Brodziak, with the province having shifted Grades 7 through 12 to at-home learning as of Nov. 30, it does lessen the impact somewhat “because for the most part these students aren’t even coming to school.”

A class of 17 students, approximately six from the school bus, and four staff members of St. Paul Elementary are isolating after a positive case reported in the evening of Nov. 29.

According to Brodziak, the administration got on the phone with parents that night because “that’s just that’s what it takes right now.”

He said even when they get the information at seven or eight in evening, the administration regroups and makes the phone calls either from the school or at home.

“We don’t want these students possibly riding the bus in the next day or coming and interacting with other students,” said Brodziak.

At Two Hills Mennonite School, a staff member has fallen ill with the virus. Brodziak said the division was informed yesterday, Dec. 1 and contacted the 17 students and four staff who were close contacts.

Lakeland update

Cases continue to increase in the Lac La Biche area on Tuesday, with 15 new positive tests were reported on the province’s COVID-19 data map under “local geographic area.”

There are 70 active cases and 26 recovered in that area.

In the St. Paul-Saddle Lake area, there are 92 active cases and 212 recovered. That’s 11 new cases on Tuesday.

Ten new cases were reported in the Cold Lake area, leaving 67 active cases and 70 recovered.

In the Bonnyville area, there are 26 active cases and 69 recovered, which is six new cases under “local geographic area” on the COVID data map.

Three new infections were reported in the Smoky Lake area Tuesday, 27 active and 28 recovered–one new case is reported in the Frog Lake area.

Two Hills County has 17 active cases within the municipality and there are 12 active cases within Vermilion River County, which went under enhanced health measures earlier this week. Two new cases in each of these communities.

Alberta today

Premier Jason Kenney announced the plans on how to administer a COVID-19 vaccine within “the next few weeks.”

“We are ready for the vaccine and we have a plan to get out to you as quickly and as safely as possible. Of course, there will be updates and changes to this plan as more details around vaccine delivery become available and as the phases of this plan are announced,” he said during Wednesday’s press conference.

The three-phased plan would begin in January-March and see some of the province’s most vulnerable get the first doses of the vaccine, including long term care home residents, hospital staff at the most risk of spread, and on-reserve First Nations over the age of 65.

His timeline suggested that in the summer the average Albertan could get immunized.

However, Kenney said any vaccine would not be mandatory.

“Alberta’s Government will not make any mandatory vaccination. Some think that this is controversial, but we don’t like in a country where the government can inject you with something against your will,” he said.

Kenney alluded to the vaccines needing approvals before they could be administered.

On Wednesday, chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw confirmed 1,685 new cases of the virus after roughly 18,400 tests.

The positivity rate has jumped from 8.4 per cent to 9.2 per cent.

There is 504 Albertans in hospital with 97 of those in intensive care.

Ten deaths have been reported to Alberta Health related to COVID in the past 24 hours. The death toll is 561.

With files from Michael Menzies.

About Meredith Kerr

Meredith Kerr moved to St. Paul for a career in journalism and morning radio in 2014 expecting to stay for six months to a year. Since then, she has put down roots in the form of a husband, a mortgage, two babies, and a poorly behaved dog. She continues to work as a reporter until such time as she finishes her book and becomes fabulously wealthy from the royalties. Meredith also serves as a member at large on the St. Paul Library Board and volunteers as a Beaver leader for the 1st St. Paul Scout Group.