Cold Lake Elementary School and Nelson Heights Middle School is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. It’s the first infection in the school since the government introduced changes to contact tracing for schools and how outbreaks are defined and dealt with.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) declares an outbreak of COVID-19 when it has determined that there have been ten or more confirmed cases at the school within a 14-day period who were present at the school while infectious.
Nicole Garner is the Communications Officer for NLPS.
“Now that we have worked through the new process with AHS, we have some additional information we would like to share with parents,” Garner told Lakeland Connect. “Our intent has always been to be as transparent as possible so parents and guardians can make informed decisions for their families. That is why our school COVID reports include self-disclosed cases in addition to those that have been confirmed by AHS. Unfortunately, this has created some confusion as some school COVID reports show more than ten cases connected to the school, but AHS has not declared an outbreak at that location.”
In determining whether a school is in an outbreak AHS only counts cases that they have confirmed through testing and which they have determined were infectious while at school.
“They do not count self-disclosed cases that were confirmed by rapid or private test and did not have an AHS done, or cases where exposure was on a bus shared by more than one school, or cases where the individual was not infectious while at school (symptoms developed over a weekend or when they were absent from school),” Garner said. “Once AHS has determined that a school meets the criteria for an outbreak, they contact the school and NLPS shares a letter with all parents and guardians.”
Any K to 6 schools that are in an outbreak are then eligible to participate in the At-Home Rapid Testing Program. It takes approximately 72 hours for the rapid test kits to arrive at a school once we have applied for them. Participation in the At-Home Rapid Testing Program is voluntary and is for individuals who are not symptomatic.
Each person receives ten kits and performs two tests each week for a period of five weeks. Anyone who tests positive is encouraged to follow up by booking a test with AHS and is legally required to isolate for ten days unless they receive a negative PCR test. Participants are not required to report the results of their rapid tests.
The Government of Alberta has created a guide for parents, students and staff with more information about the program and how to do an at-home rapid test: K-6 At-Home Rapid Testing Program: Information for Parents, Students and School Staff. They have also created a video that shows how to perform an At-Home Rapid Test: How to perform at at-home rapid test for COVID-19.