EDMONTON — All teachers and school staff in Alberta should get tested for COVID-19 before students return to classrooms in September, the province’s chief medical officer of heath recommended.
“In addition to the most critical testing of anyone with symptoms, I am recommending that all teachers and school-based staff should get tested once before school begins in September, and regularly throughout the year,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Wednesday at her COVID-19 briefing.
“This is entirely voluntary. However, asymptomatic testing of staff in school settings will help us with a baseline understanding for school re-entry and ultimately help us even more closely monitor the virus in the coming year.”
Hinshaw also encouraged other Albertans who do not have coronavirus symptoms and have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with the virus to postpone testing until Sept. 1. She said that will allow teachers and school staff to receive their test results sooner.
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Educators and school staff should arrange testing proactively and not wait until the day before they return to school, Hinshaw said.
“My recommendation today comes with a caveat,” she said. “There are about 90,000 school staff and teachers across Alberta. Our testing capacity has expanded greatly, but no province can collect and process that many tests all at once.”
She recommended that children be tested if they have symptoms or pre-existing medical conditions that have symptoms similar to coronavirus.
“This is because, in students, our priority is to make testing available to all those with ongoing mild symptoms that may mimic COVID-19, such as allergies,” she said.
Watch: Most Alberta students to wear masks this fall. Story continues below.
Parents should book all tests through Alberta Health Services, not pharmacies, because those tests are for those with no symptoms and no exposure, Hinshaw added.
Also Wednesday, Hinshaw reported one more COVID-19 death and 121 new cases of the illness.
The most recent death was a resident at Edmonton’s Good Samaritan Southgate Care Centre, bringing the total fatalities there to 29.
There are 1,044 active cases, bringing the total confirmed COVID-19 cases in the province to 11,893.
As of Wednesday, 217 people had died and 10,632 had recovered.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 12, 2020.