Editor's note: This story was originally posted for 12 minutes, saying that all three Athabasca schools would be transitioning to online learning April 6. IT IS ONLY STUDENTS AT EPC. Apologies for the error.
ATHABASCA – There are now 47 cases of COVID-19 confirmed at Edwin Parr Composite School in Athabasca.
On Tuesday evening, Aspen View Public Schools updated that number from 20 on Sunday morning and announced students at EPC will transition to online learning when they resume classes April 6 after Spring Break, and continue for that week, with April 12 targeted as a return to in-person learning.
All school-related close contacts — students, staff and bus drivers — have been contacted and directed to stay at home. Those close contacts now number 468 students from Edwin Parr Composite School; 48 staff from Edwin Parr Composite School; 41 students from Landing Trail Intermediate School (close contacts through busing); 30 students from Whispering Hills Primary School (close contacts through busing); and six contracted bus drivers.
One active case from LTIS is included in the numbers, but has not attended school recently, so no close contacts were involved.
“Aspen View administration and the leadership teams at all three Athabasca schools have communicated with school families and staff as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Supt. Neil O’Shea said in the Tuesday evening media release. “We are in regular communication with Alberta Health Services as this situation evolves.”
The same release went on to say “online learning will be delivered in a similar manner to the shift to online learning that took place in December.”
“At this time, we anticipate that in-person learning will resume on Monday, April 12, 2021,” O’Shea said. “However, as Aspen View Public School continues to monitor the EPC COVID-19 outbreak, this timeline will be reviewed as needed.”
Positive COVID-19 cases in the Athabasca region jumped drastically again today and now has more active cases than at any time in the last year of the pandemic. It is unclear if the new cases from EPC are included in number of active cases on the Government of Alberta’s geospatial map, which indicated 55 total active cases within the borders of Athabasca County this afternoon, which includes the Town of Athabasca and Village of Boyle. Seven cases in the Boyle area are currently active.
On Monday, March 29, the map showed 34 active cases, up by 20 from the day before, after the new cases reported this weekend at EPC.
The active case rate in the three municipalities now sits at 420.7 per 100,000 people.
Aspen View Public Schools also sent out a message to parents and guardians of students from EPC, Landing Trail Intermediate School (LTIS), and Whispering Hills Primary School (WHPS) Monday from O’Shea.
It reads: “Aspen View Public Schools continues to receive confirmation of additional COVID-19 cases associated with Edwin Parr Composite School. These cases result in a growing number of individuals being identified as close contacts through schools and/or busing, including students and staff from EPC, as well as students from both LTIS and WHPS.
Aspen View Public Schools will continue to provide letters to all close contacts identified through school or school bus contact. In many cases, this will result in some close contacts receiving multiple letters, possibly with different dates of last contact with the respective confirmed case.
If you or your child is identified as a close contact, please carefully review all letters you receive, and use the latest contact date provided in regard to self-isolation requirements.
Alberta Health Services has initiated an investigation and assigned an outbreak/EI number to the EPC outbreak.”
Athabasca County now has twice as many active cases as any of its neighbours. The County of Barrhead now has 16; Westlock County has 13; Woodlands County is at three; the M.D. of Opportunity has 18; Lac La Biche County, including the Hamlet of Lac La Biche reached zero cases today, but has recorded nine deaths. Thorhild County has two; M.D. of Lesser Slave River has 10 and Smoky Lake County is at 17, recording 11 deaths in the last year.
The province reported 576 new cases today, bringing that number to 7,975. Four additional deaths brought that number in the last year to 1,987. Alberta also crossed back over the 300-hospitalization mark, up 13 from yesterday to 301 — though six fewer are in intensive care at 58.
Almost 30 per cent of the active cases in the province (2,376) have been identified as variants of concern. Several residents with knowledge of the situation have told the Advocate at least one of the new cases in the last week is a UK variant, but confirmation of that through official sources has not happened.
On Sunday, a spokesperson for Alberta Health said variant cases are not tallied per municipality, but rather by zone. The North Zone, which encompasses the northern half of the province, has 177 active cases of the B.1.1.7 UK Variant as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the stats available on the government website.
A note on the same website advises that “People are identified as COVID-19 cases prior to variant of concern identification. As such, variant of concern reporting is delayed compared to date the case was reported to Alberta Health. All cases were screened for variants of concern starting at the beginning of February, 2021.”
Aspen View reminds parents and guardians, as well as staff, to monitor for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. The Alberta Health daily checklist can be found here. The school division asks the checklist be completed each day prior to attending school.
If any of the core symptoms listed on the Alberta Health daily checklist are observed, it is advised to keep your child at home and fill out the online Alberta Health Services COVID-19 self-assessment or call Health Link at 811.
Mandatory public health restrictions can also be viewed here.