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COVID-19 outbreaks in schools in the Calgary area may be associated with indoor gatherings

Two high schools in the Calgary area were recently hit by COVID-19 outbreaks and questions have been raised as to whether these outbreaks were due to indoor social gatherings.

Bow Valley High School and Bowness High School were mentioned during Monday afternoon’s COVID-19 update.

At that time Alberta’s chief health officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked if contract tracers were lucky enough to see if there was a social gathering that led to either of the outbreaks at the two schools.

Dr. Hinshaw stated that while this is a problem, it has not yet been confirmed. She cautioned young Albertans to think twice about considering an indoor social gathering.

“It is important that behaviors not only inside school but also outside of school prevent the spread of COVID,” said Dr. Hinshaw.

“Anyone who might consider having an indoor gathering must remember that a single indoor gathering can cause the spread of COVID-19 from one person to many overnight. That spread can put other people’s lives at risk.”

Dr. Hinshaw reminded the public that indoor social gatherings are currently not permitted under public health regulations.

According to the government website, COVID-19 outbreaks in schools are reported when five or more cases are confirmed in an investigation where the disease could be acquired or transmitted in school.

After being listed as an “outbreak” on the province’s COVID-19 status map last week, Bowness High School switched all 1,184 of its students to online classes starting March 8.

Online courses help stabilize learning for Bowness High School students until they return to face-to-face classes on March 17.

Bow Valley High School in Cochrane notified students and their families that the school was placed in the outbreak status on March 6.

Just over half of Bow Valley High School’s students are at home to isolate and operate online learning until they are able to return to school, as determined by Alberta Health Services.

Tara de Weerd, communications director for Rocky View schools, told Daily Hive that Bow Valley High School has been able to stay open for face-to-face classes as there are enough replacement teachers to replace those who isolate.

“The schools and staff on the Calgary Board of Education have worked very hard over the past year to ensure government health and safety guidelines are followed to ensure safe learning environments and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Megan Geyer, communications advisor for the Calgary Board of Education, told Daily Hive in an email.

“We all share the responsibility to follow all health and safety guidelines, whether in school or outside of school hours, to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on school and learning.”

There are currently 64 schools in Alberta listed as outbreaks on the government website. An outbreak investigation is considered complete if there have been no new confirmed cases in the school for 28 days.

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