Alberta announced 114 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, the same day Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said the province is not requiring masks in classrooms because it could interfere with communication and learning.
“Masks alone cannot stop COVID-19,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw. “They are not a perfect solution, but rather, an additional layer of protection, on top of all the other measures in place to prevent spread.”
She added there are other measures in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in schools. The decision is also consistent with school mask-wearing policies in B.C. and Quebec, as well as in Germany.
There are now 1,403 active COVID-19 cases in the province and 12,535 recovered cases, while 50 people are in hospital and nine patients remain in the ICU.
The province also reported an additional death, bringing the total to 242.
The central zone also experienced a slight uptick in cases, with 32 incidents after 27 were reported in the region Tuesday. In total, 538 people have recovered in the zone, with one person in hospital and none in the ICU.
Red Deer also experienced a small increase, now with 10 active cases after reporting seven on Tuesday.
Lacombe County sits at three active cases, while the County of Wetaskiwin, Wetaskiwin and Red Deer County all have two active cases. Drumheller, Mountain View County and Camrose County each have one active cases.
As schools start to reopen, Hinshaw again addressed concerns about students returning to classrooms.
“Facilitating our children’s ability to return to in-school classes has a significant overall benefit to their health and the long-term health of our population, and I, therefore, felt that this was an acceptable adjustment to make,” Hinshaw said in reference to classroom mask rules.
Hinshaw also explained the process in which cases of COVID-19 in schools will be announced to the public. The government says it is committed to releasing any outbreaks in schools, which is five or more cases linked to a single school.
Part of its guidance also provides an expectation that if there’s a single case in a school, even if there’s no exposure, that parents and staff within that school will be notified.
“We have a very precautionary level for outbreak definition, so that we’re able to investigate all of those instances as promptly as possible,” she said.
Hinshaw also acknowledged the potential for the additional spread of COVID-19 as colder months approach.
“What we’re going to see this fall, really depends on how each of us takes the new-normal public health measures indoors with us, as we start to spend more time indoors,” she said.
“It’s possible we may see an increase in cases this fall, but that remains in our hands.”
The Edmonton and Calgary zones continue to be hotspots of COVID-19. The Calgary zone has 632 active cases with 15 people in hospital, while Edmonton has 538 active and 21 people in hospital.