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Alberta keeping COVID-19 measures for another 6 weeks as cases spike

Many have expressed concerns about children returning to classrooms in September
Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. Hinshaw and Education Minister Adriana Lagrange are to provide an update on COVID-19 and back-to-school guidance later this morning. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

The Alberta government is walking back its decision to eliminate isolation requirements for people who test positive for COVID-19 after weeks of pressure from local leaders, physicians and Alberta families.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said the government will also extend a masking mandate for public transit and continue testing and tracing as cases spike.

All public health restrictions were scheduled to lift on Monday but will now stay in place for another six weeks.

“We are not going backwards. We are pausing to monitor and assess before taking a step forward,” Hinshaw said Friday.

“If monitoring confirms our original expectations that a rise in cases will not lead to high levels of (hospitalizations) and we do not see evidence of increased risk for severe disease for children, we will proceed with implementing the next set of changes after Sept. 27.”

Many have expressed concerns about children returning to classrooms in September, especially since those under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

Hinshaw had repeatedly said children are at low risk for severe outcomes from COVID-19, though she noted Friday there has been a rise in hospitalizations among children in some U.S. states with lower vaccination rates.

“I want to further monitor these trends,” she said. “I do not share this information to cause alarm.

“To date, we have not seen a similar rise in severe cases in youth here in Alberta. Since July 1, we have only had seven cases in hospital under the age of 18.”

Critics of the province’s plan have drawn attention to Alberta’s limited number of pediatric intensive care beds and the potential for young Albertans to develop serious illnesses such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome, severe COVID-19 pneumonia and long-haul COVID-19 effects.

Alberta currently has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Canada.

The Canadian Press

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