COVID-19 Update: Little information has parents anxious about back-to-school decisions | Alberta piloting ‘pool testing’

A pedestrian is seen wearing a face mask as he enters a CTrain station in downtown Calgary on Monday, August 10, 2020.

With news on COVID-19 happening rapidly, we’ve created this page to bring you our latest stories and information on the outbreak in and around Calgary.


What’s happening now


6:30 p.m.

Moe says efforts to curb coronavirus among Hutterites is working, despite new cases

 Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe in Regina, Monday, June 15, 2020.

REGINA — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says most of the new COVID-19 cases reported in the province over the past few days are from Hutterite communities, but he suggests there’s reason for optimism.

Moe says in a tweet Sunday that of the 97 new cases reported over the previous four days, 87 are from Hutterite communities.

But the same time, Moe tweeted that many of the Hutterite communities with earlier outbreaks are now down to almost no active cases, so he says the efforts of those communities working closely with the province’s health authority are working.

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6:30 p.m.

U.S. coronavirus death toll hits 170,000 ahead of fall flu season

 (FILES) In this file photo Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), speaks during a House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on a national plan to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 31, 2020.

The United States surpassed 170,000 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, according to a Reuters tally, as health officials express concerns over COVID-19 complicating the fall flu season.

Deaths rose by 483 on Sunday, with Florida, Texas and Louisiana, leading the rise in fatalities.

The United States has at least 5.4 million confirmed cases in total of the novel coronavirus, the highest in the world and likely an undercount as the country still has not ramped up testing to the recommended levels. Cases are falling in most states except for Hawaii, South Dakota and Illinois.

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5:05 p.m.

Indeterminate test results spur COVID-19 confusion

 People are seen waiting in line at the COVID-19 Assessment Centre at Richmond Road Diagnostics & Treatment Centre on Friday, July 17, 2020.

Breanna Excell decided to go get a COVID-19 test last week, like hundreds of thousands of Albertans before her. A client at her work had developed symptoms consistent with the novel coronavirus. Even though she was asymptomatic, she decided to get tested for peace of mind.

But unlike most Albertans who get tested for COVID-19, Excell’s test result wasn’t a simple positive or negative.

“I got a phone call a couple days later from a person, and I thought, ‘Am I positive?’ But she just said I was ‘indeterminate,’ which I didn’t even know was a possibility,” Excell said.

She was told that since she was asymptomatic, she didn’t need to self-isolate, but that she could go get tested again.

But on Saturday, Excell received a second call, this time from the Alberta Health Services Infectious Disease Clinic, giving her the indeterminate diagnosis once more and telling her that getting retested was now a strong recommendation.

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4:50 p.m.

Alberta pilots ‘pool testing’ to expand COVID-19 testing capacity

 Calgarians line up for walk-in COVID-19 testing at the Richmond Road Diagnostic and Treatment Centre on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

Pooled tests mix biological samples from several people before testing. If the combined sample tests negative for the novel coronavirus, lab officials consider all samples involved to be negative. If the combined sample tests positive, however, all individual samples are tested alone to determine which sample or samples are positive.

“Pooling samples is an effective approach for performing a large number of tests while using fewer laboratory supplies and staff,” said AHS spokesperson James Wood in a statement.

“If successful, (AHS) will look to expand this practice over the coming weeks to increase capacity.”

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4:00 p.m.

Parents anxious over back-to-school decisions with little information

 Jessica Cuillerier, with her two boys, says she’s worried about whether she should send them back to the Catholic school district classrooms this fall.

Cuillerier is outraged over an Aug. 21 deadline set by the Calgary Catholic School District asking parents to either register for online-only schooling or in-person classes.

Parents at the Calgary Board of Education are facing the same decision, with a deadline of Aug. 24. Once parents choose, they cannot change their mind until the new year.

But many schools won’t be able to tell parents how large their children’s class sizes will be until the online registration process is complete.

“So many parents I have spoken to are feeling really frustrated at the lack of information,” Cuillerier added.

“It is in no way realistic to ask parents to decide something this important when they have no idea what the plans are for their school.”

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1:50 p.m.

COVID in kids: Infections rise in the U.S. as schools reopen

 A girl wears a face mask as students sit in a classroom of the Petri primary school in Dortmund, western Germany, on June 15, 2020 amid the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

School closures and other public health measures may have contributed to initially low rates of coronavirus infections in children early in the pandemic, according to the CDC.

“This may explain the low incidence in children compared with adults,” the agency said in its guidance. “Comparing trends in pediatric infections before and after the return to in-person school and other activities may provide additional understanding about infections in children.”

Children between 5 and 17 years old also test positive for the coronavirus at higher rates than any other age group, according to CDC data, with positivity rates exceeding 10 percent in public and private lab tests.

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1:50 p.m.

Quebecers are concerned about students’ success at school, survey suggests

 FILE PHOTO: A school bus arrives carrying one student as schools outside the greater Montreal region begin to reopen their doors amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada May 11, 2020.

MONTREAL — Two-thirds of Quebecers surveyed are concerned about the educational success of their children during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey for a major teachers’ union suggests.

Ninety per cent of respondents also believe that students with learning difficulties will be most penalized by the pandemic, with 92 per cent believing more resources should be dedicated to helping these students.

But there’s also concerns for students in general: 66 per cent were “very or somewhat worried” about the impact of the pandemic on student success, compared to five per cent who said they were not worried at all.

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1:50 p.m.

Italy closes nightclubs as coronavirus cases rise among young

 FILE PHOTO: Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza in Rome, Italy, February 25, 2020.

ROME — Italy is to shut discos and clubs and make it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors in some areas during the night-time in the first reimposition of restrictions as cases of coronavirus pick up across the country, especially among younger people.

New cases in the past week in Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus, were more than double those registered three weeks ago and the median age of people contracting the virus has dropped below 40, data showed.

The new rules will start on Monday – two days after an Italian holiday when many young Italians go out dancing – and will run until early September.

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1:50 p.m.

French new COVID-19 cases above 3,000 for second day

 FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians wearing protective face masks walk along the Seine river banks, as France reinforces mask-wearing as part of efforts to curb a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) across the country, Paris, France, August 15, 2020.

PARIS — The French Health Ministry on Sunday reported 3,015 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the second day in a row in which new cases have surpassed the 3,000 mark.

However, the daily count was below the 3,310 cases reported on Saturday, when a new post-lockdown high was reached, the ministry’s data showed.

– Reuters


11:45 a.m.

Bowness McDonald’s closed after positive COVID-19 test

A positive COVID-19 test in a staff member means the McDonald’s restaurant at 8235 Bowridge Crescent N.W. will temporarily close for a third-party sanitation.

The employee reported testing positive Saturday. They had last worked a shift in the Bowness restaurant Aug. 12 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those who may have been in the restaurant during that time are advised to contact Alberta Health Services for further instruction.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision was made to immediately shut down the restaurant for a thorough cleaning and sanitization by a certified third party,” McDonald’s Canada said in a release.

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Saturday

Alberta had hundreds of ‘excess’ deaths as COVID-19 struck province: Stats Canada

 Peter Lougheed Centre hospital staff wait to screen essential visitors who are the only visitors permitted in Alberta hospitals as part of COVID-19 precautions on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

Alberta’s death toll from COVID-19 through the first three months of the pandemic may be higher than previously thought.

From the end of February to the end of May 2020, there were 639 more deaths in the province than the highest number recorded in Alberta in the past five years, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

However, provincial public health authorities only reported 146 deaths from the novel coronavirus in the same timespan, about a quarter of the entire excess mortalities.

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Saturday

Nearly half of Brazilians say Bolsonaro not to blame for coronavirus death toll, poll says

 Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacts during a demonstration in favor of his government amidst the coronavirus pandemic in front of Planalto Palace on May 24, 2020 in Brasilia, Brazil. Brazil has over 352,000 confirmed positive cases of Coronavirus and 22,291 deaths.

Almost half of Brazilians think President Jair Bolsonaro bears “no responsibility at all” for the country’s more than 100,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic, the world’s second highest death toll, according to a new Datafolha poll.

The poll was published on Saturday in Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper and says 47% of Brazilians do not assign him any blame for the body count, whereas 11% do.

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Saturday

France plans masks at work as daily COVID-19 cases surpass 3,000

 A medical staff member prepares to collect a sample from a man and his daughter at a COVID-19 testing centre set up in the European Parliament on May 12, 2020, in Strasbourg, eastern France.

France is to propose that masks be worn in shared workspaces as the country grapples with a rebound in coronavirus cases that rose again in the past 24 hours to over 3,000.

The health ministry reported 3,310 new coronavirus infections, marking a post-lockdown high for the fourth day in a row.

The number of clusters being investigated increased by 17 to 252, it said in a website update.

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Saturday

Ireland says fresh COVID-19 spike ‘deeply concerning’

 Ireland’s Prime Minister Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during a news conference on the ongoing situation with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Government Buildings in Dublin, Ireland March 24, 2020

reland reported 200 new COVID-19 cases arising from multiple clusters across the country on Saturday, the highest daily amount since the beginning of May that the country’s chief medical officer described as “deeply concerning.”

Ireland has reopened its economy at a slower pace than most European Union countries but that did not stop a rise in cases over the last two weeks that led to the first localized reimposition of some restrictions last week.

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Friday

COVID-19 outbreak declared at new Cargill plant as Alberta reports 84 new cases province-wide

 A sign at the Cargill meat-packing plant where there was an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in High River, Alberta.

Alberta Health reported a new COVID-19 outbreak at a Cargill meat-processing plant in Calgary Friday, the company’s second Alberta outbreak after more than 1,500 cases of the novel coronavirus and three deaths were linked to Cargill’s High River plant.

There are five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the newly reported outbreak at Cargill Case Ready, a meat-processing plant in northeast Calgary that takes meat product from the High River plant and packages it for sale in grocery stores.

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Friday

Banff council extends pedestrianization project and mask bylaw

 The Town of Banff voted Friday, Aug. 14 to extend the pedestrianization of Banff Avenue.

At a special council meeting Friday afternoon, Banff town council voted to extend the Banff Avenue pedestrianization project to Sept. 14, three days later than the original end date.

Council also voted to extend the mandatory mask bylaw to the Banff Avenue-adjacent sidewalks of Bear Street.

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Friday

COVID-19 infecting marriages, driving up divorce numbers, say family mediators

 Law firms are reporting an uptick in request for divorce advice in the wake of the pandemic.

COVID-19 is proving a love bug with a nasty bite, say those who oversee couples seeking divorces in Calgary.

Since the global pandemic kicked in last March, family lawyers and divorce facilitators say crumbling marriages have become more commonplace.

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Friday

Fledglings Educare Centre, Cargill Case Ready Meats added to list of outbreaks


Friday

84 new cases, one additional death


Friday

Calgary school boards say masks mandatory for all students

 School buses stored at the First Student Canada lot on 6th Street N.E. are shown on Wednesday, July 22, 2020.

Calgary’s public and Catholic school districts are requiring K-12 students to wear masks when returning to school this September, expanding upon provincial guidance that mandates only Grades 4-12.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) made the announcement Friday after hearing concerns from parents about the ability for students to practice physical distancing, said Christopher Usih, CBE chief superintendent of schools.

Similarly, the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) has made the decision to mandate mask usage in all grades.

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