Calls to close schools grow as COVID-19's 3rd wave hits younger Albertans
EDMONTON -- Doctors are urging the province to do more to slow the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms as data shows a spike in active cases among school-aged children.
Dr. Noel Gibney, co-chair of the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association's pandemic committee, says closing schools is key to slowing the recent rapid rise of new cases.
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"We really need to go back to where we were in the first wave last spring," he said.
"The sooner we go there the better. We'll have fewer people infected."
He warned that the more contagious COVID-19 variants could turn schools in sites of superspreader events.
"These variants are just extraordinarily transmissible," he said.
Variant cases have grown sharply in recent days and now make up nearly half of all active cases.
Outbreaks have been declared at more than 160 schools across the province.
"We have seen a concerning increase in all ages recently, including school-aged Albertans. The health measures announced on Monday are now fully in effect, including for restaurants and fitness facilities," reads a statement from Alberta Health.
RISE IN ACTIVE CASES
The number of active cases of COVID-19 in children aged 10-19 is nearing its pandemic peak, according to data gathered over the past month.
Active cases in that age group have grown from 713 on March 7 to 2,022 on April 7, a 184 per cent increase.
The number of active cases in that age group peaked at 2,212 on Dec. 7.
The increase is part of a wider trend that’s seen COVID-19 impact younger Albertans more after months of taking a disproportionate toll on the province’s elderly.
Deaths among those aged 80 and older, including 43 in the past month, make up a majority of the province’s more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths
But, vaccines have helped slow the pace of those deaths. Fatalities in that age range grew at just under 3.5 per cent since March 7, the lowest of any age group.
Hospitalizations reflect a similar trend. The number of patients in age groups under the age of 50 have shown the largest increases relative to where they were at the same point in March.
Alberta announced the renewal of several public health measures in returning to Step 1 of its relaunch plan after a recent surge of cases.
The province has reported more than 800 new cases for eight straight days as of Friday morning and on Thursday surpassed the 12,000 active case mark for the first time since mid-January.