Calgary, Edmonton fail to meet Harvard metric for reopening schools

As students return to school, Canada's public health officials will be watching COVID-19 rates closely. Xiaoli Li with how epidemiologists say we are not in a second wave, though proceeding without caution could push us into one.

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – One of the most prestigious universities in North America says schools can reopen safely.

According to data from Harvard, schools can safely operate during the pandemic if a city’s COVID-19 load stays under 25 cases per 100,000 people.

However, many cities in Alberta are well beyond that.

Currently, Calgary is at double that threshold at 48 cases per 100,000 people, while Chestermere is at 53 and Edmonton is at 58.

Despite these stats, epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan from the University of Western Ontario said people shouldn’t panic when we see cases pop up in schools.

“We should be bracing ourselves for the inevitable news of cases happening but also be ready to deploy the appropriate public health responses to suppress those cases before they explode.”

He added there are four important steps to make sure safe school re-starts can happen.

WATCH: Back to school reactions


The first step is to keep the virus out of the community. Once it’s in the community, keep it out of the schools. Once it’s in the schools, prevent it from spreading in the schools. If it does spread in the schools, he said it should be stopped from re-infecting the community.

“What we want to hear is the second half of that message is ‘a case was detected in that school, this is what public health did to keep your kids safe.’ This is how we identify that case through contract tracing and suppress that case before it becomes an outright outbreak and epidemic,” Deonandan said.

He explained that the United States has failed on every level of that process, but Canadians are doing a better job when it comes to the basics and are more likely to be on board with pandemic measures for the greater good.

Since school started last week, Alberta’s top doctor said she’s heard of positive COVID-19 cases in at least 11 schools.

She said this should not come as a surprise as she has repeatedly warned against COVID-19 in schools, saying it is inevitable as long as the virus continues to spread in Alberta.

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