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Alberta

Schools to offer on-site vaccination, August 16 measures extended to September 27

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Health guide, tool kit and on-site vaccination ensure safe school year ahead

New health guidance will ensure students’ safety and help school officials prepare for the new school year.

The Guidance for Respiratory Illness Prevention and Management in Schools document will help schools to reduce respiratory illness and infection in schools. A back-to-school tool kitprovides information for parents and school staff on what to expect when students head to their classrooms.

Consistent with the extended timelines for easing COVID-19 measures, students and school staff should screen daily for symptoms using the Alberta Health Daily Checklist, and must isolate if they test positive or have the core COVID-19 symptoms.  A detailed 2021-22 School Year Plan contains two contingency scenarios for continuing student learning if there is a significant change in the COVID-19 situation in the fall.

To further promote a safe school year, all eligible Albertans, including students, teaching staff, parents and guardians, are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated with both doses before the school year begins.

With these measures in place and climbing vaccination rates, students and parents can look forward to in-person classes, with no restrictions on in-person learning or extracurricular activities. However, masking will be required on school buses.

“Thanks to the power of vaccines, I’m pleased that students can return to a normal school year in September. The safety of students and staff remains our number one priority, and we have a detailed plan that includes contingency scenarios for continuing student learning if there is a significant change in the COVID-19 situation. We will continue to follow the expert advice of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health and are ready to make changes if needed.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

“Making sure Alberta’s schools are safe is one of our government’s top priorities. I am confident that this guidance will help keep students and staff safe, and our province’s children and youth can go on to thrive in the upcoming school year.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

Vaccines in schools

To increase accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines, immunizations will be available through temporary clinics in schools for students in grades 7 to 12 as well as teachers and staff. Starting on September 7 students, teachers and staff can receive whichever dose they are eligible for in school.

Parent or guardian consent for students will be required through consent forms.

Students in grades 7 to 12 do not need to wait for an in-school clinic to be vaccinated. Bookings for first and second doses are available provincewide. Albertans can book appointmentsthrough AHS online, by calling 811 or through participating pharmacies. First-dose walk-in clinics are available at multiple locations.

“Vaccines are the most important protective measure for students, teachers, parents and guardians as we prepare for back to school. I encourage parents and guardians to arrange vaccine appointments for themselves and their children as soon as possible. This will help further strengthen protection in schools and benefit all youth, whether or not they can be immunized yet.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

AHS will continue to support schools to manage outbreaks of respiratory illnesses.

Alberta’s government has contingency scenarios to continue student learning if there is a significant change in the COVID-19 situation — similar to those implemented in the previous school year.

2021-22 school year plan and health guidance highlights

  • Students, families and school staff should continue to screen daily for symptoms using the Alberta Health Daily Checklist and get tested if they are symptomatic.
  • The Guidance for Respiratory Illness Prevention and Management in Schools builds on public health practices used to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19, influenza and other infections in school settings.
  • Best practices to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses will continue, including:
    • Students and staff who have any new signs of illness should stay home and not attend school until they are feeling well.
      • If a student or staff member has any of the following core COVID-19 symptoms (new, or worsening and not related to other known causes), they are required to isolate for 10 days from onset of symptoms, or until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result, as per provincial guidelines:
        • Fever
        • Cough
        • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
        • Loss of sense of smell or taste
        • Sore throat (adults only)
        • Runny nose (adults only)
    • Cleaning and disinfecting high touch surfaces.
    • Promoting frequent hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette.
    • Schools are encouraged to have a plan for students and staff who develop symptoms to wait in a separate area until they can go home.
  • Masking is not provincially required in school settings for any age group, except on school buses.
    • AHS, through a zone Medical Officer of Health or their designate, may recommend masking to manage an outbreak and prevent more widespread transmission of a respiratory illness.
    • Zone Medical Officers of Health and their designates may also recommend additional measures if a school experiences a respiratory illness outbreak including screening for symptoms and cohorting.
  • School authorities have the ability and the corresponding accountability to put in place local measures, such as physical distancing, cohorting, and masking requirements, that may exceed provincial guidance.

Quick facts

  • As of August 12, 65 per cent of 12 to 14 year olds have received one dose in Alberta and 54 per cent are fully protected with two doses.
  • As of August 12, 67 per cent of 15 to 19 year olds have been partially vaccinated in Alberta with one dose and 56 per cent are fully protected with two doses.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

Alberta government says jobs, economy, COVID to be focus of fall legislature sitting

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EDMONTON — The Alberta government plans a busy fall legislature sitting aimed at adding jobs and diversifying the economy while focusing on tamping down the renewed surge of COVID-19.

Government house leader Jason Nixon says this will include proposed legislation on recognizing professional credentials to address labour shortages. The bill will be introduced by Premier Jason Kenney.

“Our focus will be on Alberta’s workforce, a couple of bills around diversifying the economy, a big focus on building infrastructure for our future, (and) growing our resources, particularly on the energy side,” Nixon said in an interview Friday.

There will also be new initiatives on environmental protection and conservation.

Nixon said there will be 18 to 20 bills for the sitting, which begins Monday and is scheduled to run to the first week of December. 

“It’s a very robust fall agenda,” he said.

Nixon said the government will continue to take steps to reduce COVID-19 cases, which have severely stressed the health system.

No COVID-19-specific bills are planned, he said, noting they were passed in previous sittings. 

“There’s certainly other stuff to be done to manage the pandemic … but we’ll stand ready if Alberta Health needs us to pass any legislation to deal with the pandemic.”

He said debate in the chamber is expected to return to some semblance of normalcy.

In the spring sitting, both the United Conservative government and the Opposition NDP reduced their numbers in the chamber to prevent the spread of the virus. 

This time, with all NDP members and all but one on the UCP side vaccinated, all will be allowed back in for debate.

The lone UCP member has a medical exemption and will be tested regularly, said Nixon.

He said there are still masking rules and members will try to maintain distancing where possible.

The NDP said it plans to hold the government accountable for what went disastrously wrong on COVID-19.

“This fall sitting of the legislature will be laser-focused on getting answers from the UCP on why they’ve failed Albertans so miserably in managing the devastating fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Christina Gray, the NDP house leader.

“Since July 15, more than 85,000 additional Albertans have been infected with the virus and 700 have died.”

Gray said the NDP will call for an all-party inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic with the power to compel documents and testimony.

Nixon said the government will not agree to such a motion. He said it would be wrong to redeploy vital health resources right now and that Kenney has promised an eventual review of how the province handled the pandemic.

Kenney has also promised to bring forward a motion to ratify and act on the results of Monday’s provincewide referendum on Canada’s equalization program.

Final results aren’t in from Edmonton, but figures from Calgary and other cities suggest the referendum will pass with about 60 per cent in support of urging the federal government to remove the principle of equalization from the Constitution.

Kenney has said the issue is not about removing equalization, something no province can do unilaterally, but about getting leverage to negotiate other issues surrounding federal transfers to attain a better deal with Ottawa.

Political scientist Jared Wesley said Kenney will likely continue to focus on initiatives such as the equalization referendum, if only to change the narrative on his low popularity ratings.

“The premier will be spending most of his time, if he has anything to say about it, outside the province, stumping for this fair deal,” said Wesley, with the University of Alberta.

COVID-19 numbers have been trending down in recent weeks. But Kenney and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, say the situation remains precarious.

On Friday, there were just over 10,000 active COVID-19 cases in Alberta. And there were 191 COVID-19 patients in intensive care. 

Alberta’s fourth wave troubles began after Kenney lifted almost all COVID-19 related health restrictions as of July 1, boasting that the pandemic had moved to the “endemic” phase and there was no need to plan for a renewed case surge.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

‘You’re looking at it:’ Undercover officer says suspect led them to burial site

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CALGARY — A Calgary man who killed his girlfriend and is on trial for the murder of her young daughter took undercover officers in the middle of the night to a remote, snow-covered area where they were buried.

Robert Leeming, who is 36, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Jasmine Lovett and not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of 22-month-old Aliyah Sanderson.

The mother and toddler were reported missing in April of 2019 after they didn’t show up for a family dinner.

Court heard this week that Leeming was befriended by two undercover officers, who told him they had retrieved a bag of evidence from a nosy neighbour.

They offered to help him with his problems — including removing the bodies of Lovett and her daughter, who were in a shallow grave under a pile of mulch and branches in a day-use area west of Calgary.

One of the officers testified that Leeming knew exactly where the bodies were.

The officer said they went to the area in the early morning of May 6, 2019, and walked a short distance on foot.

“I said, ‘OK, where to?’ And (Leeming) goes, ‘You’re looking at it.’ And he points down. And underneath and against my left foot were branches and a pile,” said the officer.

“(Leeming) goes and he grabs a branch and lifts it up as if to prove what’s underneath all these branches. As he does that, I see a small bit of blue that I believe to be the moving blankets.”

Investigators previously testified that the mother and child were doused in gasoline and wrapped in blue blankets before they were covered in dirt, mulch and branches.

The trial also heard that Lovett had skull fractures and was shot in the head. Aliyah died of blunt force head trauma.

The officer said Leeming boasted about steps he had taken to hinder a possible police investigation — including hiding wads of raw bacon around his house to throw off cadaver dogs and filling the back of his car with mulch.

“Well, mulch is death, right? So it smells like death,” Leeming told the officers in a tape recording played in court.

“You cleaned that car up good?” asked the undercover officer.

“Oh, yeah,” he replied.

The officer said Leeming also expressed relief that his 2014 Mercedes seized by police was an older model.

“It’s funny ’cause they were telling me the Mercedes, they pretty much can hook up to the computer in the car and know exactly where I’ve been,” Leeming said with a laugh.

“It’s too old a car. If it was an ’18, then I’d be in jail.”

The prosecution was expected to wrap up its case Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 22, 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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