The province ordered students back to classrooms Monday, Jan. 10, after an extended winter break on the promise staff and students would have access to masks and rapid testing kits.
The extension was a tactic used to help curb the spread of the new and rapidly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.
Alberta followed the examples set by other provinces and kept kids out of classrooms for an extra week after the holidays to allow for staff to ready themselves for either in-person or online schooling scenarios.
But, in a Jan. 5 press conference, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said the province’s promised 16.5 million medical-grade masks and 8.6 million rapid tests would be set for distribution with initial shipments slated for Jan. 14 — four days after classes resumed.
In a Jan. 10 conference, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said the return to classroom learning is important as the alternative, not going to school, is also detrimental to students’ health.
And while this newsroom agrees that in-school learning is critical to a student’s social, mental and educational well-being, the province could have at least upgraded to one-day shipping.
Staff and teachers were told to prepare for anything this time around, but they should have prepared for the government to be late in getting them promised PPE offered as an extra layer of protection against the new Omicron variant.
In Monday’s conference, Dr. Hinshaw said Albertans need to take this variant seriously. With a positivity rate of nearly 40 per cent, she said anyone with symptoms, such as a runny nose or a cough, should assume they have COVID-19 and stay home and isolate.
This seems like all the more reason these hard-to-come-by rapid tests should be in the hands of our students and teachers.