The provincial government is making changes to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health announced Thursday.
Starting Monday, the government will implement its new symptom list for all Albertans under 18.
“This includes a daily checklist used for students in school and all childcare settings in the province,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said during a live update.
Runny nose and sore throat will be removed from the core list of symptoms that require mandatory isolation for children.
Hinshaw said in the past week, of more than 700 children and youths tested for COVID-19 with sore throat as their only symptom, less than one per cent tested positive. Similarly, 601 children with only a runny nose were tested for the virus, and less than 0.5 per cent tested positive.
“This shows us that these symptoms by themselves are very poor indicators of whether a child has the virus. Based on our data so far, the risk that a child with just one of these symptoms has COVID is even lower if that child is not known to be a close contact of someone with COVID-19,” said Hinshaw.
This change is only for those who have not had a known exposure to the virus.
“If a child has had close contact with a COVID case in the past 14 days, then a runny nose or sore throat is still enough to recommend testing and they would still need to stay at home in self-isolation,” she said.
Anyone who experiences core isolation symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breathe and loss of taste or smell – must still isolate for 10 days or have a negative test result and resolve symptoms before resuming activities, she said.
“However, for all other COVID-19 symptoms, we are shifting to a more strategic approach. Starting on Monday, if a child has only one of any of the other symptoms on the list, they should stay home and monitor for 24 hours.
“If their symptom is improving for 24 hours, testing is not necessary and they can return to normal activities when they feel well enough. However, if the child has two or more symptoms on the list, then testing is recommended and they should stay home until the symptoms go away or they test negative for COVID-19.”
The government confirmed 477 new COVID-19 cases in the province on Thursday.
There are currently 4,921 active cases in the province – 162 of those cases are located in Alberta Health Services’ central zone.
Red Deer has 38 active cases and Red Deer County has nine, according to geospatial mapping on the provincial government’s website.
The City of Lacombe has two active cases, Sylvan Lake and Mountain View County each have one, and Lacombe County and Clearwater County have five each. There are currently no confirmed active cases in Olds and Stettler County.
Ponoka County and Wetaskiwin County have 48 active cases collectively, while the City of Wetaskiwin has 11.
Provincially, 130 people are in hospital due to the virus – 18 of those individuals have been admitted into an intensive care unit. Only one person is currently hospitalized in the central zone due to COVID-19.
There have been 318 deaths caused by the virus in Alberta.
Hinshaw said after every holiday during the pandemic, there has been a rise in the number of cases one or two weeks later. She urged Albertans to “be wise and be safe” for Halloween on Saturday.
“If you are trick or treating, keep it to your household or close cohort, and please ensure your children wear a non-medical mask under their costume,” said Hinshaw.
“If you are sick with even mild symptoms, please don’t go out and don’t give out candy either. Stick to your family or your cohort no matter what you’re doing. This is not the year for large Halloween parties.”