Keeping Kids Safe at School Must be a Top Priority

Keeping Kids Safe at School Must be a Top Priority

Alberta is experiencing a rapid rise in school outbreaks and absenteeism due to widespread respiratory illness in students, putting pressure on families, our health care system, and economy. 

EDMONTON - Cases of COVID-19, influenza, the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are all on the rise earlier than normal for this time of year, especially among children.

“Thousands of kids are sick and out of school across the province. It is early in the typical fall flu season, meaning things could get much worse if we don’t take action to protect kids in schools,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “To date, all the provincial government has done is provide vague guidance to school boards, while continuing to fight the families of disabled children in court. What we need right now is a government that is committed to providing the support that students and their families urgently need.”

The early spike in respiratory illness has put even more pressure on our already strained public health care system. More than 1000 Albertans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, emergency departments are experiencing record wait times, and over 30 hospitals and health care facilities across the province are currently experiencing temporary closures due to short staffing.

“Our health care system is already struggling due to an ongoing staffing crisis that has long gone unaddressed. We don’t have the capacity to continue to allow these viruses to spread unchecked through our schools and wider population,” said Gallaway. “We need protections in place to slow the spread of disease and relieve the pressure on our public health care system.”

On October 24, Friends of Medicare joined Alberta’s health care unions to highlight the urgency of the staffing crisis facing our public health care system. Since then, there has been a rapid increase in the number of children getting sick, impacting families and compounding short-staffing issues.

“As more kids get sick, more parents need to stay home, meaning fewer people at work, including in our health care system,” said Gallaway. “But not all parents have the option to miss work when they are ill or need to care for sick children. We are well over 2 years into a pandemic, and yet workers still don’t have the most basic of workplace protections such as paid sick days for all.”

“It’s time for our provincial government to take this seriously. Action is urgently needed to protect students, families, teachers and school staff from airborne transmission of diseases,” concluded Gallaway.

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