Division News

Division News

Q & A - COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Posted on May 22

We have received a number of questions from students, staff, parents and community members about the COVID-19 (coronavirus). Please review the Question and Answer responses below. 

What is COVID-19? 

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) is the official name for the disease-causing the novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan, China and now spreading around the world.

What is a novel coronavirus?

What is a novel coronavirus? Novel coronaviruses are new strains of the coronavirus not previously identified in humans. They are a large family of viruses that include common human coronaviruses that cause the common cold and more serious illnesses, including SARS, MERS, and most recently, COVID

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms for COVID-19 are similar to those for influenza and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Mild symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches or shortness of breath that can be managed at home and do not need emergency room visits or hospitalization.
  • Symptoms that warrant emergency room visits or hospitalization such as difficulty breathing or chest pain are considered severe symptoms.
  • Most people (about 80%) recover without needing medical treatment. Older people and those with other medical problems are more likely to develop serious symptoms. There is a risk of death in severe cases.
  • Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19.

What would constitute severe symptoms and what would be mild symptoms?

  • Mild symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches or shortness of breath that can be managed at home and do not need emergency room visits or hospitalization.
  • Symptoms that warrant emergency room visits or hospitalization such as difficulty breathing or chest pain are considered severe symptoms.

How does COVID-19 spread?

  • COVID-19 is spread by those who have the virus. It is transmitted from person to person through droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes. People catch COVID-19 when they breathe in these droplets.
  • These droplets can also contaminate objects or surfaces. People can catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. Studies suggest the virus only lasts a few hours on a surface, though it may be possible for it to last several days under ideal conditions. There is no evidence that suggests COVID-19 can be spread through imported goods.

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through mosquito bites?

  • To date no information or evidence suggests that COVID-19 could be transmitted by mosquitoes. It is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.

Who will get tested for COVID-19?

  • Alberta has expanded access to COVID-19 laboratory tests to better trace the spread of the novel coronavirus. In addition to testing in hard-hit areas and testing of vulnerable Albertans and essential workers, any individual exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever, runny nose, sore throat or shortness of breath, is now eligible for testing
  • AHS will begin testing asymptomatic residents and staff in continuing care facilities that are experiencing outbreaks, or asymptomatic essential worker populations likewise experiencing outbreaks.
  • People can access testing by completing the COVID-19 self-assessment online.
  • A separate self-assessment tool is available for health care and shelter workers, enforcement and first responders.
  • The chief medical officer of health will continue to examine and adjust testing protocols and access to COVID-19 tests based on the changing situation in Alberta.

Who needs to isolate?

  • You are legally required to isolate if:
    • you returned from travelling outside of Canada. You must isolate for 14 days from your return. If symptoms occur, you must remain in isolation for an additional 10 days from the onset of your symptoms or until you’re feeling better, whichever is longer.
    • you have been identified by AHS as a close contact of a person(s) with COVID-19. You must isolate for 14 days from the date of your last exposure to COVID-19, plus an additional 10 days from the onset of any symptoms should they occur, whichever is longer.
    • you have a COVID-19 symptom (cough, fever, shortness of breath, runny nose or sore throat) that is not related to a pre-existing illness or health condition. You must isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms, or until symptoms resolve, whichever takes longer.
    • If you are tested and the result is negative for COVID-19, you are not legally required to isolate.

How is Northland School Division responding? 

Northland School Division continues to take direction from Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada as the situation continues to evolve. 

The division has established an Emergency Response Team to:

  • Review updates from Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Review preventative measures that have been implemented and discuss if other measures need to be put into place. 
  • Communicate information to staff, students, parents, and community members. 

Letter to Parents and Guardians

Why was the decision made to cancel classes for students?

  • These are challenging and difficult times for everyone as we all try to limit the spread of the COVID 19 virus. Click here to view the following poster. Schools posted it at the front entrance. 
  • The decision to cancel classes for students indefinitely was made by Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Minister of Education based on providing the best response in these circumstances. Click on the website link to view a message from Superintendent of Schools Nancy Spencer-Poitras https://www.nsd61.ca/about-us/division-news/post/message-from-superintendent-of-schools-covid-19-coronavirus2
  • We support these decisions. 

Is school cancelled for the rest of the year?

  • All classes in K to 12 schools are cancelled for the 2019-20 school year. 

We work, what am I supposed to do about child care?

  • We are sorry and understand the challenges of finding child care. 
  • The government made this difficult decision knowing that it would be a challenge and disruptive for families and employers.
  • The government encourages employers to be flexible in meeting family needs.
  • We understand that the government is looking at supports to make up for the challenges families face in this area.
  • All families are facing these challenges and the government understands the challenges and is working to minimize the impact.
  • Friends and relatives in the community will be aware of and understand these challenges. We hope that they will be able to accommodate families in making things work.
  • Many employers are also facing these disruptions with a reduction in business for some. Hopefully, this will allow them the flexibility to support families. 

What is my child supposed to do about school?

  • On March 27, 2020, NSD announced its "Continuing Student Learning Plan". The plan aligns with Alberta Education’s guide for continuing student learning which outlines content delivery expectations and average work assignment times for Kindergarten - Grade 3 (five hours per week), Grades 4-6 (five hours per week), Grades 7-9 (10 hours per week) and Grades 10-12 (three hours per course, per week). 
  • For more information, click here to review the Education Continuity Plan: COVID-19 from Alberta Education. 

What if we don’t have access to the internet for lessons that are on-line?

  • We will consider the needs of all families and accommodate lesson materials as best we can.

I am a Northland staff member. What kind of support and counselling services can I access? 

We are concerned about the welfare of all of our staff and want to remind you that support and counselling services are available through our Employee and Family Assistance Program provider Homewood Health. They can be contacted at 1-800-663-1142 or visit the Northland School Division website for more information http://nsd61.ca/information-for-staff/employee-and-family-assistance-program

What kind of support is available for families? 

Visit our mental health resources webpage https://www.nsd61.ca/about-us/division-news/post/covid-19-mental-health-resources

What is the government doing as a result of COVID-19 to support the mental health and addiction recovery of Albertans?

  • Expanded and improved supports are needed to support the mental, emotional, social and spiritual well-being of Albertans.
  • More than $53 million in one-time funding is being provided to implement a comprehensive mental health and addiction COVID-19 response plan which includes:
    • expanding mental health support and referral lines including the Alberta Health Services (AHS) Addiction and Mental Health Helplines, 211, Crisis Text Line Alberta and Kids Help Phone to increase capacity and add new supports
    • investing in online resources and platforms such as the Big White Wall, where Albertans can communicate with peers who are dealing with the same issues and get support 24/7 from AHS addiction and mental health clinicians when they need it.
    • implementing a new online platform that will provide mental health screening, self-help modules and support from counsellors when it is needed
    • launching a $25 million grant program for community groups to enhance community mental health and addiction recovery for the public, including Indigenous communities, seniors, families and people experiencing social barriers, who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
    • expanding AHS family violence services
    • increasing addiction and mental health services in primary care networks

What preventative measures have been established at School and Division facilities? 

  • Staff who are ill with respiratory illness symptoms (fever, cough, fatigue, and/or muscle aches) are asked to stay home.
  • Encouraging everyone to practice good respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene. Good respiratory etiquette includes covering the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing with a tissue or a flexed elbow and disposing of used tissues in a plastic-lined waste container, followed by hand hygiene. Hand hygiene is the washing of hands with plain soap and water, which is effective at removing visible soil as well as viruses.
  • Northland staff are participating in training of best practices for pandemic preparation, pandemic response, and specifically the awareness and response to COVID-19. 
  • Our Maintenance Department will continue to work with the custodians and the principals to ensure thorough cleaning and disinfecting of high touch surfaces is taking place.
  • Staff have been asked to avoid sharing food, utensils, dishes and water bottles or containers. 
  • Collaborate with other school divisions for best practices.
  • Train staff in the use of the Clorox Total 360 system.

Is there a fact sheet for Northland educators?

Yes. Educators should review a fact prepared by the Alberta Teachers' Association https://www.teachers.ab.ca/News%20Room/Issues/Pages/COVID-19-FAQs.aspx

I am a vendor who sends invoices and receives cheques by mail. Does this arrangement still work if central office staff have to start working from home? 

We are asking all vendors to send all invoices by email to accounts.payable@nsd61.ca. If you are not set-up for electronic payment please contact the Accounts Payable Department at 780-624-2060 ext. 6147 or by email at accounts.payable@nsd61.ca

I am a staff member who receives a paycheque by mail. Does this arrangement still work if central office staff have to start working from home? 

We are asking all staff members or casual employees not set-up for electronic payment (EFT), please contact the Payroll Department at 780-624-2060 ext. 6152 or by email at payroll@nsd61.ca

I typically submit expense claims, petty cash reimbursement and other expenses by mail. Does this arrangement still work if central office staff have to start working from home? 

We are asking all staff members to send all expense claims, petty cash reimbursement, and any other expenses by email to accounts.payable@nsd61.ca. If you are not set-up for electronic payment please contact the Accounts Payable Department at 780-624-2060 ext. 6147 or by email at accounts.payable@nsd61.ca  

Where can I find updated information about COVID-19?

Alberta Health Services: https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx#toc-9

Alberta Health Services Memo to Alberta school staff, parents/guardians of students: https://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/educ-COVID-parents-memo.pdf 

Government of Canada: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html

World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

Who should I call for health-related information?

Contact 8-1-1 (Health Link) or your health care provider for questions about your personal health situation.

Please note: School divisions do not have the authority to make public health decisions. If steps are taken in relation to a public health concern, it is in the direction of the Alberta Health Services and local health authorities. Northland School Division is in regular communication with Alberta Education, Alberta Health Services, and school divisions across the province. 

Leave a comment:

Halyna Sukharyna said on March 18, 2020

Thank you so much for an important information!!! Take care!!

Laurel Young said on March 27, 2020

Read. Appreciate the information and the links