Prairie College deals with COVID-19 outbreak

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After a year of very minimal COVID activity on Prairie College campus, the last week has contained a sudden influx of cases, which as of Tuesday morning totals 16 active cases. Three cases are Prairie staff members, and the remaining 13 are Prairie students. All close and suspected contacts are in isolation or quarantine.

After two contained cases in March, the first case of the outbreak was detected on April 4th. The case numbers have continued to climb in the days since. Many students have chosen to either relocate to AHS quarantine hotels, or isolate on the quarantine floor of Prairie College’s residence, for the safety of their fellow students, as contact tracing identified potential spread.

After surpassing 10 positive cases, AHS officially declared an outbreak on Friday, April 9th, at which point classes and meetings moved to an online-only format.

AHS has arranged for a testing team to set-up on Prairie campus, on April 15th. They will test all interested students and employees, helping to identify and isolate individuals prior to further infection taking place. A local testing zone will alleviate the need for students to travel to Drumheller or Red Deer.

President Mark Maxwell has stated from the beginning of the pandemic that it was not a matter of “if”, but “when” COVID cases would be found on Prairie campus – not because of negligence, and not excusing the need for care, but because of the ease of spread and the difficulty of identifying cases before symptoms develop.

Therefore, classroom equipment was purchased in the summer of 2020 which enabled classes to easily switch from on-campus, in-person, to an online format, or with students both in isolation and in the classroom.

The College is grateful for the diligent work of AHS contact tracers, and for sending an AHS inspector to affirm the College’s practices and procedures in March. Maxwell says, “We have found AHS to be exceptionally helpful throughout the past 12 months and especially now in the midst of this outbreak. We continue to work closely with AHS authorities as the situation unfolds and are grateful for all they have done for us and for the Province.”