The Pulse: Sept. 1, 2021

Here's what you need to know about Edmonton today.

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  • 13°C: Cloudy. 30% chance of drizzle or showers early in the morning. Periods of rain beginning in the morning. Risk of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. Amount 5 to 10 mm. Wind becoming northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50 in the afternoon. High 13. (forecast)
  • 3,660: The Edmonton zone is leading the province in the number of active COVID-19 cases, at 3,660 as of Tuesday. (details)

A student working in a classroom.

Divisions differ on mask requirements as new school year starts

By Jackson Spring in the Regional Roundup

Classes are about to begin across the Edmonton region and school divisions are taking different approaches in their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including whether students and staff will be required to wear masks.

The provincial government relaxed many public health restrictions over the summer — removing mask requirements for most places except public transit and school buses, capacity limits for social gatherings, and physical distancing requirements. However, some school divisions, like the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB), have instituted their own restrictions, noting the danger the virus poses to children under 12 who are not yet able to get vaccinated.

EPSB is one of a few in the area fully mandating masks be worn by students, staff, and visitors in all areas of schools, with a few exceptions. The board's 2021-2022 Back to School Plan notes that a survey conducted by the board found that 96% of students and 92% of parents said masks were important for feeling safe, and that mandating them would allow schools to bring back activities that were previously suspended during the pandemic.

"With the extra level of safety that masks provide, we can reintroduce such things as field trips, volunteers and special in-person events," says the plan.

Some divisions are also considering a recent uptick in new cases, including among school-aged children.

The provincial government reported 7,074 new cases between Aug. 23 to 29, bringing the total active cases to 11,426, the highest since May 24. Of the new cases, 1,348 were among Albertans five to 19-years-old.

Edmonton Catholic Schools initially planned to not require masks for students from kindergarten to Grade 3, and only require masks in common areas outside of classrooms for the rest of students. However, on Aug. 30, its back-to-school plan was updated to make masks mandatory for all students in both classrooms and common areas.

"Since the release of our Back to School Plan on August 16, there has been a significant upward trend of COVID-19 cases among school-aged children," says an update to the plan.

St. Albert Public Schools and Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools also updated their plans to include stronger restrictions, including requirements that students and staff wear masks in all areas inside schools.

"In the past two weeks, daily COVID cases have tripled in St. Albert," St. Albert Public Schools said in an Aug. 30 press release. "As positive cases continue to rise across the province, our re-entry plan will now include masking requirements in an effort to make sure our return to school is as safe as possible."

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By Michelle Ferguson

University Hospital Foundation (UHF) president and CEO Dr. Jodi Abbott.

Edmonton to co-host first Biome Summit focused on cardiovascular disease

By Hiba Kamal-Choufi in the Health Innovation Roundup

Edmonton is among three Canadian cities selected to host the first Biome Summit 2021, which is being organized by Quebec-based global healthcare company Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada and C2 International. It aims to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and drive innovation in healthcare across the country.

"(The summit) is significant to our local health innovation sector because it will help showcase the expertise we have and all the incredible and innovative work that happens every day in our healthcare facilities," University Hospital Foundation president and CEO Dr. Jodi Abbott told Taproot.

Abbott, who will be attending the summit series, said that the event is an excellent opportunity to "promote collaboration between stakeholders, and continue to support the vital work being done to transform cardiovascular health care."

The multi-city event will feature expert roundtables and virtual community sessions broadcast Sept. 13-14 from Edmonton and Oct. 6-7 from Toronto. These sessions will build to an in-person and virtual summit in Montreal on Oct. 21 and 28.

"(This) will allow participants to connect from all over Canada, engage on burning questions in cardiovascular care and create a dialogue intended to map out clear actions to help solve the challenges around cardiovascular disease and care," Novartis Canada said in a news release. "Our aim as a company is to reimagine healthcare through innovation, and to do so effectively we believe partnership and collaboration is critical."

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An image of Edmonton's Chinatown.

Municipal election rundown: Sept. 1, 2021

By Andy Trussler

Every week in the lead up to Edmonton's municipal election on Oct. 18, we're rounding up the news and announcements you need to know to stay informed.

Policies and campaign updates

Weighing in on the campaign trail

A list of all of the candidates who have announced they are running in the Edmonton municipal election is available here.

Learn more about Taproot's effort to ground our election coverage in what is important to Edmontonians on our People's Agenda page.

Photo: Edmonton's Chinatown. (Shawna Lemay/Instagram)