Exposure event at Maple Ridge high school involves more contagious coronavirus variant
Fraser Health arranging extra testing of staff and students, says variant case does not attend school
Health officials in the Fraser Valley are working to determine if students and staff at a high school in Maple Ridge, B.C., were exposed to a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus.
On Sunday, the Fraser Health Authority said an individual at Garibaldi Secondary School tested positive for the virus and is a close contact of another case who tested positive for a variant of the coronavirus that has been shown to be more transmissible.
Fraser Health said the person infected with the variant does not attend the school. The person at the school is now being tested for the variant.
Officials are arranging for testing to take place on Monday for staff and students who may have been in contact with the school case.
"This is being done out of an abundance of caution," said a letter from Fraser Health to the school.
The letter said the exposure event occurred on Jan. 18 and Jan. 19.
Fraser Health is closing its COVID-19 test collection centre in Maple Ridge to all other appointments on Monday to accommodate the extra testing, which will be rapid tests.
All previously booked tests at the Maple Ridge COVID-19 collection centre have been moved to other sites in Mission, Abbotsford and Langley.
Only staff and students who have been identified as close contacts of the individual who tested positive at the school will be tested. Fraser Health says everyone who needs to be tested has been contacted.
The authority says it is taking steps to try to prevent cases of the variant from increasing.
"As this is a variant that is new to our communities and highly transmissible, Fraser Health is working to identify any further connected variant cases to ensure immediate isolation and case management to prevent further transmission," said Fraser Health in a release.
In late January, provincial health officials said there were six cases of the variant first reported in the United Kingdom and three cases of the variant from South Africa in B.C.
Variants identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil are transmitting much more easily than the original strain, with data on the U.K. variant suggesting it is 50 per cent more transmissible from person to person than the common strain of the coronavirus.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has acknowledged the presence of the variants in B.C. and said they are concerning.
Fraser Health said in its release that the variant strain can transmit more quickly and easily, "but does not seem to cause more severe illness, nor interfere with the effectiveness of vaccines, nor affect our ability to test for the virus."
Garibaldi Secondary School has around 1,300 students, according to the school's website. The school will remain open on Monday said Fraser Health.