Fraser Health is working closely with Garibaldi secondary school to manage a COVID-19 exposure, which could be a more transmissible new variant.
An individual at the school has tested positive for COVID-19 and is a close contact of another case who has a variant, or type of COVID-19 virus that is different from the ones that are already in the community. This variant type of virus may spread more easily, said Fraser Health in a press release issued late Sunday. The case with the variant does not attend Garibaldi.
Fraser Health did not identify whether the new variant was from the UK or from South Africa.
In coordination with the school and School District 42, Fraser Health is proactively arranging for testing to take place Monday for staff and students who may have been in contact with the school case when they were at school on Jan. 18 and 19.
“This is being done out of an abundance of caution to make sure that no other staff or student have the variant,” said a letter from the school district to parents and staff.
Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the issue in a Monday briefing, saying some 80 people would be tested.
The provincial health officer noted there are 14 cases of the new variant from the UK that have been identified in B.C. so far, including seven over the weekend. There are also four cases of the South African variant in the province.
The Maple Ridge COVID-19 test collection centre has been closed Monday to support the testing, which will be done at the centre. Appointments have been rescheduled, and walk-ins will be redirected to the Mission, Abbotsford, and Langley COVID-19 test collection centres, which all have capacity.
Only those staff and students who have been identified as close contacts need to be tested and they have been contacted, said Fraser Health. If you have not been contacted, there is no risk of exposure identified. The school, which has approximately 1,300 students has remained open.
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.
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 the ability to test for the virus.