COVID-19 variant cases confirmed at three more schools in Surrey

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      This evening (February 26), Fraser Health announced that COVID-19 variant cases have been detected at three more schools.

      Fraser Health is working with the Surrey School District to manage exposures at the three schools, which are:

      • Queen Elizabeth Secondary School (9457 King George Boulevard);
      • Frank Hurt Secondary School (13940 77th Avenue);
      • M.B. Sanford Elementary School (7318 143rd Street).

      Fraser Health stated that individuals at these schools have tested positive for variants but neither specified how many nor what type of variant they found.

      In addition, Fraser Health stated that “only those staff and students who have been identified as close contacts need to be tested and have been contacted” and that the schools are remaining open.

      Fraser Health said that thus far, the cases “appear to be linked to community transmissions”.

      Previously on February 21, Fraser Health had confirmed that variants had been detected in six schools in Surrey and one in Delta.

      In response, Fraser Health made changes to its procedures, including expanding testing to all contacts with or without symptoms, using point-of-care testing, and streamlining screening for variants to speed up the identification of variants.

      On February 22, B.C. deputy provincial health officer Dr. Réka Gustafson had explained that public health had switched to new technology over the past three weeks and increased testing for the variants, which resulted in more variant cases being detected during that time frame. 

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on February 25 that the health investigations into the cases at the seven schools announced on February 21 were still ongoing.

      Within that investigation, she said that 83 people had point-of-care tests and 201 had PCR tests. Of those, she said six people at two schools had positive test results (five students and one staff) at Surrey Traditional Elementary School and École Woodward Hill Elementary School.

      However, she said that they don’t yet know yet if they are variants of concern, which requires further testing (genome sequencing), and more information will be provided as the investigation develops.

      On the morning of February 23, teachers and support staff at École Woodward Hill Elementary School held a demonstration, by wearing red t-shirts and parading in single file in front of the school before classes started, to demand more health measure protocols in schools.

      Despite revised current provincial health orders that were announced on February 4, elementary school students remain exempt from wearing masks for several reasons, including low transmission risks from children and challenges with having children wear masks.

      That prompted a U.S. epidemiologist to call B.C. the “Florida of Canada” based on comparisons between similar school policies in B.C. and Florida.

      Maple Ridge’s Garibaldi Secondary School was the first school in B.C. to have a variant case confirmed on February 1. But after a health investigation involving testing of all students and staff, no one else tested positive.

      In B.C. so far, Henry said that there have been 116 cases of variants confirmed in B.C.—plus two of the B1525 variant (Nigeria), which remain considered variants under investigation—as of February 25.