B.C. officials say there is no evidence of transmission of COVID-19 variants in schools

B.C. heath officials confirmed there are cases of COVID-19 variants of concern in seven schools in the Fraser Health region.

But there is no evidence of transmission of the variants in schools, deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said Monday, which indicates that COVID-19 safety measures already in place at the province’s schools are working when they are

followed.

Thirty-five teachers have been tested for the variants, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said, with all of the tests coming back negative.

Gustafson also said the province is screening 70 per cent of test samples for COVID-19 variants of concern, up from 15 per cent last month.

“Sometimes when we change our testing strategies or we change our screening strategies we can have increased detections,” Gustafson said.

“We must absolutely respond to them and we will continue to respond to them.”

Cases of the B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. have been detected at six Surrey schools — Tamanawis Secondary, James Ardiel Elementary, Surrey Traditional Elementary, Woodward Hill Elementary, A.H.P. Matthew Elementary, and Gobind Sarvar School.  Another case has been detected at Delta’s Hellings Elementary.

Fraser Health said Monday that because of the variants it is expanding its testing recommendations to include all high-risk contacts whether they have symptoms or not.

The health authority said it is also trying to streamline screening of all variant tests so they can identify positive cases faster.

Earlier in the day, The BC Teachers’ Federation called for expanding guidelines around mask-wearing in schools, but Gustafson said there are no plans for changes at this time.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools' 2:08 COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools

COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools

Read more: COVID-19 variant detected at multiple Metro Vancouver schools

At last count, B.C. has identified 72 cases of COVID-19 variants, the majority of which were the B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the U.K.

Health officials have warned that variants could lead to a third wave of infections.

— With files from Robyn Crawford and The Canadian Press

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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