Two new cases of the B.1.1.7. variant of COVID-19, which was first discovered in the U.K., have been identified in the Calgary zone.
While Alberta Health said are travel-related and all of the close contacts are in isolation, a spokesperson said this has impacted two more Calgary-zone schools. Five students at four schools in the zone have now been impacted by variants.
Global News has confirmed one positive case of a COVID-19 variant at Henry Wise Wood High School in Calgary.
“There has still been no spread detected within these classes, despite enhanced testing,” Hinshaw said Thursday, noting Alberta Health is monitoring scientific literature and international experience to determine if additional measures are needed in schools.
Caleb Desrosiers said he was contacted by Henry Wise Wood in mid-January to begin a self-isolation period. He was then contacted a second time to get another test and returned to classes after his isolation period ended.
“I was previously isolated for a case in my gym class, but it had been said they had gotten one of the new variants,” Desrosiers told Global News. “They wanted to test again to be extra sure, but they said not to isolate so I’m still here.”
“Some students have gotten calls and been told to get tested because of a new case that has been around our school,” Mia Miller, another Henry Wise Wood student, told Global News. “My friend called me yesterday after she got the call. They didn’t explain where she could have got exposed to it.”
Miller said she is concerned about bringing the novel coronavirus home from school.
“I’m just worried for my safety and my family’s safety.”
Alberta Health has dedicated contact-tracing teams for the variants of COVID-19 and capacity to conduct genetic sequencing of positive tests has been built up to 300 tests per day.
But identification of the early variant cases wasn’t immediate.
“It did take some time before the positive case was screened for the variant,” Hinshaw said.
Alberta’s top doctor pointed to the “remarkable” rapid ramp-up of genetic testing for the variants, happening in just a few weeks.
“A couple of weeks ago, when this case was first identified as a positive COVID case, we weren’t yet at that point where we were able to rapidly screen all of the tests,” Hinshaw said.
“At the moment, we are improving our ability to move positive cases quickly through that screening protocol for variant mutations,” Alberta’s top doctor said. “The timing therefore will be improved as we go forward.”
According to Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan, contact tracers begin to connect with contacts of variants “within 24-48 hours of variant cases being identified.”
McMillan declined to confirm any details, citing patient confidentiality.
According to Calgary Board of Education spokesperson Joanne Anderson, three schools have entire grades switched to at-home learning due to positive COVID-19 cases: Grade 7 at Terry Fox School, Grade 9 at Wilma Hansen School and Grade 9 at Ernest Morrow School.
And a Calgary Catholic School District spokesperson confirmed a number of grades were undertaking online learning: Grades 8 and 9 at St. Bonaventure School, a Grade 8 class at St. Joan of Arc School, a Grade 9 class at Monsignor J.J. O’Brien School and a Grade 7 class at Our Lady of Peace School.
On Thursday, Hinshaw said 304 schools have COVID-19 alerts or outbreaks, with 763 positive cases among school populations in the province.
On Tuesday, Hinshaw said the U.K. variant had been detected in three students who attended two Calgary zone schools while infectious.
Hinshaw said none of Alberta’s cases of the N501Y.V2 variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, was suspected of being spread in the community.
–with files from Lauren Pullen, Global NewsView link »