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Fraser Health identifies more COVID-19 variants of concern at 3 Surrey schools

Click to play video: 'New COVID-19 variants of concern found at three more Surrey schools' New COVID-19 variants of concern found at three more Surrey schools
Fraser Health says the variants were reported at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, Frank Hurt Secondary School, and M.B. Sanford Elementary School – Feb 27, 2021

Fraser Health has identified more COVID-19 variants of concern at three Surrey schools, the health authority said Friday.

There have been exposures at Queen Elizabeth Secondary School, Frank Hurt Secondary School, and M.B. Sanford Elementary School.

“I recognize that this is concerning news, but please be assured our school district will continue to follow strict health and safety protocols so that our students and staff can attend school as safely as possible,” Surrey school superintendent Jordan Tinney said in an update Saturday.

The health authority says individuals at each school have tested positive for a COVID-19 variant of concern.

Read more: Surrey elementary school teachers walk in solidarity as concern around COVID-19 variants grows

Only staff and students who have been identified as close contacts will need to be tested, and have already been contacted, and the schools will remain open, according to Fraser Health.

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Click to play video: 'New COVID-19 variants of concern found at three more Surrey schools' New COVID-19 variants of concern found at three more Surrey schools
New COVID-19 variants of concern found at three more Surrey schools – Feb 27, 2021

In his Saturday update, Tinney said two classes at Frank Hurt had been advised to self-monitor for symptoms, but that Fraser Health had assured him that “there is no immediate risk to our school as a result of this exposure.”

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At M.B. Sanford, an entire class has been directed for testing “out of an abundance of caution to make sure that potential close contacts do not have the variant,” he said.

Individuals who need testing are being notified directly, he said.

Fraser Health is investigating the cases and says to date, they appear to be linked to community transmission.

Surrey Teachers Association president Matt Westphal said the development was troubling.

“I’m hoping we’ll get through the rest of the weekend without more, but frankly I’m not that optimistic,” he said.

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“Once they take root in the community, there’s no telling where this may go.”

Westphal said teachers still want to see masks made mandatory in all classrooms.

Read more: BCTF president blasts B.C.’s response as WorkSafeBC data shows COVID-19-related claims in schools

Teachers are also pushing for school districts to be allowed to craft their own safety protocols, particularly in hard-hit areas like Fraser Health.

“We want school districts to have the ability to tailor their safety plans to exceed what the current provincial plan is, just because the pandemic is not the same everywhere.”

Westphal also called for the schools experiencing high numbers of cases to close or go down to half-density, at least until spring break arrives.

Last weekend, the health authority confirmed several schools in the region have confirmed cases of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant first reported in the U.K.

Health officials have also confirmed a case in Delta.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools' COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools
COVID-19 variant exposures reported at multiple B.C. schools – Feb 22, 2021

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