(Ben Nelms/CBC – image credit) THE LATEST: B.C. has recorded 1,428 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths in the past three days. Fraser Health is increasing testing and screening for COVID-19 variants. The next live briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Ministry Adrian Dix will happen Tuesday. Six schools in Surrey and one in Delta have confirmed cases of a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus. There are 223 people in hospital with the disease, including 63 in intensive care. There are 4,560 active cases of the novel coronavirus across the province. A total of 1,335 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. To date, 218,716 doses of vaccine have been administered, including 55,057 second doses. Fraser Health is ramping up testing, screening and contact tracing after a faster-spreading COVID-19 variant first reported in the U.K. was detected at seven schools in the region, health officials said in a snap news conference Monday. Effective immediately, Fraser Health has expanded COVID-19 testing recommendations to include all high-risk contacts of confirmed cases, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms. Those who test positive will be asked more questions about exposures, close contacts and their ability to self-isolate. Contact tracers will be checking in with them more frequently. Fraser Health is also taking steps to “streamline screening for variants” in an effort to identify positive cases more quickly, the health authority said in a statement. B.C. is now screening 70 per cent of test samples for variants of concern, up from about 15 per cent in January, Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said. B.C. recorded 1,428 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths over the past three days. Recent days have seen an upward trend in the number of new cases reported daily, and the test positivity rate is climbing, hitting 6.8 per cent provincewide on Sunday. In the Northern Health region, 12.9 per cent of tests came back positive. “As community transmission continues, we all need to continue to use all of the layers of protection, to continue to keep to our households only, and to avoid travel unless it is absolutely necessary,” Henry and Dix said in a statement. U.K. variant identified at seven schools On Saturday, the Surrey School District announced positive cases in three schools. On Sunday three additional schools were added to that list along with one in Delta. All of the cases are for the variant first discovered in the United Kingdom. The six schools in involved are James Ardiel Elementary, Surrey Traditional Elementary School, Woodward Hill Elementary, A.H.P. Matthew Elementary, and Tamanawis Secondary School in Surrey, along with Hellings Elementary School in Delta. The Fraser Health authority says it is working closely to manage exposures at schools in Surrey and one in the Delta School District. Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said Monday that testing is now underway to determine if the variants have spread through those schools. She said 35 teachers were tested on Sunday, and those tests all came back negative. Meanwhile, Teri Mooring, the head of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation is urging public health officials to expand guidelines on masks to include elementary students. Earlier this month, Provincial Health Office Dr. Bonnie Henry announced mandatory mask guidelines for middle and high school students. Mooring says she doesn’t agree with the current directive, which says students don’t have to wear masks at their desks. She says school districts should be allowed to impose measures based on their needs, considering the variants were all found in schools in the Fraser Health region. Food plant closure Also on Sunday Fraser Health announced the closure Grand River Foods, a food processing plant on Wheel Avenue in Abbotsford following an outbreak of COVID-19 among staff. To date, 22 employees of the facility have tested positive. Fraser Health identified a cluster at the site on Feb. 2 and an outbreak was declared on Feb. 19. An inspection of the site on Feb. 18 resulted in the closure order. “We are working with the facility to strengthen their COVID-19 mitigation strategies,” said the health authority in a release. Vancouver Coastal Health declared an outbreak on an inpatient unit in the Jim Pattison Pavilion at Vancouver General Hospital. Five patients and two staff members tested positive for COVID-19 and the unit is now closed to new admissions, transfers and visits until outbreak measures are lifted. Travellers must quarantine Starting Monday, air travellers landing in Canada, from non-essential trips abroad will have to quarantine in a hotel, at their own expense, for up to 72 hours while they await the results of a polymerase chain reaction test, commonly known as a PCR test. The plan was announced earlier this month by the federal government as a way to curb the spread of the new, more transmissible variants of the COVID-19 virus. The B.C. Hotel Association says it has worked with the government to help with the new policy and its members are ready to ensure the health and safety of guests and staff. Vaccination gains The province announced Friday that B.C. is starting to see a decline in the number of outbreaks of the disease, due to increasing numbers of people being vaccinated. On Friday, Deputy Provincial Health Officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said the province has now confirmed 72 cases of these variants, including 52 of the variant first reported in the U.K., and 20 of the variant first reported in South Africa. She noted that because these variants appear to spread more easily, there’s less room for error, making it more important than ever to follow public health orders and particularly to stay isolated if ordered to do so because of an exposure. Gustafson announced 508 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six new deaths. She also announced that the province received more doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the 24 hours between Thursday and Friday than any day so far this winter. So far, 192,942 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including 36,923 second doses. As of Friday, there were 4,486 active cases of COVID-19 across B.C. Of those, 217 people are in hospital, including 61 in intensive care. Another 7,699 people are being monitoring by public health because of exposure to known cases of the virus. To date, 1,327 people have died from infection with the novel coronavirus in B.C. out of 75,835 confirmed cases. A total of 69,970 who’ve tested positive have recovered from their illness. READ MORE: What’s happening elsewhere in Canada As of 7:00 p.m. PT Sunday, Canada had reported 845,657 cases of COVID-19, with 31,375 cases considered active. A total of 21,674 people have died. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they’re mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep at least two metres away from people outside your bubble. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.
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