VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor says she's concerned about the growing number of cases of COVID-19 variants in the province, with one prompting large-scale testing at a high school.
The province diagnosed seven new cases of the United Kingdom strain over the weekend, bringing the total to 14, while the number of cases of the South African strain sits at four.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said all the cases of the U.K. variant are connected to travel but those with the South African strain have no link to international trips and officials are working to determine how people contracted the virus.
"This is one of the things that is most concerning for us right now that we've seen in other parts of the world and here in Canada," she told a news conference Monday.
Not much is known about the new variants but they may spread more easily, she added.
A contact of someone with one of the variants attends Garibaldi Secondary School in Maple Ridge and about 80 people who were in a cohort with the teen are being tested, she said.
There were 1,158 new COVID-19 cases from Saturday through Monday and 21 more deaths in the province.
Henry noted that Super Bowl Sunday, the Lunar New Year and Family Day are on the horizon and she urged residents not to hold parties or celebrate with anyone from outside their household.
She also described an alleged makeshift nightclub inside a Vancouver penthouse as "offensive."
"I am appreciative that police took the action they did," Henry said. "I think all of us are doing our best to follow the rules. ... When people are flagrantly violating those rules, that's why we have the orders in place that action can be taken."
Police arrested Mohammad Movassaghi on Sunday for allegedly running a club inside his home and issued more than $17,000 in fines against him and his suspected guests.
The lawyer reported to be representing Movassaghi could not immediately be reached for comment.
Health Minister Adrian Dix also announced Monday that about 100 Canadian Red Cross members are being sent to up to five long-term care or assisted living facilities to help exhausted staff grappling with COVID-19 outbreaks.
Teams of 20 Red Cross members will be immunized before helping with non-clinical services at each site for seven days a week for up to four weeks, he said.
Dix said there are 24 outbreaks at long-term care or assisted living facilities, roughly half the number from two weeks ago. But he said the help from the Red Cross was still necessary at this time.
"Even though the number of outbreaks has declined, it's a very challenging time in long-term care," he said. "Mostly, it's about improving the quality of life of people living in those care homes during a very difficult time."
— By Laura Dhillon Kane in Vancouver
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press