A high school student in The Pas has been identified as the first case of a coronavirus variant in northern Manitoba.
The student attends Margaret Barbour Collegiate, which was informed by the province Monday that a student had tested positive, but had likely not contracted COVID-19 at the school.
The school learned the student had attended an in-person class prior to being tested, Margaret Barbour principal Kathi McConnell-Hore said Wednesday.
"The student innocently attended school before they went for their test. Based on the outcome of their test, we had the class that the student was attending at the time, all the other students in the class, and a teacher, contacted by public health," she said. "They are now quarantining, not for any other reason other than the decision has been to err on the side of caution."
McConnell-Hore said the school was made aware that the case was a confirmed B.1.1.7 variant case on Tuesday.
The class the student attended before getting tested had four students and one teacher, all of whom are self-isolating at home and have been switched to remote learning.
Not all classes at the high school are so small, and McConnell-Hore said it was lucky the student had only attended one class.
"It could have been scary," she said. "So while you don't want any of this to ever happen, in the grand scheme of things, where you’re sort of lucky for the most part, that doesn't mean we ever want to see it happen again… we're just continuing to persevere and to be very diligent in everything we do."
The school, which has 420 students and 50 staff, has used a blended remote and in-person learning throughout the pandemic and has had eight cases of COVID-19 connected to it total. The last case was in the first week of December.
The student was not the first young person in Manitoba to contract a variant. A 22-year-old post-secondary student in Winnipeg was hospitalized for nine days after contracting the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant.
There have been 560 COVID-19 variant cases in Manitoba, with 225 currently active and two deaths connected to variants. The highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant has accounted for 88 per cent of variant cases in Manitoba. Of the 560 variant cases, 44 are linked to schools across Manitoba including 21 cases that have been identified in the previous 14 days.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.