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Alberta for the first time has identified transmission of a more contagious COVID-19 variant inside a school.

The province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said Wednesday there were 16 more cases in the province of the variants first reported in the United Kingdom and South Africa, two of them linked to one classroom.

“I’m not certain whether everyone involved in that exposure has been contacted, so at this time we’re not releasing the zone name,” Hinshaw said.

The variant cases pose no additional risk to people who live nearby, she said.

Last week, Hinshaw reported that four variant cases were linked to a daycare in the Edmonton zone.

“We’re looking into some other potential clusters,” she said. “We’ve seen significant in-household transmission, which isn’t surprising. That’s a dominant mode of transmission of the common strain as well.”

She noted that “knowing about variant cases means we can limit further spread, and the majority of in-school exposures so far have not led to transmission.”

The province has begun publishing data about the new variants online. As of Wednesday, there were 53 in the Calgary health zone, 41 in the Edmonton zone and 19 in the central zone.

Hinshaw said there were 339 new cases of COVID-19 overall and six more deaths. The province had 5,706 active infections. Some 421 people were in hospital, including 77 in intensive care.

“While this is well below our peak in December, it is still about five to seven times higher than our total during the spring and summer,” Hinshaw said of the hospitalization numbers.

“We will continue to watch these numbers, as well as our leading indicators of positivity rate, case numbers and growth rate, over the next few weeks.”

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