SIMCOE MUSKOKA DISTRICT HEALTH UNIT
In addition to the seven confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 previously reported by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDH), an additional 99 individuals who have had a positive first screening test for a variant of concern have been identified. The second part of the test, whole-genome sequencing, will confirm if it is a COVID-19 variant of concern and the exact type of variant. It’s expected that those results will likely be the UK variant.
Most of these preliminary individuals have a link to the Roberta Place Long Term Care home outbreak; however, two are individuals with no links.
“Our investigation into these preliminary results is early, but it appears that two persons have no known link to those individuals we recently identified as positive for the United Kingdom (UK) variant,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU). “This certainly makes us concerned that the variant may be more widespread, and that in turn means that we need to really take public health measures that prevent spread of the virus much more to heart.”
These first results follow reporting on the weekend by SMDHU of genome testing on seven COVID-19 samples identifying the United Kingdom (UK) variant, which is more contagious and transmissible. Six of those individuals are associated with the outbreak at Robert Place Long Term Care Home, and one is an individual who had close contact with a person who is also part of the COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home (LTCH) in Bradford West Gwillimbury. The health unit continues to investigate if that outbreak is also due to the UK variant of COVID-19.
An individual working at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care (Bayfield Building), which is currently in outbreak, is one of the two individuals who have tested positive on the first screening test where no links to the Roberta Place outbreak are identified.
“I’m sharing this information because this variant is on the move in our community and the only way it can move is through people,” said Dr. Gardner. “We need to absolutely follow the stay at home order so that we can protect ourselves, those who are more vulnerable and our health care system. We need to assume that a variant of this virus is everywhere and do everything we can to drive it out.”
For more information, visit the health unit’s COVID-19 web page or call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520). More information about the vaccine and immunization can also be found at ontario.ca.