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Outbreak declared at Waypoint, positive COVID-19 variant case confirmed

'This additional news adds more anxiety,' Waypoint CEO says of new COVID-19 variant case
2020-03-12 ap
Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene. Andrew Philips/MidlandToday file photo.

Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care now has a variant COVID-19 case.

According to the health unit, the Penetanguishene facility’s positive case involves an individual working in its Bayfield Building. The Waypoint employee is one of two individuals who have tested positive in the region with a COVID-19 variant that's not linked to the Roberta Place outbreak that has claimed the lives of 45 residents and seen more than 200 others infected at the Barrie long-term care home.

"One of those two is an individual part of a small outbreak at Waypoint,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, chief medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.

“That's important. That means essentially we have another outbreak due to a variant of concern of COVID-19. We have a new location now that is potentially associated with the UK variant.”

Gardner said this shows the variant is “on the move in our community” and the only way it can move is through people.

“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.”

Waypoint declared a COVID-19 outbreak on the Horizon Program for geriatric psychiatry that's located in the Bayfield Building Friday in consultation with the outbreak. So far, two patients and one staff member have tested positive.

“We now have confirmation that preliminary test results of one of the individuals in the current outbreak was positive for a particular mutation indicating a high probability that this individual has a variant strain of concern of COVID-19,” the hospital noted on its website, pointing out that additional testing is underway to determine the exact COVID-19 variant.

“We know this news is difficult to hear however extra precautions have been in place on the Horizon Program since January 18th with all patients in isolation and full contact/droplet personal protective equipment for staff,” Waypoint president and CEO Carol Lambie said in the release.

“To date, this outbreak has been well contained and we thank our staff for their tireless efforts to care for patients under the heightened safety precautions in place for this program.”

All patients were tested and the first set of results have come back negative with patients were tested again Tuesday. Staff from the Horizon Program and across Waypoint have also been participating in testing with no additional staff cases reported.

As well, all Horizon patients and many of the staff have received their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. While the specific variant has not been defined, Pfizer-BioNTech reported last week that the vaccine appears to work just as well against a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK.

An earlier confirmed COVID-19 outbreak in the Penetanguishene facility’s Awenda A & B (forensic) units is now over. According to Waypoint, the Awenda program outbreak was contained to two patients and one staff testing positive and declared over by the health unit Saturday.

As for the Horizon Program, it is now closed to transfers unless for emergency medical reasons until the outbreak is over. The hospital remains open for admissions to its Swing Unit (isolation unit) and all other clinical programs are continuing activities.

Staff are being "cohorted" on the Horizon Program and not moving to other areas of the hospital since the Bayfield Building is not physically connected to the rest of the Waypoint campus.

All staff are screened at entry to the Bayfield Building and do not use the general entrance/screening for Waypoint’s other buildings.

“Again, we know how challenging this is,” Lambie added. “Our recent outbreaks, positive cases among patients and staff, and the additional safety measures of isolation of patients and full PPE is taking its toll on our staff, patients and families, and this additional news adds more anxiety.

“We want to assure you that any additional safety measures recommended for the variant are being put in place, we are keeping our families up to date and offering support, and we have numerous wellness supports available for staff.”

-with files from Erika Engel