COVID-19 variant detected in early screening results of 99 more people: Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit
Published Tuesday, January 26, 2021 3:47PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 27, 2021 5:03AM EST
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said initial screening results for another 99 people have come back positive for a “variant of concern.”
The SMDHU said the 99 were discovered in data from a point of prevalance study conducted by Public Health Ontario, where all positive samples from Jan. 20 are being tested for the three main COVID-19 variants of concern, including variants first detected in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa.
The public health unit said while most of the 99 cases have a link to the outbreak at Roberta Place, a long-term care home in Barrie where six cases of the UK variant have already been confirmed, two individuals have no links to the facility.
Full genome sequencing is required to confirm that the cases do in fact involve the B117 variant, a more contagious variant that was first detected in the UK.
“It’s expected that those results will likely be the UK variant,” a news release issued by the health unit on Tuesday read.
Over the weekend, Dr. Charles Gardner, the medical officer of health for the SMDHU, said all of the infected patients at Roberta Place likely have the UK variant. All but two of the 127 residents at the home have tested positive for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Ninety-two staff members, representing more than half of all staff, have also tested positive.
Forty-six people associated with the outbreak have died after becoming infected with the virus.
Gardner noted that the investigation into the 99 preliminary positive results is still “early."
“… it appears that two persons have no known link to those individuals we recently identified as positive for the United Kingdom (UK) variant,” Gardner said in a written statement.
“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.”
Investigations are underway to determine if the UK variant is responsible for outbreaks at two other facilities, including Bradford Valley Care Community and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care, a facility in Penetanguishene.
The SMDHU says one case of the variant that has recently been confirmed is an individual who had close contact with a person associated with the COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley Care.
One person who tested positive for a “variant of concern” on the first screening works at Waypoint, which is also currently dealing with an outbreak.
Of the 99 under investigation for the UK variant, one has no connection to a known COVID-19 outbreak, officials said.
“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,” Gardner’s statement read.
“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.”
During a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, Gardner said more information is needed about the one person not connected to any outbreaks.
"Right off the bat it doesn't look like there is an employment exposure issue at this time," he said. "This is something we need to follow up with aggressively."
There are 43 confirmed cases of the B117 COVID-19 variant in Ontario to date and officials recently disclosed that the strain may not only be more contagious but could also cause “more severe illness.”
There has been no evidence to suggest that the variant is resistant to the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, the two vaccines that are currently approved in Canada.