Death toll climbs at Roberta Place as premier says he was told the military was not needed to assist

Some of the cases traced to the UK variant of COVID

The number of residents who have died from a COVID-19 outbreak at a Barrie long-term care home has climbed again.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) says 44 residents of Roberta Place have died, an increase of four. Those deaths along with the passing of an essential caregiver bring the number of victims to 45.

On Saturday, SMDHU confirmed the source of the outbreak to be the UK COVID variant.

At a media briefing on Monday, Premier Ford was asked why he had not called in the military to assist at Roberta Place and if he had plans to bring in the troops.

Ford said he did ask the question.

“Well, we’ve asked the Red Cross that had been in there,” said the premier. “That’s the support we needed. When I asked that question, I was told that we don’t need them.”

He then passed on the question to Health Minister Christine Elliott.

“Well, there is support coming in, in addition to whatever support the Red Cross can offer,” explained Elliott. “But Royal Victoria Hospital, as well as Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, have been helping out, because we now have an association between long-term care homes and hospitals, that they’re able to deploy personnel, bring in PPE, whatever else is necessary. And we’ve also had some vaccines go into this particular long-term care home to the residents that are able to receive them.”

The premier said earlier this month he supports the military being sent to some of province’s long-term care homes hardest hit by COVID-19, and said the prime minister had offered to provide the support.

Speaking to reporters on Jan. 13, Ford said he had spoken to Justin Trudeau that day who offered to send in the military to some Ontario long-term care homes where additional support is required. At the time, Ford did not commit to taking Trudeau up on the offer.

“I just got off the phone with the prime minister before I came out here an hour ago or so and he’s offered that up. We’ll take all the help we can get. I never refuse help. If it’s the military, if it’s the Red Cross, if it’s anyone,” Ford said.

During the same briefing, Ford said he was leaving specifics about a possible military deployment up to the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Health.