Health Unit identifies another 99 local residents who may have UK variant of COVID-19, two without connections to previous outbreak

“This certainly makes us concerned that the variant may be more widespread."

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) says it has found another 99 people who likely have a variant of the COVID-19 virus. Two of those have no links whatsoever to the outbreak at Roberta Place in Barrie.

The SMDHU says there had been seven confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, but another 99 have had a positive first screening for the variant. A second test, one that sequences the whole genome, will confirm whether there is a variant in this case, and what type. It is expected these will be among the UK variant previously reported.

While most of these individuals have a link to the Roberta Place long-term care home outbreak, two are not. “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.”

A worker at Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care in Penetanguishene has been identified as one of two individuals testing positive in the first of two screenings for the variant and have no prior connections to Roberta Place. There are no details on the second individual. “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.”

The UK variant of the virus is known to be more contagious and transmissible. Companies manufacturing vaccines against COVID-19 say their formulae are effective against these variants.