A COVID-19 “variant of concern” has been identified in 99 individuals in an Ontario long-term care home.
On Tuesday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDH) said in addition to the seven confirmed cases of the UK COVID-19 variant—B.1.1.7—previously detected, 99 individuals have had a positive first screening test for a variant of concern.
“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,” stated the SMDH.
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 SMDHU, in a 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.”
These first results follow reporting on the weekend by SMDHU of genome testing on seven COVID-19 samples identifying the 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 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.
To date, the Ontario government has officially confirmed 43 UK COVID-19 variant cases in the province.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said that the strain was likely being transmitted in Ontario before it was detected and it might be more “prevalent that we think.”