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Health unit probes whether COVID-19 variant behind 2nd Ontario long-term care home outbreak

·3 min read

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is investigating whether an outbreak at a long-term care home in the town of Bradford West Gwillimbury is due to the variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

At a news conference on Sunday, the health unit said a person linked to the Bradford Valley Care Community has tested positive for the variant. This person has had close contact with another person who is a part of the outbreak at that home, it said.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, said the Public Health Ontario Laboratory told the health unit about the positive case late Saturday.

"Given this situation, we are working together in partnership with the residence to implement additional measures to contain the spread while pursuing the necessary tests to determine if it is the U.K. variant of COVID-19 that is the cause of this outbreak," Gardner said in a new release.

The health unit said it is investigating "all other connections" to the person who tested positive. Gardner said the person worked in a retail setting in Simcoe County that offered curbside pickup, and two COVID-19 cases are linked to this setting.

The news comes after the health unit said the variant is behind a deadly outbreak at Roberta Place Long Term Care in Barrie, Ont., on Saturday. Genome sequencing on six COVID-19 samples from the home have been identified as the highly contagious variant.

An outbreak at Roberta Place, first declared on Jan. 8, has resulted in the deaths of 40 residents and one essential caregiver as of Sunday.

There are 127 resident and 86 staff cases of COVID-19 at Roberta Place. Six residents are also in hospital with COVID-19.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

The outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, meanwhile, was declared on Jan. 14. As of Sunday, six residents out of 230 and three staff out of 260 have tested positive for COVID-19.

The health unit said more testing will be done to determine whether the outbreak is due to the variant. It added that the outbreak is "well under control at this time with a relatively low case count," but the possibility that it may be due to the variant must be assessed and managed.

Dr. Andrea Moser, chief medical officer for Sienna Senior Living, which owns and operates the facility, said in a news release on Sunday that staff members at the home are working to contain the outbreak.

"We are being extremely vigilant in our monitoring for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and are taking all of the necessary steps to protect the safety of our residents and team members," Moser said.

"We are working proactively with public health and community partners, as fighting the virus will require everyone's expertise and teamwork."

Staff at home implementing measures to control outbreak

Moser said case and contact measures are being undertaken, including:

  • Extending the length of isolation for cases and close contacts.

  • More readily identifying close contacts.

  • Quarantining all household contacts of confirmed or probable cases as quickly as possible.

The health unit said its staff vaccinated most of the residents in Bradford Valley Care Community on Jan. 15 as a protective measure against COVID-19.

As of Jan. 16, all residents of long-term care homes in Simcoe Muskoka have been offered their first dose of immunization against COVID-19, the health unit added.

Moser said about 60 per cent of staff members and 96 per cent of residents at Bradford Valley Care Community have received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"We appreciate all the efforts from our partners in the community with the rollout of the vaccine and will continue working closely with them as additional doses are available for deployment," she said.