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New U.K. COVID-19 variant case found in Simcoe Muskoka, may be linked to long-term care outbreak

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Health officials said Sunday that another U.K. coronavirus variant case has been identified in Simcoe Muskoka, adding that the case was a close contact of a person who is part of a long-term care outbreak.

Local officials said they received confirmation of the variant case late Saturday.

“This individual had close contact with a person who is also part of a COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, a long-term care home in Bradford West Gwillimbury,” a news release from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) said.

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“As such, SMDHU is currently investigating if this outbreak is also due to the U.K. variant of COVID-19.”

An outbreak was declared at the home on Jan. 14.

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Local medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said six residents out of 230 have tested positive for the virus at the facility.

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Three staff members also have the virus.

Testing is underway to determine whether or not those involved in the outbreak have the U.K. variant.

“While the outbreak is well under control at this time with a relatively low case count, the possibility of this being due to the U.K. variant needs to be assessed and managed, given its increased transmissibility,” the news release said.

Officials added that 96 per cent of residents at the facility have been given their first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination. Around 60 per cent of team members have been given their first shot.

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Gardner said the person who is confirmed to have the variant does not have any known links to travel.

He said the case does have a connection to a curbside retail setting in Simcoe County, where two COVID-19 cases have been identified. It’s not yet known if those are from the U.K. strain as well.

The U.K. B.1.1.7 version of the virus is believed to be more transmissible and possibly more deadly.

Death toll at Roberta Place long-term care home rises to 41

News of the additional variant case came one day after health officials confirmed the U.K. strain was behind an outbreak at Roberta Place long-term care in Barrie that has seen nearly all residents infected.

Six samples were confirmed to be the variant at the home, and Gardner said it’s believed those infected in the outbreak have that version of the virus.

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Gardner said Sunday that the death toll at the facility has risen to 41 after seven more residents died, as well as one essential caregiver.

A total of 127 residents have tested positive at the home, while two are negative. Eighty-six staff members also have COVID-19, as well as 42 household contacts of primary cases.

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It’s unclear exactly how the variant made its way into Roberta Place, but health officials have said a staff member came into close contact with someone who travelled internationally and tested positive for COVID-19.

Gardner said Saturday that there weren’t any violations of either provincial health advisories or the Quarantine Act, but seemed to backtrack on Sunday, saying an investigation is still underway to be sure.

The medical officer said people in Simcoe Muskoka should act as if the variant is circulating in the community, and noted that there have been several cases identified in Ontario without known travel links.

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— With files from Daina Goldfinger