There are now 45 deaths that are connected to a devastating coronavirus outbreak at Roberta Place long-term care home in Barrie, Ont., where the local health unit has confirmed the presence of the U.K. COVID-19 variant.
As of Monday afternoon, 44 residents and one essential caregiver have died as a result of the nursing home outbreak. Eighty-six staff members, 127 residents, three external partners and two essential caregivers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
As of Monday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says there are seven cases of the U.K. COVID-19 variant in the region, which have been confirmed by Public Health Ontario’s lab.
Six of the variant cases are associated with the Roberta Place outbreak, while the seventh involves an individual who had close contact with a person who is part of another COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community, another nursing home in the region.
The health unit is investigating whether the Bradford outbreak is due to the U.K. variant.
Dr. Charles Gardner, the local health unit’s medical officer of health, has said it’s believed that residents infected with COVID-19 at Roberta Place all have the U.K. variant strain of the virus.
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.
On Saturday, Gardner said there weren’t any violations of either provincial health advisories or the Quarantine Act, but he seemed to backtrack on Sunday, when he said an investigation is still underway to be sure.
“What we do in the next few days and coming weeks is going to be particularly important, not just to save lives here in Barrie but beyond,” Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said in a Twitter video Monday.
“You need to stay home, not gather in any numbers, not go into anyone else’s home. If you’re going to work, you need to wear a mask and stay six-feet away from people at your work.”
Even if people are outdoors — or anywhere where they’re around others — they should wear a mask and always physically distance when possible, Lehman said.
At a press conference Monday, Dr. Vanessa Allen, Public Health Ontario’s microbiology and lab science chief, said there are 34 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 U.K. variant in the province.
The B117 variant was first detected in the U.K. in September 2020 and is now widespread in London and southeast England. It has since been detected in around the world and was recently confirmed in Ontario.
According to Public Health Ontario, there is no indication that the COVID-19 vaccines will be less effective against the U.K. variant, although studies are currently underway to determine whether this is the case.
The Simcoe Muskoka health unit says officials are unsure of how widely the U.K. variant has spread in the community and that they’re investigating further. Public health also says it doesn’t know how the illness caused by the new variants differ from ones that are already circulating in the community.
On Monday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 130 new coronavirus cases since Friday and 19 additional deaths. The total number of active COVID-19 cases in the region stands at 1,229.
— With files from Global News’ Ryan Rocca