A British variant of COVID-19 has been identified at Barrie’s long-term care home which is facing a massive virus outbreak.
Simcoe Muskoka’s District Health Unit (SMDHU) confirmed that six cases of COVID-19 from the Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home had been identified as a variant of the highly contagious coronavirus.
This case happened to five residents and one employee.
As of Saturday, 127 residents had tested positive for the virus, along with 84 staff members, representing half of the workers helping to respond to the outbreak, said Health’s SMDHU Medical Officer Dr. Charles Gardner in a virtual press conference Saturday afternoon.
Only two residents in the house have not tested positive for the virus.
Together with the infected residents and staff, two important visitors, three external partners and 21 household members connected to employees and external partners at the home tested positive for the virus.
A total of 32 residents have died from the disease caused by the new coronavirus since the outbreak began at home on January 8.
Although only six samples tested positive for the British variant, Gardner said he believes all infected residents and staff have the variant.
“We have had the test results on six individuals, but I have no doubt that they all have variants. There is no reason to believe that the second variety was introduced to the site at the same time by accident. I have no reason to believe that it is anything but this British variant throughout the facility and affects all positive cases, “he said.
On Wednesday, the SMDHU confirmed that initial laboratory testing of the six cases at the home had identified a it is likely that there is a “worrying variant of COVID-19. “
The second test, the genome sequencing test, determined that the six samples were UK B.1.1.7 variants.
The British variant, along with the 501Y.V2 variant from South Africa, is believed to be about 50 percent more transmissible than other variants of the virus.
Another variant that is of concern that appears is the E484K variant found in Brazil.
Gardner said the home was doing all it could to contain the variant but said he was “very concerned” about spreading it to the wider community.
“My concern is very high. This virus, this variant proved to be highly contagious. The virus is growing rapidly in the home despite best efforts and has now infected many workers, other couples who have responded to the situation, and even some members of the household staff. and those who respond to the situation. “
Gardner added that because the variant has infected household members of those who work in the home, community transmission is possible.
“It’s definitely on the edge, I agree. It depends on their contact outside of their household and whether we start seeing spread there or not and we haven’t seen it but we are on the very edge.”
On Thursday, SMDHU delivered a domestic workers who have close contact with someone traveling abroad was one of the first people suspected of bringing the variant home.
The worker followed all precautions, and was tested regularly, but initially showed no symptoms.
Gardner said the worker did not violate the Quarantine Act or any recommendations set by the government.
“The disclosure in question did not occur in the community and staff members who were cases from the start did not experience symptoms when they came to work. They are asymptomatic when tested regularly, “he said.
With the infection spreading rapidly throughout the home since early January, Gardner was asked why the occupants weren’t rounded up early to reduce transmission.
He said the cohorting had not been successful due to reduced staffing levels.
“Homes have never succeeded in implementing the kind of grouping you describe where you maintain restrictions on staff movement or exposure of staff to cases and non-cases. That of course is something that is optimal practice in an outbreak and it’s definitely not established,” he said.
Earlier this week, the SMDHU ordered temporary leadership of Roberta Place to be assigned to Orillia Soldier Memorial Hospital to control the outbreak.
The organization will help ensure that staff, training, and equipment and supplies are available so that facilities can continue to respond to and control the outbreak.
Last weekend, the house inoculated 135 staff members and 21 residents with the first dose of Pfizer BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.
However, on Thursday, the Associate Medical Officer of Health at SMDHU Dr. Colin Lee said the house should have gotten an earlier dose of the Moderna vaccine but that the dose was shifted to areas with a higher prevalence of long-term care outbreaks.
He said that houses “around GTA received the Moderna (vaccine) meant for us”.
This is due to the government’s goal of delivering the first dose to all long-term care homes in York, Peel, Toronto and Windsor Essex by January 21.
“If we get the vaccine a month before we enter [last] Saturday, I think this outbreak will be much lighter, “he said.
On Thursday, the provincial government said there were 15 known cases of the British variant across the province, not including the now confirmed cases at Roberta Place.