Published Saturday, January 23, 2021 12:03PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, January 23, 2021 3:02PM EST
Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) confirmed that six COVID-19 cases from Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home have been identified as the highly contagious coronavirus variant.
The cases are among five residents and one employee.
Only two residents at the home have not tested positive for the virus.
Along with the infected residents and staff, two essential visitors, three external partners and 21 household members connected to employees and external partners at the home have tested positive for the virus.
A total of 32 residents have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus since the outbreak started at the home on Jan. 8.
Although only six samples tested positive for the UK variant, Gardner said he is confident that all infected residents and staff have the variant.
“We’ve had test results on six individuals but I do not doubt that all of them have the variant. There’s no reason to believe that a second variety was introduced onto the site at the same time coincidently. I don’t have any reason to believe that it’s anything other than this UK variant throughout the facility and affecting all positive cases," he said.
On Wednesday, SMDHU confirmed that preliminary laboratory testing of six cases at the home had identified a high likelihood that there was a “COVID-19 variant of concern.”
The second test, which is a genome sequencing test, determined that the six samples were the UK B.1.1.7 variant.
The UK variant, along with the 501Y.V2 variant from South Africa, are believed to be about 50 per cent more transmissible than other variants of the virus.
Another variant of concern that has surfaced is the E484K variant found in Brazil.
Gardner said the home is doing all it can to contain the variant but said he is "very concerned" about it spreading into the broader community.
"My concern is very high. This virus, this variant has proven to be highly infectious. It rapidly progressed through the home despite best efforts and has now infected many workers, other partners who responded to the situation, and even some household members of staff and those who responded to the situation."
Gardner added that since the variant has already infected household members of those who worked at the home, community transmission is possible.