U.K. variant of COVID-19 confirmed in massive outbreak at Barrie long-term care home Meredith Bond

The Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit has confirmed the U.K. variant of COVID-19 is present in a Barrie long-term care home that has experienced one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in the province.

Genome sequencing on six samples confirmed the presence of the highly contagious and easily transmitted variant at Roberta Place.

Almost all of the residents, 124 of 127, have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak at the home was first declared on Jan. 8. A total of 29 have died.

There have been 84 staff members who also tested positive, along with two essential visitors and three external partners.

The U.K.’s chief scientist said Friday that the variant may carry a higher risk of death than the original strain, but the data is still uncertain.

The Red Cross was deployed to the Barrie home on Jan. 17 in order to support in the home’s efforts to stop the ongoing outbreak.

Medical Officer of Health Charles Gardner said in a statement, “Confirmation of the variant, while expected, does not change our course of action. We remain diligent in doing everything we can to prevent further spread.”

The health unit says, as of January 16, all eligible residents in long-term care facilities in Simcoe Muskoka have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

RELATED: Doctor volunteering at Barrie LTC home during outbreak wants more provincial help

One of the several doctors volunteering at Roberta Place, Dr. Kelley Wright told CityNews earlier this week, she believes the province should be taking a larger role in coordinating efforts at LTC homes ravaged by the COVID-19 virus.

She believes a provincial task force should be set up that would deploy services to LTC homes dealing with outbreaks.

Earlier this month, the St. George Care Community in Toronto was believed to be the worst hit in Ontario, reporting that 97 of their 140 residents were infected at some point during their outbreak. The facility, like Roberta Place, is a for-profit home.

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