COVID-19 Variant Found at Barrie Long-Term Care Home

A COVID-19 variant has been detected by health authorities at a Barrie long-term care home which is currently experiencing the virus outbreak. Testing continues to determine the exact variant strain.

Preliminary laboratory testing has identified a COVID-19 variant in six swabs at Roberta Place, a long-term care home in Barrie, Ontario, according to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU).

“The variant strain testing is a two part test, and at this time, the first test which looks for a particular 501 mutation is positive and indicates a very high probability that they are of a variant strain of concern,” SMDHU said in a news release on Wednesday.

“The second part of the test is a whole genome sequencing test to determine the exact COVID-19 strain.”

“The results are expected in the next three to four days,” the health unit said.

The SMDHU issued the emergency order under the Health Promotion and Protection Act (HPPA) for Public Health on Jan. 8 after a resident at the home tested positive for COVID-19, the disease the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus causes.

Since the outbreak, the virus has infected over 100 people at the home, according to Stephanie Barber, community relations coordinator at Jarlette Health Services, which owns Roberta Place. 

“The impact of this outbreak on the facility has been tragic and these interim results of a variant are extremely concerning for everyone,” SMDHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner said.

On Jan. 16, Gardner issued an order under HPPA to authorise Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital to temporarily manage the home to bring the outbreak under control. Other community partners have been called in to assist in the situation.

“The health unit, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, and Roberta Place, as well as our partners including the Red Cross, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, community physicians are all working together to contain the spread of the virus and protect residents and staff,” said Gardner.

A mobile vaccine clinic was also at the long-term care home on the weekend and provided vaccines to all those who were able and willing to be vaccinated, the SMDHU said.

David Jarlette, president of Jarlette Health Services said the COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to the long-term care home.

“We recognize that COVID-19 represents a new set of health and safety challenges and we cannot always guarantee a favourable outcome; however, we are exercising every measure possible to protect our residents and team members, while containing and overcoming this outbreak,” Jarlette said.

“On behalf of everyone at Roberta Place Long-Term Care Home and Jarlette Health Services at large, we extend our thoughts to all those who have been affected by the unprecedented events at the Home.”