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'Highly contagious' UK variant confirmed at Roberta Place in Barrie

This variant of concern is more easily transmitted, resulting in much larger numbers of cases in a very rapid fashion, says health unit
2021-01-12 Roberta Place RB 3
Roberta Place is located on Essa Road in Barrie's south end.

Genome sequencing on all six COVID-19 samples from a Barrie long-term care home have now been identified as the United Kingdom (UK) variant that has proven to be highly contagious and easily transmitted.  

“The rapid spread, high attack rate and the devastating impact on residents and staff at Roberta Place long-term care home has been heartbreaking for all,” said Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU). “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.”  

On Wednesday Jan. 20, SMDHU confirmed that preliminary laboratory testing of six cases had identified a high likelihood that there was a COVID-19 variant of concern. The second test, a whole genome sequencing test, determined the exact COVID-19 variant, the UK B.1.1.7 variant.  This variant of concern is more easily transmitted, resulting in much larger numbers of cases in a very rapid fashion.  

The outbreak at Roberta Place long-term care was first declared on Jan. 8. As of yesterday, Friday, Jan. 22, 124 of 127 residents, and 84 staff were positive for the virus, resulting in 29 deaths. In addition, two essential visitors and three external partners have tested positive.  

Yesterday, the health unit in partnership with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre accelerated its immunization program, with its mobile immunization team vaccinating all eligible residents and staff at Roberta Place Retirement Lodge retirement home against COVID-19. Beginning this weekend, the health unit, in collaboration with Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, (RVH) began immunizing residents at the other retirement homes throughout Simcoe Muskoka.

In addition, as of January 16, eligible residents of all long term care facilities in Simcoe Muskoka have received their first dose of immunization against COVID-19.

It’s important that everyone continue to strictly follow public health measures to reduce and prevent transmission of the virus: wear a mask, physically distance from those outside your household, wash your hands frequently, leave your home only for essential reasons (in keeping with the provincial Stay at Home Order), and if you have symptoms self-isolate at home and get tested for COVID-19.

For more information, visit the health unit’s COVID-19 Vaccine and Immunization web page or call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520). More information about the vaccine and immunization can also be found at