BARRIE, ONT. --
Health officials are investigating the possibility that the super-contagious U.K. variant of COVID-19 may be present in a second long-term care home in Simcoe County.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said Sunday that a person who has had close contact with someone associated with an outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community in Bradford West Gwillimbury has tested positive for the U.K. B.1.1.7 variant.
The health unit characterizes the COVID-19 outbreak at Bradford Valley as "well under control," with six of 230 residents testing positive and three of 260 staff members. There has been testing to check for the variant, but it is not clear when the results will be in.
Citing privacy concerns, Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Gardner, would not elaborate on the background of the person diagnosed with the new strain, calling it a "fortuitous finding." Gardner stressed that they had not travelled recently.
The person works at an unnamed Simcoe County retail outlet that offers curbside pickup. There are two other COVID-19 cases associated with that store but no confirmation of the U.K. variant. Gardner said more investigation is needed.
The revelation comes the day after the U.K. variant was confirmed in six swabs taken from infected residents and staff at Roberta Place Long-Term Care home in Barrie. That outbreak had killed 41 people and sickened more than 200 in a little over two weeks.
While there is not yet confirmation of community spread of the U.K. variant in Simcoe County, Dr. Gardner sees reason for concern.
"I think that it's important for people to take to heart the very real possibility that it's circulating in the community right now. If not from this cluster, then from other sources," Gardner said.
"If it isn't happening now, it could be happening in the very near future."
Gardner stressed the importance of only leaving home for essential reasons, maintaining physical distancing, using face coverings, good hand hygiene and self-monitoring for symptoms.