99 people in Simcoe-Muskoka likely have COVID variant, doc warns of community spread

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BARRIE, Ont. — Public health officials say 99 more people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Simcoe-Muskoka region likely have a variant of the virus.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says most of the cases are linked to a deadly outbreak at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home that has killed 46 people and infected more than 200.

But two cases have no known link, including one that’s part of a small outbreak at a regional hospital.

The data came from an ongoing study by Public Health Ontario that’s screening all positive COVID-19 tests from Jan. 20 for three new variants of the virus.

Local health officials say they are still waiting for results that will identify which variant of the virus has infected the 99 people but note that they expect it to be a variant first identified in the U.K.

The U.K. variant has already been identified in some of those infected in the Barrie long-term care home outbreak.

Dr. Charles Gardner, the region’s top doctor, says if the variant isn't already spreading in the community, it likely will be soon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021.

The Canadian Press