Mark Clairmont |

BARRIE A major COVID outbreak at Roberta Place may have been caused by the first variant strain in the region early testing shows.

Dozens of cases that began last Friday at the LTC home that have led to at least eight deaths are being investigated further and the results are expected on the weekend.

Roberta Place is owned by Jarlette Health Services, which owns Muskoka Landing in Huntsville.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) says lab testing early this week has revealed a COVID-19 variant in six swabs from a Barrie long-term care home.

They say in a release late this afternoon that the variant strain testing is a two-part test, and that as of today the first test indicates a “very high probability” that they are of a variant strain of concern.

The second part of the test is a whole genome sequencing test to determine the exact strain.

The results are expected in the next three to four days.

Since the outbreak was declared at Roberta Place in Barrie Jan. 8, positive cases have grown exponentially.

“The impact of this outbreak on the facility has been tragic and these interim results of a variant are extremely concerning for everyone,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s medical officer of health.

“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.”

Last Saturday, Jan. 16, Gardner issued an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) for the temporary leadership of Roberta Place to be under the responsibility of Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital (OSMH) to help bring a current outbreak under control.

He told media yesterday in a conference call that many community partners have since been working collaboratively in a “coming together” of community health agencies to assist the residents and staff, ensuring that staffing, training, and equipment and supplies are in place so that the facility can continue to respond to and control the outbreak.

“We are deeply saddened by today’s developments and extend our heartfelt condolences to all those impacted by this outbreak,” said Carmine Stumpo, OSMH president and CEO in today’s release.

“We remain focused on providing leadership and guidance to support residents, families and staff through this crisis as safely and quickly as possible.”

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

“On behalf of everyone at Roberta Place and Jarlette Health Services at large, we extend our thoughts to all those who have been affected by the unprecedented events at the Home,” added David Jarlette, president of the company that owns the Barrie 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.”

Gardner said: “We understand that these are very unprecedented and challenging times for the families, residents and staff of Roberta Place and we appreciate the concern of all involved as we get more information on the variant in the coming days.”

For more information, visit the health unit’s COVID-19 web page or call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 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

Barrie’s Roberta Place is owned by Jarlette Health Systems, which owns Muskoka Landing in Huntsville.

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