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First Positive Screen for a potential COVID-19 Variant of Concern

Timmins, Ontario — Thursday, February 4, 2021

Dr. Lianne Catton, Medical Officer of Health for the Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) reports that the PHU has been notified that a confirmed COVID-19 test result has now screened positive for a possible variant of concern (VOC). Further testing is needed to confirm the screen, and identify the variant or mutation. Dr. Catton notes that the results are expected in the next few days.

The individual involved is linked to the outbreak at the Extendicare Long-Term Care Home in Kapuskasing and is currently in self-isolation. “We continue to work with Extendicare, the Ministry of Long Term Care, Timmins and District Hospital and other partners to ensure all of the necessary precautions to reduce the spread within the home and the community are in place,” stated Dr. Catton. The Porcupine Health Unit is following ministry guidance for the management of VOC cases and are increasing public health measures while waiting for confirmation of the results.

As of February 3, 2021, the network of Ontario Public Health Laboratories is screening all positive COVID-19 tests for variants of concern, using a two-part test. The first part looks for a mutation and if positive, there is increased suspicion that a variant of concern is present. The second part is a diagnostic test known as “whole genome sequencing”, which can confirm if a variant is present, and will identify the exact variant.

There are currently three different variants of concern or strains that have been identified in the province. The concern with these variants is that they are highly transmissible, which means they spread more easily. Dr. Catton added, “The best way to prevent the transmission of any new variant of COVID-19 is to follow the public health measures that have proven to be effective.

We urge every resident across the PHU to act as though exposure is both possible and probable every day, and in every community, regardless of case announcements.” She added, “We cannot let our guard down – the presence of these variants are a concern across the province, and we all have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable community members.”

In order to stop the spread of the variants in our region, all residents of the PHU area must:

  • Stay at home except for essential purposes
  • Limit close contact to members of your immediate household
  • Maintain physical distancing
  • Follow provincial gathering limits
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Wear a mask as required, and properly in indoor public spaces
  • Also wear a mask indoors and outdoors when you are unable to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from anyone you do not live with.
  • Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces
  • Practice proper coughing and sneezing etiquette

Additional COVID-19 information can be found on the Novel Coronavirus page.

Visit Ontario’s website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.

Download the COVID Alert app