The Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) is confirming the presence of the first cases of COVID-19 variants of concern (VOCs) in the region. Public Health Ontario (PHO) screens all positive samples for the presence of a mutation and has informed the EOHU that 4 samples have screened positive and are awaiting specific genetic testing to identify the exact variant types.
Suspected variants have been detected in 3 staff at the St. Albert Cheese Cooperative in St. Albert, which is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. The fourth has been identified in a separate single case in the EOHU region. The EOHU is undertaking enhanced contact tracing protocols to identify the source of infection and any contacts for all 4 of these cases.
As part of its COVID-19 VOC outbreak investigation, in collaboration with local Emergency Medical Services, the EOHU tested all employees at the St. Albert Cheese Cooperative on Thursday. As a precaution, the cooperative closed its factory on Thursday and it will remain closed throughout the weekend. As test results return from the laboratory, the EOHU will collaborate with the factory to determine how to move forward.
The EOHU has determined that the outbreak presents no risk to the general public. The EOHU is also reassuring the public that products produced at the factory are safe for consumption.
“While I am concerned about the presence of COVID-19 variants of concern in our region, I am not surprised as they are being detected across the province,” says Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health at the EOHU. “Seeing as these variants are much more contagious than the original strain of COVID-19, it is essential that we continue taking the precautions recommended by public health until a majority of the population is vaccinated.”
For more information on the COVID-19 variants of concern in the EOHU region, visit www.EOHU.ca/coronavirus.