The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit has confirmed the initial COVID-19 variant of concern case at Lancelot apartments is connected to international travel.
"The individual's exposure is related to international travel," noted Dr. Jim Chirico during an online media conference late Tuesday afternoon.
"Their sample was sent for COVID-19 variant of concern or VOC testing which we received a preliminary positive result on the evening of February 2, 2021. All members from that household have tested positive for COVID-19."
See related: COVID leads to Sunset Park shutdown
Since then, the COVID-19 cases connected to the Lakeshore Drive apartment complex have increased to 19 with one case linked to the individual at Sunset Park Public School.
That school at south end of Lakeshore Drive has been shut down by the Health Unit due to an individual within that school community who has tested positive for COVID-19.
A total of three cases in the district have now been identified as the variant of concern.
"This morning the Health Unit confirmed a connection between the individual from the school community and the COVID-19 community outbreak at the Skyline Apartments," explained Dr. Chirico.
The Health Unit stated the individual was at school during their infectious period so the school has been shut down until Feb. 22.
"Due to how easily variants of concern can spread, I made the decision to close the school and this was done out of an abundance of caution as we have the opportunity to stop the spread of COVID-19 variant of concern before it is too late," said Dr. Chirico.
On the weekend the Health Unit went ahead with on-site COVID-19 testing at the complex which is comprised of 90 units and 130 tenants.
Chirico says a total of 110 tenants have been tested and they are still awaiting a large number of test results.
"As test results can take days to come back, we are still awaiting results from a number of individuals who were tested at this location," said Dr. Chirico.
Chirico also noted they are keeping a very close eye on this situation as the health community worldwide is still learning about how this new variant of concern that has been identified in the community can spread.
"We know it spreads easily," stated Chirico.
"Regardless of the strain, residents of the building should be following public health directions and those have been provided to them."
While the latest numbers create a wave of concern, Chirico believes residents need to assume that many more residents have COVID-19.
"Everyone should assume COVID-19 is present everywhere in our district," stated Chirico bluntly.
"Every time someone leaves their home, other than for essential trips, like going to work or school, get groceries or go for medical appointments, they are putting themselves and others at risk," said Chirico.
"This is even more important with the confirmed presence of the COVID-19 variant of concern in our district. Residents of the Skyline Apartments, or anyone for that matter, should not go out if they have symptoms, or if they have been around a confirmed case they should arrange to get tested."
Due to this situation, Chirico admitted he reached out to the province to request to keep the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit in shutdown until February 16.
"The province has seen the devastating effect of COVID-19 variants of concern and we need to act now to stop the spread locally," said Chirico.
"With the extension of the Stay-at-Home Order and the increased risk of transmission of the COVID-19 VOC, outdoor public skating rinks, skating trails, toboggan hills will remain closed.
"As a result of the threat of the COVID-19 VOC and the unessential travel between Health Unit districts, OFSC trails and snowmobile on crown land will also remain closed."