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COVID-19 variant creeping into region

There are now 36 active cases of COVID-19 variants in Durham Region.

Durham Region Health Department has been monitoring the variants of the COVID-19 virus along with public health communities across the globe since last year, according to Durham Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Kyle.

“VOCs are circulating locally and health department staff continue to monitor the situation closely to mitigate the risks of greater community transmission,” states Kyle in a recent letter to the community.

According to Kyle, the variants of concern (VOC) are more transmissible, may result in more severe illness, or can impact vaccine effectiveness.

The VOCs currently identified globally and in Ontario include B.1.1.7, first identified in the UK; B1.351 or 501Y.V2, first identified in South Africa; and P.1, first identified in Brazil.

Kyle says those who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified by health department staff if they screen positive for a mutation or if their specimen is confirmed as a VOC.

“It is very important that residents contacted by the health department follow all recommendations to protect family members, coworkers, and other contacts from getting ill,” he says.

The health department has added a new Case Status tab on the Durham Region COVID-19 Data Tracker, which shows the number of cases confirmed for VOCs and screened positive for VOCs.

In total, there have been a total of 261 VOC case, confirmed or screened positive, to date.

As of Sunday, March 7, there are 273 active cases of COVID-19 in Durham Region, 225 of which are in home isolation, and 19 are in hospital with eight in the ICU. In total, there have been 300 deaths, 217 of which have been long-term care and retirement home residents.

“Please continue to follow public health measures, stay at home as much as possible, avoid social gatherings and, where possible, work remotely,” Kyle continues, adding any non-essential travel should be avoided, even between public health measure zones, as he says it will greatly increase the potential for spikes in community spread.