Outbreak over at North York meat plant linked to 15 COVID-19 variant cases


An outbreak at a North York meat production facility linked to 15 COVID-19 variant cases has ended, Toronto Public Health says.

Belmont Meats voluntarily closed last month after 78 workers initially tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including two cases of the B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom.

The outbreak was declared over on Monday as there have been no new positive cases in the past 14 days. Toronto Public Health said the outbreak resulted in a total of 97 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Of those cases, eight tested positive for the U.K. variant, and seven more have been screened positive for a variant of concern.

There are 19 active workplace outbreaks in the city, the largest one at Johnvince Foods in North York with 83 COVID-19 cases.

On Thursday, TPH announced that it has added data on variants to its COVID-19 dashboard “to illustrate how cases of variants of concern are spreading in Toronto.”

There have been 57 confirmed variant cases in the city – 56 for the B.1.1.7 strain and one for the P.1 variant that was first identified in Brazil. In addition, TPH said there are 341 cases that have been screened positive for a mutation.

“TPH is releasing this data to help the public understand the impact of VOC cases on the city, and to inform public health actions,” the local health unit said in a news release.

Of the confirmed cases, 30 per cent were acquired in the community while only 10 per cent is due to travel. Most of the infected are between the ages of 20 and 29. Variant cases have also been confirmed in five individuals in the 0-9 age category. Two people have died after contracting a COVID-19 variant.

On Wednesday, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said the city is facing a “deceptively dangerous situation” with the emergence of the variants.

“Right now, the case count numbers don’t look so bad – don’t sound bad – but today’s variant count is the tip of an iceberg,” de Villa said during the city’s COVID-19 briefing.

“By the time the confirmed case counts are big enough to shock us, it will be too late to do anything – we will be in a third wave as bad as anything we’ve been through thus far.”

This week, de Villa and Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health, asked the province to delay reopening in their regions for at least two more weeks as more confirmed variant cases are being reported.

“Better to wait until we know more than to put everyone through the yo-yo of opening, closing, reopening and closing again and again,” de Villa said.

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Toronto, Peel, York and North Bay Parry Sound will find out on Friday whether restrictions will be eased.