NORTH BAY -- With news that the two people who died in the outbreak at the Lancelot-Skyline apartments in North Bay had the COVID variant, the medical officer of health says the area has one of the highest COVID variant cases in Ontario.

It is why the health unit recommened the area stay in lockdown at least until March 8.

“I have recommended to the government to remain out of the response framework,” said Dr. Jim Chirico, medical officer of health for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit. “Similar to Toronto and Peel (that) continue in shutdown with the stay-at-home order in place. While I understand the frustration, now is not the time to be opening up.”

Chirico addressed the public following confirmation that a second person who died at the apartment outbreak had the COVID variant. In this case, it's the highly contagious B. variant, first reported in South Africa.

The COVID variants “are 50-70 per cent more contagious than the original version of the virus,” he said during his media conference. “The burden of variant of concern, or VOC cases, are significantly greater in our health unit district and increasing.

“Since Jan. 28, 63 per cent of all of our districts COVID-19 cases are VOC’s either confirmed or directly associated with a VOC outbreak.”

As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 42 people who live in or visited the apartment building have tested positive for COVID-19, and 27 of those cases have a preliminary positive test for the variant.

“Since the onset of the pandemic, Toronto Public Health has confirmed a preliminary ratio of VOC to total cases is .75 per cent,” said Chirico. “Our ratio in the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit from VOC to total cases is 11.8 per cent”

A second round of onsite COVID-19 testing took place at the Apartment building on Feb. 16. Chirico said about 80 residents were tested, which resulted in an additional 10 positive COVID results.

Officials still don’t know how it is spreading in the building.

“Engineers are currently assessing the building to help determine what the cause of the spread is,” said Chirico. “Likely the spread is through a combination of factors rather than a single mechanism.” 


An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Chirico was recommending the lockdown be extended past March 8. In fact, he was explaining why he recommended the area remain in lockdown until March 8, and not reopen this month, as in other parts of Ontario.