TORONTO -- Public health officials continue to investigate whether a COVID-19 outbreak at a Bradford West Gwillimbury long-term care home is connected to a variant of the virus detected in the United Kingdom.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit confirmed on Sunday that an individual who tested positive for the U.K. variant had close contact with someone connected to the outbreak at Bradford Valley Care Community.

According to the health unit, six of 230 residents and three of 260 staff members have tested positive for the virus. 

“It is worrisome,” said Sandy Kerr, who’s 84-year-old mother Barbara Dawson is one of the six residents who tested positive for COVID-19. 

Kerr says her mother is in isolation after testing positive a week ago , but news that U.K. variant may be a factor in the outbreak is concerning after health officials confirmed its connection to the deadly outbreak at Roberta Place in Barrie. 

“Based on what I’ve heard about Roberta Place, it’s horrifying,” Kerr said. 

According to the health unit, the deaths of 44 residents and one caregiver at Roberta Place have been linked to the outbreak. 

The health unit in Simcoe-Muskoka has confirmed seven cases of the U.K. variant in the region including, six cases of the strain at Roberta Place.

“This variant is much more transmissible, its highly contagious and estimates range anywhere from 30 to 70 per cent more contagious than the originally circulating strain and that’s obviously tremendously worrisome when you talk about congregated living facilities like nursing homes,” Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Abdu Sharkawy said. 

“What we’re now seeing is more evidence that it is potentially more serious.” 

The outbreak at Bradford Valley was declared on Jan. 14, but health officials say it’s under control.

“We are being extremely vigilant in our monitoring for signs and symptoms of Covid-19 and are taking the necessary steps to protect the safety of our residents and team members,” Dr. Andrea Moser, chief medical officer for Sienna Senior Living, said in a statement. 

Moser said approximately 60 per cent of team members and 96 per cent of the residents have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. 

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit announced Monday its strategy to mitigate the spread that include more frequent testing for residents, visitors and staff at long-term care homes dealing with outbreaks where the variant is suspected.

Local health officials say they are investigating all contacts with the individual who tested positive for variant. 

“The most important thing everyone can do to help protect our long-term care homes is to stay home, especially as we find new variants in our communities,” Krystal Caputo, spokesperson for the Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care. 

“What we all must demand now is that the federal government deliver more vaccines to Ontario so that we can continue to vaccinate long-term care home residents as quickly as possible.”

Kerr says her mother was lethargic when she first tested positive, but her condition is improving. However, she is on edge until the U.K. variant is confirmed. 

“We were told one resident had the U.K. variant and I’m not sure if the other five including my mom have it.”

Lab tests to confirm if the U.K. variant is connected to the outbreak are expected to take several days. 

-- With files from from The Canadian Press