On Thursday night, the University of Guelph posted news to its website that no one likely took any joy in sharing. After “unsanctioned social gatherings” (plural) in the East Village Townhouse residences, the U of G has announced at last seven new cases of COVID-19, and the declaration of an outbreak by Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. These cases represent the most serious outbreak of COVID on campus so far.
In a statement posted to the U of G’s website, vice-provost of student affairs Carrie Chassels said that the declaration of an outbreak is disturbing, but it should not be an indictment of the university’s safety protocols.
“We want to assure all members of our U of G community that the health and safety of our students and employees is our top priority,” Chassels said in a statement. “We will be strictly following our Public Health-reviewed Outbreak Management Protocol, ensuring those affected are supported and initiating additional measures to protect students living in residence, the University and greater Guelph community.”
The “unsanctioned gatherings” took place last weekend on January 15 and 16 according to the U of G. Although the numbers are still far below the normal compliment of students staying on campus, mostly international students and students from remote areas with unreliable internet service, there was a small increase in the number of students staying on campus after the holiday break.
When the winter semester began, those returning to campus discovered enhanced lockdown measures there too with the library closed along with the athletic facilities and no access to the University Centre save for a few eateries offering “curbside” pick-up. Given the increased restrictions, Chassels tone about the situation is understandable.
“We were extremely disappointed to learn that there were gatherings on campus,” Chassels said. “The students involved in this high-risk activity have shown a serious lack of judgment and care for community protocols around COVID-19. Participating in a gathering on campus is a violation of the current lockdown regulations and health guidelines, as well as the expectations that we conveyed to students in residence.”
Until recently, there have only been a few COVID-19 cases at the University of Guelph, and a handful of others at the Ridgetown campus. Chassels said that additional efforts are being made to educate students on campus to remain vigilant, while they work with public health to contact trace all those at the gathering last weekend. Seven may not be the final number of new COVID cases from this outbreak.
In the meantime, the COVID-19 outbreak across Wellington County, Dufferin County, and Guelph seems to be holding steady. The 7-Day moving rate of cases per 100,000 is at 116.2, and the latest update to the 7-Day moving average of test positivity has remained at 4.2 per cent since last week.
There were 70 new cases on Friday to bring the total number of active cases up to 460 including 300 cases in Guelph, 94 in Wellington, 41 in Dufferin, and 25 that are unassigned. There have been 3,827 total cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 65 total fatalities from the virus including seven in the last week alone.