The second wave of COVID-19 continues to wash over the province although there are some signs that we’ve hit the high water mark and the deluge has started to recede. The story looks a bit different on the University of Guelph campus though where Frost Week celebrations on the January 15 weekend ended up becoming a super-spreader event. The U of G’s making it known that they’re putting their foot down.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly disrupted our residence and U of G community. We are taking this situation very seriously,” said vice-provost of student affairs Carrie Chassels in a statement on the U of G’s website. “The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly disrupted our residence and U of G community. We are taking this situation very seriously.”
By “seriously” Chassels means the installation of security cameras along the perimeter around the East Village townhouses, where the unsanctioned gatherings happened on January 15 and 16. Security personnel and Campus Community Police will also be doing “additional monitoring” of residence areas on campus and in communal spaces, and if they do encounter any violations, they will be able to issue fines of $880 under the Reopening Ontario Act. A violation can be something like not wearing a mask, or taking part in some kind of social gathering.
The University says that they’ve already handled out over two-dozen citations as a result of January 15 and 16 gatherings, and there could be further penalties after the completion of investigations including evictions, and other restrictions to U of G property. A campus-wide curfew has also not yet been ruled out as a result of the outbreak.
“The current outbreak is a powerful and painful reminder to students, faculty, staff and community about the importance of following guidelines,” said U of G President Charlotte Yates in a statement. “It is also a reminder that social gatherings are potentially hazardous. We must keep up our guard. We must continue to practice physical distancing, wear masks, avoid gathering in groups or socializing outside of our own households.
According the U of G, there have been 49 positive COVID-19 cases connected to the outbreak, and they were all first-year domestic students who are among the just over 800 students currently living on campus. Typically, there are more than 5,000 undergrad students living on campus during the school year, but the U of G restricted access to international students and students from rural areas in Canada where internet service is not ideal.
“I wish to underline that the vast majority of our students have acted responsibly and properly in following public health and safety protocols,” added Yates. “I thank our students and their parents, our staff and faculty, and community members for cooperation and community-mindedness over many trying months.”
Perhaps because of the U of G outbreak, the 7-Day moving rate of confirmed cases is now creeping back up to 118.1 per 100,000, while the 7-Day moving average of test positivity has gone up a fraction of a per cent to 4.4. There were 39 new cases on Wednesday according to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health to bring the total number of active cases now to 434, which is a decrease after peaking again over the weekend. One more person has died from the virus in the last few days to bring the number of fatalities from COVID-19 up to 69.