COVID-19 outbreak declared at Western University residence

The Middlesex-London Health Unit has declared a COVID-19 outbreak at one of Western University’s residence buildings. 

Health officials said Tuesday evening that seven students living in Essex Hall had tested positive for the disease since Saturday. 

The outbreak involves students who live on two different floors in the building, Dr. Chris Mackie, the region’s medical officer of health, told CBC News. 

“While London and Middlesex County have recently been moved to the Orange level of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework, it isn’t time for any of us to let our guards down,” Dr. Mackie said.

“We know COVID-19 is still circulating and that we expect to see more of the variants of concern, which can spread much more easily as we move closer to an expected third wave of the pandemic.”

Mackie said there’s no evidence to suggest that those who have tested positive attended a social gathering. 

“It’s likely that this is attributed to people being in close contact and not wearing masks. It’s understandable on their residence floor, it’s not something we recommend, but I can see how students could get into that situation,” he said.

“It’s a good reminder that people need to keep their distance and wear masks whenever they’re in contact with anyone outside their household.”

The students who have contracted the disease, along with some close contacts, are currently isolating outside of the residence, the university said.

“We are providing students who are isolating with meal delivery, as well as academic, health and well-being support,” Chris Alleyne, Western University’s associate vice-president of housing and ancillary services, said. “We know this news may cause concern, and we want to assure our students we’re here to support them in every possible way.”

Alleyne added the university is also providing on-site testing to other students isolating on the affected floors in the residence. 

This is the fourth COVID-19 outbreak at one of the university’s residences since classes resumed in September.

Students returned to residences on campus in a staggered schedule last month and the university said they have several health and safety measures in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 in residence, including reducing capacity to 70 per cent and prohibiting guests in residences. 

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