London

20% of COVID-19 cases in London are at Western University, fourth outbreak declared

The Middlesex London Health Unit has declared another outbreak in a Western University residence with overall numbers showing 20 per cent of active cases in London are on campus. 

Health unit warning that variant strains are circulating within campus community

Western University is providing on-site testing to students in residence if they live on floors where others have tested positive. (Colin Butler/ CBC News)

The Middlesex London Health Unit has declared another outbreak in a Western University residence, with overall numbers showing 20 per cent of active cases in London are on campus. 

The latest outbreak is at Elgin Hall where seven positive cases were confirmed.

On Monday, public health officials said a total of 22 students in Saugeen-Maitland and Ontario Hall were infected. Outbreaks were declared there on Friday and case counts have since grown.

"The spike in positive cases in the region is reflected in what we're seeing in the campus population," said Matt Mills, Western's director of health, safety and wellbeing, in a statement Tuesday.

Following a number of outbreaks over the last few days, Western University has stepped up efforts to contain the illness. Among them, posting signs offering advice to students on how to avoid spreading coronavirus. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

"The third wave is here, and it is real. We know the variants of concern are more easily transmissible, especially among young people, and we must redouble our efforts to keep ourselves, each other and the community safe."

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie said another group of 10 students who attended a social function associated with the business school have also tested positive. It is unclear if the gathering was linked to Ivey or another department. 

A fourth outbreak has been ongoing at Essex Hall since March 2.

In light of the active outbreaks recently declared on campus, the school announced new additional measures that will be implemented to help curb any further transmission of the virus.

The new measures include:

  • Everyone on campus is now required to wear three-layer non-medical masks, and will be distributed by the school to all students in residence.
  • Employees working within two metres of each other must now also wear a face shield.
  • All common areas – including floor lounges, study rooms and main lounges – have closed, and students must wear face coverings at all times when outside their bedrooms.

"Some Western employees in one unit have also recently tested positive. The health unit is monitoring the individuals, who are in isolation and receiving support from the university," the statement notes.

Dr. Mackie said what's especially worrying is that variant strains have been identified within the student population in three of the outbreak situations. 

"Western has a lot going on right now," Dr. Mackie said Monday. "It's still in the range of 20 per cent of our overall community problem."

"We know those variants are spreading through the university. So that community needs to be particularly cautious now to avoid problems."

A spokesperson from Western University said the school is planning to comment on the situation later on Tuesday. 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this article misidentified Essex Hall residence as the site of the latest outbreak at Western University when it is in fact Elgin Hall residence.
    Mar 31, 2021 7:57 AM ET

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