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Coronavirus outbreak declared as 5 Western University students test positive

The health unit says it's working with Western University and is continuing to identify and follow up with close contacts of the confirmed cases, who are being asked to quarantine and seek testing.
The health unit says it's working with Western University and is continuing to identify and follow up with close contacts of the confirmed cases, who are being asked to quarantine and seek testing. Peter Spiro / Getty Images

The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) has declared a community novel coronavirus outbreak after three Western University students tested positive on Saturday.

In a statement, the health unit said Sunday, in addition to these three COVID-19 cases, there are two additional, associated cases who are also Western students.

Those two cases will be added to the daily case count on Monday, MLHU said.

Read more: Patron of London, Ont., nightclub tests positive for coronavirus

“While the students who have tested positive all live in the community and have not attended classes or activities on campus, they have had a number of interactions at downtown bars and restaurants, and with students in neighbouring housing units,” the statement read.

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The health unit is asking anyone who visits downtowns clubs, bars and restaurants frequently to monitor themselves for symptoms and to get tested if they develop.

The MLHU says more cases are expected in the coming days.

“If we ever needed evidence to show there’s still a risk from COVID-19 in the community, this is it,” said Dr. Chris Mackie with the MLHU.

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“It is crucial that we all do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That means limiting social gatherings, sticking to our social circles, keeping two metres apart and staying home if you feel sick.”

The health unit says it’s working with Western University and is continuing to identify and follow up with close contacts of the confirmed cases, who are being asked to quarantine and seek testing.

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In a statement issued Sunday evening, Western University says it has reached out to the students to offer support and that the health unit, which is monitoring them, says they are “all in isolation and in good health.”

The university also states that the health unit has not identified any “on-campus exposures” at this time.

“We know our students value the opportunity to be on campus and have some in-class experiences – and for this to continue to happen, everyone must play a role in keeping themselves and the community safe by following public health guidelines,” says Jennifer Massey, associate vice-president of student experience.

“We know students want to be together and socialize, and we strongly encourage them to avoid parties and large gatherings and ensure their social circles include a maximum of 10 people.”

Read more: Nova Scotia student hit with $1,000 fine for failing to self-isolate amid COVID-19

The university also highlighted its “detailed health and safety plans” developed over the past months to allow for some students to return to campus and provided contact information for groups that can further answer questions from students and families of students.

On weekdays, they can call 519-661-3030 or email health@uwo.ca for health-related inquiries.

On weekends, the university suggested contacting Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or toll-free TTY 1-866-797-0007. For non-health-related inquiries, Student Support and Case Management can be reached at sscm@uwo.ca or 519-661-2111 ext. 89152.

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The university has also extended hours for its COVID-19 testing trailer. Originally operating on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Western University says the testing trailer is now open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

No appointment is required at the trailer, located in the Social Science Centre parking lot. Students with accessibility needs can call 519-661-3030 to book a test with a nurse in the Student Health Care Clinic, while employees can contact Workplace Health at 519-661-2047.

— with files from Global News’ Jacquelyn LeBel.