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No COVID-19 outbreak at Queen’s University, KFL&A medical officer of health says

Click to play video '2 new cases of COVID-19 in the Kingston region, 17 total cases' 2 new cases of COVID-19 in the Kingston region, 17 total cases
KFL&A Public Health has identified a new case of COVID-19 in the Kingston region.

The KFL&A region’s medical officer of health says it’s not time to declare a coronavirus outbreak at Queen’s University, despite seeing the majority of the area’s cases linked to the post-secondary institution.

Since the beginning of the month, the Kingston region has seen a total of 23 cases of COVID-19, with a new case identified Tuesday. Twelve of those cases were identified in women under the age of 20, only one of which is a child in elementary school.

Read more: All 4 of Friday’s new cases related to Queen’s, COVID-19 alert status upgraded to ‘yellow’

“We are detecting cases in the downtown core. So if you look spacially, where are these individuals living? It is in the downtown core and many are students of Queens University,” Dr. Kieran Moore said.

More than half those cases, 14, are linked to Queen’s University. Seven of the people diagnosed with COVID-19 at Queen’s are living in residences, while the rest are living off-campus.

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Despite these numbers, Moore says there is no reason to call an outbreak at the post-secondary institution, since there is currently no evidence of uncontrolled community spread at the university.

“If we do see community transmission within the school setting, the university or college setting, and it’s more than what we’re expecting and we want to draw the attention to it, we certainly will declare an outbreak,” Moore said.

Click to play video '2 new cases of COVID-19 in Kingston region, including student in residence at Queen’s' 2 new cases of COVID-19 in Kingston region, including student in residence at Queen’s
2 new cases of COVID-19 in Kingston region, including student in residence at Queen’s

So far, Moore says the majority of cases at the university have been related to travel, either a trip home to Toronto, or having a parent from outside the region bringing the virus in. The last few cases, Moore says, were close-contacts of positive cases, something Moore says was to be expected.

As for the cases in residences, Moore says the majority are unrelated to each other, and are popping up in different residences.

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But nowhere in the KFL&A catchment area, including at Queens, is seeing community spread at this time, according to Moore.

Moore said calling an outbreak at a post-secondary school is more complicated than calling one for an elementary or secondary school setting, where two cases in the span of 14 days would prompt public health into action.

Read more: 2 new cases of COVID-19 in Kingston region, including student in residence at Queen’s

“We won’t apply the same school-based definition to the college university because it’s much more complex social interaction,” Moore said.

There is also no set guideline for when an outbreak should be called at a post-secondary institution — it is up to the public health unit in the region to decide when an outbreak should be called.

Moore said the true definition of an outbreak for him would be community transmission “with ever-increasing numbers where we then can’t figure out what the association is” with other cases. It’s only then that he and KFL&A Public Health would declare an outbreak at a post-secondary institution.