University of Guelph COVID-19 outbreak grows to 53 cases, heavier fines coming to students

The University of Guelph says 53 students have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. File / Global News

The University of Guelph says it is increasing its measures and enforcement to help the spread of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus that now has 53 confirmed cases.

The school announced on Wednesday that people found to be violating university, government and public health protocols will be fined $880 under the Reopening Ontario Act.

This could include failure to wear a mask and physical distance along with hold social gatherings.

“We know this is an upsetting and unsettling time,” vice-provost Carrie Chassels said. “The COVID-19 outbreak has significantly disrupted our residence and U of G community. We are taking this situation very seriously.”

The outbreak is connected to gatherings that were held at the East Village Townhouses residences and Jan. 15 and 16.

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The outbreak was declared on Jan. 21 when public health reported seven positive cases. Even with 53 cases reported on Tuesday, officials are worried that the case count will continue to grow.

The university said most attendees were first-year domestic students taking virtual courses.

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Students who have contracted the disease have been grouped into a single residence, with more than 200 students self-isolating in campus residences.

Campus police have already issued more than two dozen fines of $120 to those connected to the gatherings, but the university said further penalities, including the provincial fine, eviction and restrictions from university property, are forthcoming pending an investigation.

“Right now, we are focused on ensuring those in isolation are being supported and putting additional measures in place to increase compliance and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Chassels said.

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Additional surveillance measures are being put in place including security cameras near the East Village Townhouses and increased monitoring of residences by security and campus police.

The university said it also considering a curfew but provided no further details.

A frustrated Mayor Cam Guthrie shared his disappointment in a video posted to his Twitter account.

“We’ve had other outbreaks in our community. Whether that be senior or retirement centres, long-term care and even the hospital. But none of these things happened, really, on purpose from flaunting the rules,” he said.

Guthrie added that he hopes those connected to the gatherings think “long and hard” about their actions.

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He also urged anyone who has had contact with someone who attended the gathering to get tested for the coronavirus.

“I’m extremely disappointed by the actions of some and now they have affected many,” Guthrie said.


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