A COVID-19 outbreak at a student residence near Fleming College in Peterborough has confirmed cases of a “variant of concern.”
Declared on Saturday, by Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. there were already 27 confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with the outbreak at Severn Court Student Residence.
Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, Peterborough Public Health medical officer of health, told Global News Morning on Monday that the outbreak could lead to hundreds of cases if it is not contained.
“That’s my worry. (It’s) why we’re taking aggressive action to try and lock this down as best we can,” she said.
PPH is in the yellow-protect zone of the province’s COVID-19 response framework, but Salvaterra said there is a possibility that this outbreak could change that, should the province decide to escalate restrictions here.
“Hard to tell, but if this escalates at the rate it’s going over the weekend — I mean, we’ve locked down Severn Court, but this may require a community-wide lockdown,” Salvaterra said.
“I will be in conversation with the chief medical officer of health, as this develops, to see if and when we need him to apply the emergency brake and plunge Peterborough back into a lockdown situation in an effort to protect the vulnerable people in our community who have still not been immunized.”
There were six high-risk contacts that became positive cases on Saturday and they were all linked to exposures at a gathering at Severn Court Student Residence on Feb. 20.
Dr. Salvaterra said there was at least one case in all six buildings at the site and that one of the students had screened positive for a VoC.
Four Trent University students, who attended the gathering, have also tested positive and are isolating at a student residence at the university that’s designated for isolation.
Some 23 of the cases are Fleming College students, the health unit confirmed Monday afternoon.
The 555 Wilfred Dr. residence court is home to approximately 200 students from both Fleming and Trent.
PPH had no confirmed number of high-risk close contacts as the investigation is ongoing.
Chantell Pacheco is a student who lives at Severn Court Student Residence.
She says she went home before the outbreak was declared but has since developed symptoms and is awaiting test results.
“Peterborough Public Health told me to stay home, to not go out and pretty much do my quarantine at home until further notice,” Pacheco told Global News Peterborough Monday evening.
She also says while she wasn’t at the gathering, it wasn’t a large party but a small group of people who had visitors over.
“It’s a matter of people wanted to see each other and have a few drinks, but then germs spread and spread easily,” she said.
“Severn Court Management is fully cooperating and working closely with Peterborough Public Health. Severn Court has had procedures in place through COVID-19; including significant extra sanitizing in all public areas,” said the company that operates the residence.
“Up until this point, nearing on one year of the pandemic, we have not had any confirmed cases in our residence until now. We will continue to work with public health to address all aspects of this situation. We appreciate the cooperation of everyone involved.”
Fleming College has suspended all in-person classes at its Peterborough campus, affecting approximately 700 students, over the next two weeks, although the latter week is actually the reading break.
“We have been in touch with our students’ faculty and staff throughout the weekend and we have set up a student COVID support line,” college president Maureen Adamson said on a media teleconference on Sunday.
The support line is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for any COVID-related inquiries at 1-866-341-3485.
Students can also contact the college by email.
Placements for students attending programs delivered at the Sutherland Campus are also suspended for the next 14 days.
Anyone who attended Severn Court between Feb. 20 and 27 and who has developed a new or worsening COVID-related symptom (even if it’s mild) that is not related to other causes or conditions, is asked to advise the college using its COVID-19 reporting form.
Peterborough Paramedics told Global News on Monday that it is not at the site but has offered the services of paramedics should the health unit need it.