The number of COVID-19 cases associated with an outbreak at a post-secondary student residence in Peterborough is now at 34.
During a Tuesday noontime media conference, Peterborough Public Health reported that the number of cases at the privately-run Severn Court Student Residence near Fleming College increased by seven over the last 24 hours.
The 34 cases include 29 Fleming students and five Trent University students, according to medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra.
The outbreak was initially declared on Saturday with six cases at the six-building student complex and cases ballooned to 23 on Sunday. The health unit says the outbreak — now its largest since the pandemic was declared — is linked to a “social gathering.”
Salvaterra says there is still no word on just how big the gathering was but that the health unit has received reports there may have been “several gatherings in multiple buildings.”
“I’m not sure if that’s accurate or just hearsay. We’re trying to sort this out as we continue our investigation,” she said.
She also noted that three of the 34 cases have tested positive as a variant of concern.
“We are awaiting further results from the genomic sequences to determine which variant. However we’re treating all cases, and the more than 200 associated high-risk contacts as variants of concern,” Salvaterra said.
She noted the investigation continues and charges haven’t been ruled out.
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“This is really the actions of a few. If we can identify who hosted the party, we have the tools to take action and we will not hesitate.”
Salvaterra also addressed numerous inquiries about case reporting and noted that no matter where IDs say the student lives, the cases will initially count in the health unit’s jurisdiction.
She also said three of the positive cases have left the residence and are quarantining at home and their case information has been transferred to the health unit where they reside.
The MOH also noted that many of the cases are Fleming students involved in trades programs and health care, saying she was “disappointed” in the actions of the involved students but stressed that the incident is in no way reflective of the student population as a whole at both Fleming and Trent.
On Monday Fleming closed all in-person classes at its Sutherland Campus in the city for two weeks.
Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef in response to the health unit’s update noted she used to live across from the student residence on Wilfred Drive in the city’s west end.
“I can appreciate the desire to socialize. But this is not the time,” she stated. “This outbreak shows just how quickly Covid can spread, particularly when new variants are involved. Careless choices will lead to greater sacrifices needing to be made. The health of the most vulnerable will be further compromised and more lives may be lost. Reunions with loved ones will be further delayed and businesses will need to wait longer to reopen fully.
“These variants are truly cause for concern, and we need to be extra vigilant over the next few months to allow vaccines to roll out and limit community spread,” she added. “I thank everyone working hard to limit the spread of this outbreak. Let this be a lesson for us all, let’s not let this happen again.”
Peterborough Paramedics have been going into individual rooms at Severn Court to test all high-risk contacts, who are in self-isolation.
Surveillance testing will soon be in-place at the six building student complex for all residents who are subject to the Section 22 order at the site, enacted by Salvaterra on the weekend.
“This order defines two groups and requires them to follow specific instructions,” she said.
Group A (known positive cases and high-risk contacts) are required to stay in their rooms with no exceptions.
Arrangements have been made to provide them with food and necessities.
Group B (all other residents at the student residence complex) are required to self-isolate and only leave their room to get food or medication.
They will be tested by paramedics, Salvaterra added.