There are now 44 cases — including 30 as a presumed variant of concern — linked to a COVID-19 outbreak at a student residence in Peterborough as the region is now on the “threshold” of the red zone.
Peterborough Public Health provided a noontime Thursday update on the outbreak at Severn Court Student Residence where an outbreak was initially declared with six cases on Feb. 20. There were 35 cases reported on Wednesday with 10 variants.
The health unit cites “social gatherings” at the Wilfred Drive complex as the spreader of the virus involving primarily Fleming College and Trent University, some of which are involved in health-care studies. The residence is privately owned and not affiliated with either post-secondary institution, however.
A Section 22 order was issued on Feb. 27 for Severn Court which consists of eight buildings on Wilfred Drive in the city’s west end. All students were required to self-isolate for 14 days. However, medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra said Thursday one student has already breached the order by leaving the residence.
The student received a warning, Salvaterra said.
“There was not enough evidence to lay a charge in this case, so instead a formal warning was issued,” the health unit stated.
There are an additional 40 people identified as high-risk contacts in the outbreak to date, Salvaterra said, along with more than 60 outside the residence. She said some have gone home and the health unit is contacting them all to ensure they self-isolate as a precaution.
The investigation into the outbreak continues, however, Salvaterra noted the health unit has been receiving “conflicting” reports about the social gatherings. The Peterborough Police Service says officers responded to call for a loud party at Severn Court Student Residence but say when officers arrived the scene was quiet.
Fleming College president Maureen Adamson said Wednesday the “harshest” sanctions will be laid against any student proven to be involved in the gatherings. She said Thursday the college will establish a tribunal hearing to review possible sanctions such as suspensions, expulsion or written reprimands.
Fleming on Monday cancelled in-person classes at its nearby Sutherland campus for 14 days.
While Peterborough Public Health’s jurisdiction is currently yellow, Salvaterra cautioned that status could change as the area’s case incidence rate is increasing, now at 40 cases per 100,000. The health unit serves Peterborough, Peterborough County, Curve Lake First Nation and Hiawatha First Nation.
“We are currently on the threshold to go to the red zone,” she said. “That decision will be before the province and could come at any point.”