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MLHU declares COVID-19 outbreak after 22 cases tied to off-campus parties

FILE. Peter Spiro / Getty Images

Middlesex-London Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie says most, if not all, of the 22 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 as part of a community outbreak are Western University students.

The health unit declared the outbreak Thursday afternoon, saying the 22 people had all attended social gatherings last week at private homes in London between March 2 and 6.

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At least 10 post-secondary student gatherings are linked to the outbreak, according to the MLHU.

“We’re still on pace to connect with all the close contacts within 24 hours of receiving their contact information. So that is obviously happening today and tomorrow,” Mackie said Thursday afternoon.

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“We’ll be directing those folks to testing as appropriate. (It) takes time to get them into testing, takes time to get the test results back. So, it’ll be some time before we know the true extent of this outbreak.”

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Western University is reporting that three of the students live on campus in residence “and were moved immediately to an isolation location outside of residence.”

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“We are at a critical stage in this pandemic and following public health protocols remains as important as ever,” Jennifer Massey, associate vice-president of student experience at Western, said in a statement.

“Our community is counting on our students to remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19.”

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Mackie says the community outbreak is not believed to be at all connected to the Essex Hall residence outbreak, which was declared March 2.

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However, the community outbreak does appear to involve “some fraternity, sorority sort of organizations,” though it is unclear to what extent.

“We don’t have the details at this point in terms of exactly where all of these gatherings were and what the number of students involved would have been,” Mackie said.

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None of the 22 cases identified so far involve variants of concern, he added.

“It doesn’t matter what the variants are — whether they are the older variants or the newer variants of concern — indoor gatherings, unmasked will contribute to COVID spread.”

Mayor Ed Holder took the opportunity to remind everyone to continue to follow public health measures.

“Keep your crowds down; keep your house parties non-existent; use your backyards; go to a bar or restaurant, enjoy a beverage, enjoy camaraderie and fellowship,” he said.

“But don’t do the dumb stuff, please.”

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