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COVID-19: Fleming College moves ahead in Severn Court Student Residence outbreak investigation

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It's been a month since the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Peterborough was lifted. Now, the college-led investigation into the party at Severn Court Student Residence is ramping up. Mark Giunta reports.

While Peterborough Public Health and Peterborough police have ended investigations into the deadly outbreak of COVID-19 at Severn Court Student Residence, Fleming College is now moving onto the next phase of its own investigation.

The college hired a former police officer from a homicide unit to help with the investigation into the parties on Feb. 20 that led to Peterborough’s largest outbreak to date and the death of Zachary Root, a 31-year-old Fleming College student who lived at the privately-owned residence.

“He’s just completed his report and he’s had very great cooperation from everyone involved,” college president Maureen Adamson tells Global News Peterborough.

Read more: COVID-19 — Fleming College tip line open for info on deadly Severn Court Student Residence outbreak

“We also had a line where folks could call in anonymously and help with the investigation. That report was completed as recently as last week and will be handed over to the tribunal and the work of the tribunal will start in the next week or two.”

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The tribunal will consist of an academic lead, a student representative chosen by the Fleming Student Administrative Council and a case manager.

Previously, Adamson said the college would impose the “harshest” possible sanctions on those involved in the parties at the residence complex that had nearly 60 positive cases at one point — all variants of concern.

She says the college isn’t backing down on those sanctions.

“Depending on the level of involvement of any one individual will determine the appropriate action. That can be anywhere from a reprimand to community work and expelling the student,” Adamson said.

Adamson adds that names and programs of the individuals under investigation will not be released to protect privacy.

At this point, there is no timeline for how long the tribunal will need to complete the investigation.

The outbreak was lifted on March 24 and at one time Peterborough Public Health medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra said it could lead to hundreds of community cases.

Read more: COVID-19 — Fleming College student council supports investigation and sanctions for party

At her biweekly media briefing on Tuesday, Salvaterra said the health unit does not have a tally of how many community cases were tied to the outbreak.

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“We follow cases and contacts. There were secondary and tertiary transmissions linked to the outbreak in the community, where we saw other students, households and other close contacts impacted and becoming cases. For our purposes, we don’t necessarily link it to the outbreak and we only count those who live in that sitting or attached to it,” Salvaterra said.

Salvaterra said the health unit simply doesn’t have the time or resources to do the analysis of cases beyond those links.

“We could potentially do that kind of analysis and if we had more time, we can add up all the cases that were linked. We just don’t have the resources right now to do that.”

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