COVID-19 outbreak declared in all University of Waterloo residences
WATERLOO -- Region of Waterloo Public Health has declared COVID-19 outbreaks in all University of Waterloo residences.
According to a Tuesday update on UW’s website, there are 10 new cases in people who live on or have visited campus.
The cases are all linked to a cluster from off-campus gatherings that included students from both Waterloo universities and include variants of concern.
Local health officials said there are now 85 confirmed cases connected with the initial cluster and secondary spread, along with two probable cases. Public health has also identified 75 high-risk contacts.
On Tuesday, officials said there were 21 cases connected to the UW outbreak. By Wednesday, univeristy officials said that number had risen to 27.
"With 21 students and more with high-risk contacts, we're really focused on having our residence team support the students who need support self-isolating," said Nick Manning, associate vice president of communications with UW. "We know this outbreak starts with the behaviours of students gathering off-campus earlier in March."
Manning said Wednesday the university has deployed security to all residence entrances to make sure unauthorized people don't enter the buildings.
Premier Doug Ford addressed the outbreak at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm concerned," Ford said. "You have the two universities there and Conestoga all in that region. I have young daughters myself. Don't be going out, don't be hanging out, don't be gathering in groups."
Ford said he knows more young people are gathering in recent months.
"What they're missing is, they might be able to get through it, but what happens when you go home to your parents, you go home to your grandparents and you pass it on to someone," Ford said. "It's just not right."
He said younger people may feel invincible, but they need to follow the guidelines.
The university says public health officials have been in touch with high-risk contacts and affected individuals.
Those in the residence who have not been contacted yet are asked to continued self-monitoring and seek testing if needed.
Officials with UW said there are around 2,000 students living in residences and they're concerned about spread within locations on campus.
Dining has all shifted to take out and the university is limiting access to social, shared or study spaces.
"We are urging students to stay within their residences unless they need to leave for essential purposes, like studying, class, getting food or exercise," Manning said.
Manning said there are some in-person classes, but there hasn't been any transmission reported in those locations.
"We may be dealing with some imperfect behaviours," Manning said. "The vast majority are following the rules."
The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association said it was "disappointed" to hear about the outbreak and that it was the result of public gatherings.
"While we understand the toll this pandemic has had on students, we know it’s important to stay diligent and follow public health guidelines to keep ourselves and others safe," a statement from WUSA said in part. "As a community, we have made enormous progress in the past year. Isolating and social distancing, practicing personal hygiene, and watching out for each other. We urge students to stay the course and do their part as we await mass vaccination."
Students are urged to stay in their accommodations except to attend class, exercise, or get food.
With reporting by CTV News Kitchener's Nicole Lampa