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Community outbreak declared; nine and counting Western students test positive for Covid-19

Credit: RANIA OSMAN (GAZETTE)

Students lined up for hours, hoping to get a COVID-19 test done on campus on Sept. 14.


Angela McInnes | Interrobang | News | September 17th, 2020




(This story was published Sept. 15. Visit westerngazette.ca for updates.)

As of Sept. 15, nine Western University students have tested positive for COVID-19 after the London Middlesex Health Unit (MLHU) declared a community outbreak on Sept. 13.

The declaration led to significant demand for COVID-19 testing among students, who overwhelmed Western University’s mobile testing unit on Monday. Staff turned away students who arrived after noon.

Seven of the cases are linked to the initial outbreak, which saw three Western University students test positive in the same day. The remaining two cases are unrelated to the outbreak, but confirmed to be Western students.

According to the health unit, the students who tested positive have not attended classes or activities on campus, but while infected have had a number of interactions at downtown bars and restaurants, and with students in neighbouring housing units.

The outbreak comes on the heels of Western University’s Orientation Week, where hundreds of students returned to London. All cases are students who live off campus, with no cases being reported in student dorms.

As of the publishing of this story, London currently has 21 active COVID-19 cases, with the number expected to increase. The amount of those in close contact with the infected students is projected to be in the dozens by the health unit.

MLHU staff are working to identify and follow up with the close contacts of the confirmed cases, who have been advised to quarantine and get tested.

“If we ever needed evidence to show there‘s still a risk from COVID-19 in the community, this is it,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, Medical Officer of Health with the MLHU. “We know the temptation to get back together with friends and party is great, but it is crucial that we all do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. That means limiting social gatherings, sticking to our social circles, keeping two metres apart and staying home if you feel sick.”

London Mayor Ed Holder commented on the situation in a series of Tweets.

“We need more of us to do better,” Holder said. “That includes a handful of students and young people, yes, but it also includes a handful of businesses, and other individuals. This is on all of us.”

The health unit is encouraging students to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 and seek testing if any develop. Western’s new mobile COVID-19 testing unit is open for students and university employees’ use Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. London also has two testing centers at Thompson Arena and Carling Heights Community Optimists Centre.
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