Local public health units are responsible for declaring an outbreak within their jurisdictions. Guelph and surrounding area are covered by the Wellington Dufferin Guelph public health unit. Our Ridgetown Campus and the University of Guelph-Humber are covered by the Chatham-Kent and Toronto public health units, respectively.
What is an outbreak?
Public Health may declare an outbreak when:
- there are two or more connected cases of COVID-19 in a workplace setting, or
- there is one positive case of COVID-19 in either a student or staff member living in Student Housing
With these considerations in mind, and with COVID-19 being highly infectious, there is a significant likelihood that a COVID-19 outbreak will be declared at a U of G location at some point.
How will U of G manage COVID-19 positive cases and outbreaks?
Close and ongoing communication with local Public Health is key to the successful management and containment of COVID-19.
Student Wellness and Occupational Health and Wellness (OHW) will coordinate with local Public Health units to manage and respond to individual cases of COVID-19 at U of G locations. In close collaboration with Public Health, the University’s Outbreak Response Team will be responsible for directing the University’s management of and response to an outbreak.
A larger outbreak may require the closing of building floors, entire buildings, or the cessation of operations in certain sections of the University. It may also include shifting classes to an alternative delivery format.
Recognizing that the specifics of any given outbreak can be unique, general management responses have been created for the following scenarios:
- Positive case amongst staff or faculty
- Positive case in student not living in residence
- Positive case/outbreak in residence or family housing
These responses include:
- Outbreak assessment
- Case definition
- Outbreak control measures
- Resolution of the outbreak
In positive case scenarios or during an outbreak, collaboration will be required between many units. It is important for those involved to understand their responsibilities and to not assume the responsibilities of others.
Individuals who test positive for COVID-19
- Follow all Public Health directives on self-isolation
- Support Public Health in contact tracing
- Not attend campus until cleared by Student Wellness or Occupational Health and Wellness
- inform Student Wellness and their Residence Advisor (if applicable) of their positive test
- complete the Student Self-Declaration Form
- notify their instructors that they will miss on-campus classes and may be unable to attend remote learning classes or meet deadlines
- inform Occupational Health and Wellness of their positive test
- complete the Employee Self-Declaration Form
- inform their Supervisor of their absence
Local Public Health Unit
- declare the start and resolution of an outbreak and report it on the Public Health website
- manage outbreaks on University campuses and guide the University’s response
- conduct contact tracing and communicate with those who may be at risk, including providing any directions to self-isolate
- maintain close communication with the Director of Student Wellness
- work with other public health units involved (i.e., if the affected employee or student lives outside the local public health unit’s jurisdiction)
University Outbreak Management Team
- oversee the University’s management and communication of an outbreak
- help Public Health determine high-risk contacts and identify those required to self-isolate
- confirm the risk to the University community and any further control measures needed
- inform University leadership of positive cases
- ensure students who complete the self-declaration form go for testing – support students living on-campus with transport to assessment centre if needed
- provide students with information on self-isolation, transportation to a testing centre and what to do if symptoms worsen
- ensure students have access to care and support for their mental health
- organize testing and follow up for all symptomatic students, staff and visitors during an outbreak in student housing
Occupational Health and Wellness
- direct employees with probable cases to get tested and inform individual to provide results when available
- direct those who test positive to complete the appropriate self-declaration form
- Work with Public Health to assist in assessing the risk to the University: Was the employee on campus in the previous 14 days? Who was the employee in close contact with? Were proper protocols followed? Do close contacts need to self-isolate while waiting for test results?
- maintain contact with employees who are off work due to COVID-19
- develop an employee’s return-to-work plan
- provide direct supervisors or chairs with template communications to share with team
- direct employees to resources in support of their mental health
Student housing (for cases involving students living in residence or family housing)
- inform Student Wellness upon learning of a probable or confirmed case in residence. After-hours, contact Public Health and the Director of Student Wellness
- ensure students understand the need to complete the U of G COVID-19 Screening Form daily
- work with Student Wellness to determine if the student needs to move to an isolation room (if not already in a single room)
- advise students of steps the student must take (see Responsibilities of Individuals who Test Positive for COVID-19 below)
- arrange for meals and other essentials to be delivered
- isolate high-risk individuals
- arrange for additional cleaning as needed
- monitor health and well-being of those in isolation
- communicate with those in student housing about need for increased vigilance in hygiene measures
Individual’s direct supervisor or chair (for cases involving employees)
- ensure the employee has contacted OHW
- confirm a self-declaration form has been completed
- inform senior manager of possible cases
- support the individual and maintain the individual’s privacy
- contact Physical Resources to arrange additional cleaning of workspace
- use communication templates from OHW to communicate a positive case to their team
Direct supervisors and chairs will not collect information on close contacts and will not communicate with close contacts unless directed to by OHW.
Communications and Public Affairs
- inform the University community of an outbreak and its resolution through news page, intranet and Case Reporting website
- provide additional communications support as needed, including with external stakeholders, parents/guardians, media, etc.
We all have a responsibility in helping protect our community and in preventing COVID-19 outbreaks. Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to:
- Follow U of G’s COVID-19 safety practices
- Complete the U of G COVID-19 Screening Form daily before coming to campus and stay home if advised to do so
- Download the Government of Canada’s COVID Alert app
- Only to come to campus if needed
- Students on the Guelph campus: Student Health Services at (519-824-4120 Ext. 52131) if you test positive for or are fairly certain you have COVID-19 and have been on campus in the previous 14 days.
- Employees: Contact Occupational Health and Wellness (519-824-4120 Ext. 52647) if you test positive for or are fairly certain you have COVID-19 and have been on campus in the previous 14 days.
Occupational Health and Wellness
- 519-824-4120 Ext. 52647
Student Health Services (Guelph campus)
- 519-824-4120 Ext. 52131
Student Housing (Guelph campus)
- 519-824-4120 Ext. 58701
If an employee who reports to work at a U of G location tests positive for COVID-19, the University will work closely with Public Health to communicate with the U of G community as appropriate. If you are informed that an employee on your team has tested positive for COVID-19, please contact Occupational Health and Wellness at 519-824-4120 Ext. 52647 or email@example.com for further direction.
If someone on your team tests positive for COVID-19, the following steps take place.
Step 1: The individual tests positive and is notified by Public Health (amount of time from testing to results being provided varies).
Step 2: The individual is contacted by their local Public Health unit and asked a series of questions to assess the risk of transmission to others. Public Health will determine next steps (usually within 24 hours of positive test).
Depending on the health unit:
- the individual may be asked to notify others they have been in close contact with, OR
- the health unit will determine whether the unit needs to inform others who have been in close contact, including the individual’s employer. As a manager or supervisor, you will be contacted by Occupational Health and Wellness (OHW) if needed, AND
- if the individual has the COVID Alert app, they will be given a key code to enter and notification will be sent via the app to other users who have been in close contact with the individual.
NOTE: In some cases, the employee may choose to let others know about the positive test results outside of official channels. In cases like this, news often spreads quickly that someone has tested positive. Managers may hear about the positive result before Occupational Health and Wellness does.
NOTE: If an employee tells you they have tested positive for COVID-19, please contact OHW at 519-824-4120 Ext. 52647 or firstname.lastname@example.org and advise the employee to contact OHW themselves as soon as possible.
NOTE: For privacy reasons, Public Health does not always inform employers that someone has tested positive. Public Health will advise when there is a high risk of transmission within the workplace. In some instances, they may request assistance with identifying potential close contacts.
Step 3: Occupational Health and Wellness will contact the employee’s manager and provide a template message that can be shared with the manager’s team. Details in the template message are kept to a minimum to protect privacy. The message also directs employees to resources if they have concerns.
Step 4: The manager shares the template message with employees. It is recommended that the message be shared with all employees within the relevant work unit to address rumours and build trust in the process.
Step 5: The University’s Case Reporting page is updated. The page indicates the number of cases on campus within the last 14 days and is meant to provide transparency.
If proper COVID-19 protocols were followed – including practising physical distancing, wearing a mask and following good hand hygiene and cleaning practices – the risk of transmission is considered low and Public Health will advise those who have interacted with the individual to monitor for symptoms. Testing is usually required for close contacts only if protocols were not followed. Such direction will be provided if and when Public Health performs contact tracing.
Learning that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 can be stressful. Members of your team will react in different ways when they hear the news. Remember to be respectful and patient; everyone has their own way of processing this kind of information and may have other personal considerations to address.
It is very important not to speculate or make assumptions about a positive case. It is not uncommon for someone to be asymptomatic and test positive. It is also not uncommon for the individual who has COVID-19 to feel stress, grief or embarrassment. The University is working to normalize positive cases and build empathy within the community.
Occupational Health and Wellness will provide you with the only information that can be shared based on Public Health’s assessment of the situation. To maintain privacy, do not share any personal details about the individual who has COVID-19 beyond what has been provided by OHW. Employees are not required to disclose a diagnosis to their managers.
If you are worried about what a positive test means for you or your team, contact Occupational Health and Wellness at email@example.com.
U of G’s employee and family health program provider – Homewood Health – offers counselling and support 24/7. Call 1-800-663-1142 or visit the Homewood Health website.