The University of Guelph has just learned of seven confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 connected to the University’s East Village Townhouses.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has declared an outbreak. This allows Public Health to support the University with additional resources to help manage the situation.

This is an evolving situation; the number of positive cases will likely change. The University is working with Public Health in monitoring, assessing and responding to the situation.

The positive cases are connected to unsanctioned social gatherings held in the East Village Townhouse area on Jan. 15 and 16. Public Health is conducting contact tracing in relation to the positive cases and is working to contact individuals known to have attended the gatherings.

The University has informed all students living in campus residences of the positive cases and advised anyone who attended the gatherings – whether or not they had been contacted by Public Health – to isolate immediately, get tested, monitor for symptoms and contact the University’s Student Wellness office. All staff working in the residences have also been informed of the situation.

“We understand that the declaration of an outbreak in a campus residence is concerning,” said Carrie Chassels, vice-provost (student affairs).

“We want to assure all members of our U of G community that the health and safety of our students and employees is our top priority. We will be strictly following our Public Health-reviewed Outbreak Management Protocol, ensuring those affected are supported and initiating additional measures to protect students living in residence, the University and greater Guelph community.”

U of G’s first priority is to ensure all students involved are isolating, getting tested and receiving support, she said.

Chassels added that the University was aware of the gatherings and had already begun investigating the situation, implementing safety measures, and initiating disciplinary action in accordance with code of conduct procedures.

“We were extremely disappointed to learn that there were gatherings on campus, ” she said.

“The students involved in this high-risk activity have shown a serious lack of judgment and care for community protocols around COVID-19. Participating in a gathering on campus is a violation of the current lockdown regulations and health guidelines, as well as the expectations that we conveyed to students in residence.”

She said U of G has stressed students’ responsibility for helping keep the community safe during the pandemic, whether they live on or off campus.

Additional efforts have also been made to educate and remind students of the need to remain vigilant at all times, she said. The University has also provided students with the necessary resources and supports to ensure adherence to public health protocols, practices and guidelines.

U of G will continue to work closely with Public Health, city bylaw officers and Campus Community Police and Guelph Police to ensure students adhere to provincial regulations and public health measures to prevent further spread of COVID-19 and help keep the community safe.

These measures include supporting students in self-isolation, increasing cleaning and disinfecting, and ensuring physical distancing between students in residence.

The University also reminds all students, faculty and staff of the importance of physical distancing, limiting non-essential travel and wearing masks. Anyone experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 should get tested and self-isolate.

The University will continue to send updates on the situation and provide guidance on next steps in coordination with Public Health.

For more information on U of G’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the University’s COVID-19 website.