New COVID cases prompt swift action from Western

September 17, 2020 12:15 PM

As COVID-19 cases rise across Ontario, Western University has learned that positive cases among its students now total 28, most of whom are off campus.  One student is in residence and now in isolation. These new cases are prompting the school to halt many non-academic activities on campus.

“These numbers are very concerning,” said Western President Alan Shepard, noting the university is working closely with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) to isolate and prevent further spread of the virus. “Creating community is one of Western’s strengths, and we know our students desperately want to have some on-campus experiences. But, unfortunately, this development means we will be limiting those experiences.”

The university will move back to a modified version of Western Phase Three in its return-to-campus plan, which includes suspending athletics and recreation as well as in-person student club meetings and events, which will go back to virtual mode for now, and restricting access to libraries and several other buildings, effective immediately.

On-campus classes will continue; approximately 25 per cent of courses have an in-person component. Residences remain open.

As part of its detailed health and safety plan developed over the past several months, Western took significant safety precautions across campus, particularly in residences, prior to the fall term.

Shepard said Western’s COVID-19 plan received strong support from officials. “We have had very positive feedback on the level of planning we’ve done,” he said. “We are counting on all our students to share the responsibility for keeping the Western community – and the city of London – safe and healthy. A big part of that is avoiding large gatherings, particularly house parties, and practicing proper physical distancing.”

House parties put the community at great risk, Shepard said. “We expect our students to comply with public health rules. We’re asking them not to host parties. Not to attend parties. Limiting social activities to your roommates and significant others will help stop the spread of the virus. Common sense is critical.” 

The university is also planning to use the full force of the code of student conduct should students risk the health and safety of the community through their actions. “I know our students love to be together – their community spirit is incredibly strong – but the risks are very real,” said Shepard. “Now is the time to stay in your homes or residences, and keep your circles very small.”

Western has notified and is supporting all impacted students, including any in close contact with the one positive case in residence. 

MLHU has initiated the COVID-19 contact tracing for anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Those who may have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive, and who is deemed to be at risk, will be contacted directly by the health unit. 

Officials at MLHU continue be in contact with the students who have tested positive, as well as their close contacts, who are all in isolation. Western is also closely supporting the students.

This fall the university launched the Take Care Western campaign to remind students of the shared responsibility in keeping themselves and the community safe. Key precautions to avoid the spread of the virus include, first and foremost, physical distancing of at least two metres, wearing a mask indoors or in the presence of others, and frequent hand-washing. 

Contacts for students and families:

Contacts for employees:

COVID-19 testing options on campus: 

COVID-19 testing trailer: Located in Social Science Centre parking lot, Western’s testing trailer is open Monday-Friday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Those visiting the trailer are asked to wait in physically distanced line to access a test.

Any students with accessibility needs can book a COVID-19 test with the nurse at the Student Health clinic by calling 519-661-3030, and employees can do so with the nurse at the Workplace Health at 519-661-2047.

Any student or university employee is eligible to receive a test at the trailer, and we are relying on the community to make their best judgment about whether one is needed. Those that are symptomatic or have been in contact with a positive confirmed COVID-19 case should be tested. Anyone else who is reasonably worried that they may have been exposed, or who are required to take a test after arriving from abroad and completing quarantine, may come to the trailer to get tested as well. 

Student Health Care Clinic: Symptomatic patients who need a physician's assessment can book a virtual visit with a doctor. A follow-up examination and COVID-19 test may be scheduled at the doctor's discretion. To book an appointment, please visit the appointments page.

Additional COVID-19 resources for the campus community can be found on Western’s COVID-19 website and on the MLHU’s website.