44 positive, 200 isolating in University of Guelph residence COVID-19 outbreak

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A COVID-19 outbreak in the University of Guelph's residences has spiked, with now at least 44 positive cases and almost a quarter of residence students isolating.

The university blames "unsanctioned social gatherings" that happened January 15 and 16.

"This is an upsetting and an unsettling situation and we are all very concerned," said university president Charlotte Yates in a video posted Monday.

Approximately 200 students of the 840 currently living in residence are in isolation. The university is urging anyone who went to gatherings or has roommates or close contacts who did to isolate and get tested.

"As more test results come in, that number may continue to grow," said Yates.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health spokesperson Danny Williamson confirmed the 44 cases as of Monday afternoon. He said all are students and transmission has spread beyond the gatherings. The health unit considers it a campus outbreak.

27 fines handed out

The university first announced the outbreak last Thursday, linking the cases to gatherings at the East Village Townhouses.

Fines for breaking university COVID-19 protocol range between $120 and $1,000 with a recommendation of suspension. So far, campus police have handed out 27 fines of $120 for attending the gatherings.

Yates said the university has increased enforcement on campus and in residences and is considering a curfew, if necessary.

The university said it has placed those students who tested positive for the coronavirus in one residence building together, to avoid further spread.

Guelph is the latest Ontario university to have an outbreak in its residences. Several residence students tested positive in outbreaks at the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo and Western University in London.