Outbreak declared at all University of Waterloo residences, with 21 COVID-19 cases

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The University of Waterloo says there are 21 on-campus COVID-19 cases and an outbreak has been declared at all residences. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)
The University of Waterloo says there are 21 on-campus COVID-19 cases and an outbreak has been declared at all residences. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)

There are 21 COVID-19 cases at the University of Waterloo and the Ontario city's public health unit has declared an outbreak at all on-campus residences.

The cases include variants of concern.

The school says they're linked to off-campus gatherings of students from both universities in Waterloo earlier this month.

"The outbreak in residences means that we will be implementing changes to our operations in shared dining spaces and shared study spaces," the school said in an online statement. "We are urging students to remain in their own accommodation except to attend classes, exercise or get food."

Nick Manning, University of Waterloo associate vice-president of communications, told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo about 2,000 people live in residences.

We really need that outbreak designation to help us make the point very clearly to our students that following those guidelines and following those rules are really essential - Nick Manning, spokesperson for University of Waterloo

He said the cafeterias in residences will become takeout only, and officials want students to listen to the Region of Waterloo Public Health's guidance to self-isolate.

"We really need that outbreak designation to help us make the point very clearly to our students that following those guidelines and following those rules are really essential," Manning said.

"Right now, our focus is on supporting our residence community, get through this outbreak to stop the spread and make sure that they come forward for support if they need it," he said.

There is also an outbreak of three cases at Wilfrid Laurier University's Clara Conrad Hall Residence. The university reports a total of 14 on-campus cases in Waterloo.

"The Laurier community can rest assured the university has in place rigorous protocols for sanitizing and cleaning campus areas since the beginning of the pandemic," the school says on its website.

The school previously said it would consider consequences for students who have violated provincial laws, and "put the health and safety of others at risk."

Manning said the University of Waterloo would do the same.

"If we are aware of people who are breaking rules persistently, we will look at that and take appropriate action," he said.

Premier Ford 'concerned' by outbreaks

In a media briefing Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford was asked about the cases in Waterloo, which is about 95 kilometres southwest of Toronto.

"I'm concerned. You have the two universities there and Conestoga all in that region and guys, I just have to tell you, I have young daughters myself: Don't be going out, don't be hanging out, don't be gathering in groups," he said.

"They might be able to get through [COVID-19], but what happens when you go home to your parents, or you go home to your grandparents and you just pass it on to someone. It's just not right. You've got to follow the protocols."

He also urged people not to gather this weekend or plan "family parties and big gatherings" for Easter.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region's medical officer of health, described the cases as a cluster that stem from multiple gatherings at private residences, and include students from the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

"Over the last week, confirmed cases associated with this cluster have continued to grow," Wang said Friday during the region's weekly media briefing.

"This cluster illustrates how easily or quickly COVID-19 can spread when public health measures aren't practised."