On March 25th, UW declared a COVID-19 outbreak in all of its residence buildings. This came after the university announced that five people that live on or near campus tested positive for the virus on March 24/25.
According to UW Housing and Residences spokesperson Olufolakemi Owodunni, there are currently 27 active cases on campus. He added that variant strains of COVID-19 were found in the cases, which are known to spread more easily.
Conversely, according to UW students currently living in residence, they have expressed their discontent with how the school is handling the outbreak. Especially in regards to controlling the spread and supporting its students. When asked about their experience and thoughts on the outbreak, one student said that the outbreak was most likely due to social gatherings within the residences.
Owodunni said the outbreak originated from various social gatherings that took place off-campus and in residence buildings.
“Residence has very clear protocols for preventing an outbreak…unfortunately, the decisions of a few students have impacted the larger community,” Owodunni said. These protocols include closing common spaces and not permitting visitors in individual rooms.
Owodunni also said “Housing and Residences is containing the outbreak by monitoring students and staff in residence and enforcing tests, as advised by the Region of Waterloo Public Health. Those living in the residence buildings are encouraged to get tested by booking an appointment through the online registration form included in the emails informing students of the outbreak.
Further, Owodunni mentioned that Campus Housing has closed all shared spaces such as study spaces, lounges and the cafeteria seating area.
“While we are working hard to control the outbreak, our priority remains to put students first and make sure that all students are supported through the outbreak,” Owodunni said.
Owodunni added that the Residence Life team is providing students with meal and prescription delivery, laundry service, garbage removal, access to counselling, and frequent check-ins.
“I have to say I’m not surprised, I have seen many groups gathering outside my window. I see groups of people in the hallways going to different rooms,” an MKV first year student said.
Furthermore, according to the student, the new measures that UW has implemented seem to be doing more bad than good, such as suspending food deliveries which resulted in a lot of students struggling to find access to food. This also includes not being able to receive mail from Canada Post. Additionally, the student has expressed concern over a potential increase in COVID-19 transmissions, especially with the introduction of a new measure that funnels students in all residences through one main entrance.
“We had food delivery first semester, and they got rid of it for the second semester, so now people like my one roommate, who doesn’t cook, has to walk to CMH to get food which obviously would increase spread…I’m no expert on the spread of disease, but any funneling of people I would think increases cases,” said the student.
“We will continue to operate our residences to the highest standards of safety,” Owodunni said.“We trust that we’ll see increased compliance among our students and hopefully a significantly reduced risk of any future outbreak.”