Dear Members of Our U of G Community:
I am writing today to update all of you on a serious situation affecting our Guelph campus.
As you may know, we are dealing with an extensive COVID-19 outbreak resulting from unsanctioned social gatherings in our University residences earlier this month. So far, more than two dozen students have tested positive, and, unfortunately, the numbers may rise as more test results are returned. We are working with Public Health in monitoring, assessing and responding to this critical situation.
I know this news is upsetting and unsettling; I understand and share your concerns. I want to assure you that we are taking this situation very seriously. We have a robust outbreak response plan in place to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 on campus and within our residence system. The health and safety of our students, staff, faculty and community remain our top priorities.
We cannot afford to be complacent about practices, protocols and guidelines during this pandemic – ever. There is just too much at stake for all of us. We believe we must be bold and take serious action.
New Prevention Measures, Increased Enforcement
The University will be implementing additional measures in our student residences and on campus generally to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and increasing monitoring and enforcement of University, government and public health directives. We will be keeping a close eye on compliance and will consider implementing a curfew if necessary to help ensure the health and safety of our campus and wider Guelph community.
We will also remain vigilant in following the strict safety measures enacted previously to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. When followed properly, these safety measures and protocols do work. Indeed, in the 11 months since we reduced operations due to the pandemic, we have succeeded in avoiding an outbreak on campus – until now.
The outbreak that was declared Jan. 21 resulted after several students chose to hold and attend unsanctioned gatherings in contravention of government, Public Health and University protocols, guidelines and rules.
All students who have tested positive, as well as those awaiting test results, are in isolation, and we are providing services and assistance to all of them. I want to thank all of our Student Housing, Physical Resources, Campus Community Police, Student Health Services, Hospitality and other U of G staff who have been helping our students as much as possible under these challenging circumstances.
We have also increased cleaning and disinfecting in our residence system and are continuing to ensure physical distancing between students in residence and any U of G staff members.
Taking Action, Responsibility
The current outbreak is a powerful and painful reminder to students, faculty, staff and community about the importance of following guidelines. It is also a reminder that social gatherings are potentially hazardous. We must keep up our guard. We must continue to practice physical distancing, wear masks, avoid gathering in groups or socializing outside of our own households. As a reminder the provincial stay-at-home order remains in effect, so stay home when possible.
We must all consider how our actions and behaviours affect those around us: roommates, friends, family members, co-workers, the wider Guelph community, and beyond.
I wish to assure U of G members and members of the wider Guelph community that we take seriously any violations of government and Public Health protocols and guidelines. We will investigate any complaints and concerns and will work to take appropriate disciplinary action, including issuing of fines or other measures.
Currently, we are focused on ensuring that students are isolating, getting tested and receiving support, and following guidelines. As always, we will continue to work closely with Public Health to ensure compliance with appropriate safety measures.
We Are in this Together
I wish to underline that the vast majority of our students have acted responsibly and properly in following public health and safety protocols. I thank our students and their parents, our staff and faculty, and community members for cooperation and community-mindedness over many trying months.
We will continue to send updates on the situation and provide guidance on next steps in coordination with Public Health, including posting the most recent numbers at the end of each work day on our COVID-19 web page.
We are living together through an extraordinary moment in history. I call upon all our community members to do their part to ensure that we continue to live and learn safely at U of G.
Thank you for your continued patience, support and understanding.