As the Middlesex-London region moves from orange to red in the face of rising case counts, and with variants of concern making up more than half of Ontario’s new COVID-19 cases, Western University is implementing additional precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The spike in positive cases in the region is reflected in what we’re seeing in the campus population,” said Matt Mills, Western’s director of health, safety and wellbeing. “The third wave is here, and it is real. We know the variants of concern are more easily transmissible, especially among young people, and we must redouble our efforts to keep ourselves, each other and the community safe.”
Everyone on campus must now wear three-layer non-medical masks, rather than cloth masks, indoors and in the presence of others. Employees working within six feet of each other must also wear a face shield, as an added protective measure.
In consultation with the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU), the university has also bolstered safety measures in all campus residences, effective March 28. All common areas – including floor lounges, study rooms and main lounges – have closed, and students must wear face coverings at all times when outside their bedrooms.
Occupancy in Western’s laboratory spaces will remain at 30-per-cent capacity. Any new field research, or research projects requiring face-to-face contact with off-campus human participants, will undergo further approvals.
On March 26, the MLHU declared outbreaks in Saugeen-Maitland Hall and Ontario Hall, and on March 30 declared an additional outbreak in Elgin Hall, where seven positive cases were confirmed.
Some Western employees in one unit have also recently tested positive. The health unit is monitoring the individuals, who are in isolation and receiving support from the university.
The MLHU, in collaboration with Western, leads COVID-19 contact tracing for any member of the campus community. Those who may have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive, and who is deemed at risk, will be contacted directly by the health unit.
Mills acknowledged this news will be concerning for the campus community. “We urge students and employees to reach out to the various supports we have in place if they have questions, or just need to talk. It has been a year since our campus was first impacted by the pandemic and COVID-19 fatigue is real.”
While Middlesex-London’s move from orange to red doesn’t impact the small percentage of in-person classes or plans for exams, Mills encouraged the campus community to continue practicing COVID-19 protocols.
“Wear a mask, keep your distance, avoid in-person gatherings in uncontrolled environments, and wash your hands regularly,” said Mills. “We’re in the home stretch with vaccinations rolling out, and if everyone plays their part we will get to the finish line.”
The university continues to take full direction from the MLHU and will pivot as needed.
DISTRIBUTION OF FACE COVERINGS
Three-layer non-medical masks will be supplied by the university, with distribution starting March 31.
Employees working within two metres of each other must also wear eye protection (face shield or goggles), as an added protective measure.
Faculty, staff and graduate students can request three-layer non-medical masks or eye protection through their faculty or unit designated requisitioner. Accommodation requests can be made via Employee Well-being.
Three-layer non-medical masks will be distributed to all students in residence.
CONTACTS AND SUPPORTS
- Students in residence: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Well-being supports: Confidential services through Morneau Shepell called LifeWorks
- Health-related inquiries: Contact your family doctor or Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000
- Other inquiries: Human Resources at email@example.com
TESTING ON CAMPUS
Western’s COVID-19 testing centre in the Western Student Recreation Centre is open Monday, March 29 to Thursday, April 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed April 2 in observance of Good Friday). Registered students and current employees can schedule an appointment in advance using the online booking tool. Walk-ins for the Western community are also welcome.