In a letter issued to students and staff on Wednesday morning, Maureen Adamson says she’s “deeply concerned” about the outbreak at the Severn Court Student Residence buildings, noting the residence on Wilfred Drive is not affiliated with Fleming and is privately owned and independently operated.
Peterborough Public Health declared the outbreak on Saturday initially with six cases and cites at least one “social gathering” on Feb. 20 as the spreader of the virus. Cases jumped to 23 on Sunday and 34 by Tuesday and were at 35 as of Wednesday morning.
The outbreak has forced Fleming to cancel all of its in-class learning at the nearby Sutherland campus for two weeks, impacting more than 700 students.
“To the students who were part of the unauthorized gatherings, we are extremely disappointed in your actions,” part of Adamson’s letter reads. “Your behaviours are inconsistent with our values and with our expectations of all our students, regardless of the fact that these actions took place in an off-campus setting.”
Of the now 35 cases, at least 10 are considered a variant of concern (up from three Tuesday), the health unit notes at noontime Wednesday. At least 29 individuals are Fleming students and five attend Trent University. Wednesday’s newest case had yet to be identified.
The health unit noted Tuesday that some of the students who tested positive are currently involved in trades programs and health care.
COVID-19: Outbreak cases jump to 34 at Peterborough student residence
“Fleming College prides itself on creating strong communities. Being a member of our community comes with responsibility,” said Adamson. “For those students training for careers in healthcare professions, there are even higher expectations and professional standards that are expected to be upheld.
“It is obvious that a group of students chose to behave in an irresponsible manner that has put many members of our community at risk.”
Adamson said the college will impose “the harshest possible sanctions” under its Student Rights and Responsibilities Policy to students who are proven to have been involved in the gatherings that led to the outbreak
“This could include penalties up to and including suspension or expulsion,” her letter states. “The college will continue to cooperate with PPH in their investigation and will offer our full cooperation with Peterborough Police Service should that become necessary.
“To the students who are innocent victims of the actions of others, we pledge our full support to ensure the successful completion of your studies. We will offer additional academic and personal counselling services and we will ensure that all learning outcomes for your program are achieved without extending the semester.”
Adamson says the actions of a “small group” of students are “upsetting” and “disheartening” as the vast majority of students and employees have adhered to safe practice guidelines for nearly a year.
“We have not had a case of COVID-19 transmission occur at any of our campuses,” she said. “This makes the behaviour of this small group of students even more disheartening and the apparent lack of the attention to safety protocols at a large complex populated by students so upsetting.”
Adamson acknowledged the general public and the college’s partners are also disappointed in the outbreak.
“As we take action to investigate and hold those responsible accountable for their actions, we must also come together to support each other,” she said. “As some positive signs are emerging in the global battle against the virus, Fleming College, like so many members of our community, pledges to build back better, together.”
During Wednesday’s regular meeting of Peterborough County Council, councillors also endorsed a motion “fully” supporting “appropriate corrective” actions against residence owners and students as the health unit “has listed as attended these two parties.”
“The actions of this group of people will have a resounding and crippling affect to our small businesses, who have struggled significantly over the last year”, stated Selwyn Township Deputy Mayor Sherry Senis. “This is completely unacceptable and unconscionable, and we support actions that send the message to everyone to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
— More to come.
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