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Three individuals living in Seager Wheeler Residence Hall tested positive earlier this month

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is one of the latest Canadian universities to report an outbreak of COVID-19 in one of their residence buildings. 

Three individuals living in Seager Wheeler Residence Hall tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month as reported the school student publication, the Sheaf

On Jan. 12, the provincial government officially declared an outbreak at the residence hall. As of the publication of this article, the province of Saskatchewan currently has 3,161 active cases.

This building is one of four high-rise student residences, located south of the university’s main campus. 

“The individuals, who all lived in the same residence unit [suite], are self-isolating and a contact investigation began immediately to identify close contacts,” said Gord Hunchak, chief communications officer at the U of S in an email statement to the Fulcrum.

According to Hunchak, the Saskatchewan Health Authority has given advice and next steps to the individuals, as well as those who have been in close contact with them. 

“The university has established procedures to address instances of positive COVID-19 cases on our campus,” said Hunchak. “[These] allow us to respond quickly and effectively, and ensure the safety of our campus community and beyond.” 

Jory McKay, the vice president of student affairs for the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, said that given the increase in the province’s COVID-19 cases, he is “not surprised” that several students have tested positive. 

The university provides weekly online updates for the community concerning everything COVID-19 related and McKay was appreciative of the university’s communication plan.

“Overall, the communication has been good, and we have open communication with the administration,” said McKay. 

The university’s COVID-19 response team has not provided the Fulcrum with a comment at the time of publication.

Should residences stay open?

The University of Western Ontario also experienced outbreaks in two of their residence buildings in late 2020. The first outbreak with four individuals in London Hall on Oct. 11; the second in Saugeen-Maitland Hall on Nov. 19 with eight positive tests. 

With the cases at the U of S, the debate continues as to whether or not residence buildings across the province should open. 

At the moment, several Ontario universities have opened their residences. Among them are the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto, Guelph University, the University of Waterloo and Trent University. 

Queen’s University is requesting students to not come back until the end of January and Western is allowing students to return to residence beginning in mid-February, as reported by the Toronto Star. 

Students at The University of Ottawa have been allowed to come back to residence for the beginning of the winter semester. The U of O previously had a residence building outbreak in 45 Mann in September.