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'The Quad' by Paul Gorbould is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

How Trent University Responds to an Outbreak on Campus

Written by
Spencer Wells
and
and
March 9, 2021
How Trent University Responds to an Outbreak on Campus
'The Quad' by Paul Gorbould is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The last week of February was a particularly sour one in Peterborough. News of a large gathering at Severn Court  (an off-campus Fleming College residence) broke out on the 20th, leading to the biggest COVID-19 outbreak the city has ever seen, including the potential spread of a variant-of-concern. It is unclear at the moment whether or not there were several parties in the building. The residence building was quickly issued a Section 22 Order by Peterborough Public Health, which bars visitors from entering and requires all tenants to self-isolate. As of March 8th, the presumed variant case count has risen to 78.

Two mass emails were then sent out by Trent University Communications (February 27th and March 1st)  confirming that there are 4 active COVID cases on Trent University’s Peterborough campus. This came after speculation that the University was only sending specific emails to those students affected, and not the greater student population on campus that may be affected if they are within close quarters to the students in question. 

We reached out to Trent University’s Communications Office to request a statement of transparency on the matter of how the University is ensuring every student, faculty member, and the Peterborough community is promptly and properly informed on the ongoing matter:

From the beginning, keeping members of our community informed about positive cases of COVID-19 linked to our campuses in a timely manner has been a key University priority, as outlined in our COVID-19 Case Management Plan. When we hear of cases associated with the University, we seek confirmation and guidance from Public Health – a process that can take some time – to ensure accuracy, prior to sharing details with the broader community. 

Last weekend, reports were received of several positive cases linked to our residence communities. While the University was working with Peterborough Public Health (PPH) to confirm the cases and determine next steps, an initial urgent decision was made to notify particular groups of residents who might be directly affected, to alert them to the possible exposure. Priority communication with individuals who may be directly affected is outlined in the plan. Once details were confirmed with Public Health, a broader communication was then sent by email to all students as well as staff and faculty. The update was also posted to myTrent and the Trent Forward site. We encourage all members of our community to check the Trent Forward website regularly for updates regarding any positive cases linked to our campuses. A COVID-19 case tracker is also available.

Under the guidance of Peterborough Public Health, most campus operations are continuing. A small number of in-person classes and labs, following stringent COVID-19 protocols, are also continuing.

All residence students who have tested positive, as well as those identified as at higher risk exposure by PPH, have been moved to a separate on-campus residence specially designated for isolation while they may be contagious. They are being supported with a wide array of health, academic and social supports while in isolation. On-campus testing for many of these students is now underway. So far, recent initial tests of close contacts are showing multiple negatives. No individuals will leave isolation until advised by Public Health that it is safe to do so. 

With the outbreak declaration in Champlain, students who are asymptomatic and remain in Champlain College are currently deemed lower risk and are isolating in place, following directives from Public Health. Access in and out of Champlain College residence is not permitted except for authorized personnel. Special supports are being made available to students at Champlain. Students who live in Trent’s other residences in Peterborough are also being supported by our teams in Housing, the Colleges, and Student Services. 

We will continue to take all the necessary measures to ensure health and safety, and we are taking any violation of the COVID-19 safety protocols and outbreak orders seriously. Recognizing that some student behaviour may have led to this outbreak, we are all working together to sustain students affected by these isolation measures. We have been very touched and encouraged by people in the Trent community coming forward wanting to help them. As all of us continue to follow all health and safety guidelines, we hope all members of the Trent community will also be compassionate for the difficult situation students are dealing with.

We continue to encourage our community to be vigilant, responsible, and supportive of each other, as we work together to get through the outbreak and to contain any further spread.


On March 5 , Peterborough Public Health made an announcement that on March 8 at 12:01 a.m. the region would be moving into the red control zone. This will include strict restrictions to many public services and limits on gatherings, as per the provincial framework. For more information about Trent University’s new protocols for containing COVID-19 cases, visit the site here.

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