MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- The Middlesex-London Health Unit has declared two more outbreaks at Western University, one at the school's Elgin Hall Residence and a separate staff outbreak.

Seven students at Elgin Hall have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.

Matt Mills, Western’s director of health and safety, says the number of staff involved in the other outbreak is not yet known and they're monitoring the situation.

“We have some Western employees in one particular unit that have also recently tested positive. And so the health unit, we’re working closely today with them on that. We’re monitoring some individuals that are in isolation and receiving support from the university.”

The Elgin Hall outbreak marks the third declared in a residence since March 25, and leaves the university with four active residence outbreaks.

Outbreaks are currently active at Elgin Hall, Saugeen-Maitland Hall, Ontario Hall and at Essex Hall, where an outbreak was originally declared on March 2.

A separate outbreak linked to a gathering of business students was also announced on Monday.

Three of the outbreaks - at Saugeen-Maitland Hall, Ontario Hall and the gathering - each have more than 10 cases and at least one variant of concern.

There was also another community outbreak at the school earlier this month, linked to off-campus parties held the first week of March, that was eventually connected to roughly 50 cases.

Associate Medical Officer of Health at the health unit, Dr. Alex Summers, says, "We are seeing these outbreaks in places where people live in close proximity, and it is really an indication of the larger community activity."

He added that these post-secondary outbreaks are not driving the majority of the rise in cases in the region, as is there is transmission throughout the community.

Summers says all close contacts have been placed in quarantine, and the health unit is working closely with the university to deal with the outbreaks.

New on-campus precautions

Western is now requiring all students on campus to wear a three-layer non-medical mask, rather than cloth masks in an effort to stem rising case counts.

Mills cites the rise in the more easily transmitted variants of concern as one of the reasons for the change.

The masks will be provided by the university to all students in residence, with distribution starting on Tuesday. Other students can request them through their faculty or unit.

In addition, the university says:

  • Employees working within six feet of each other must also wear a face shield, as an added protective measure.
  • In campus residences, 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.

All students are encouraged to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, including masking, distancing, avoiding in-person gatherings and washing hands.

- With files from CTV's Bryan Bicknell