U of S confirms first COVID-19 case

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A U of S student sits on the upper level of the Health Sciences Building on Feb. 25, 2019.

The University of Saskatchewan has its first confirmed case of COVID-19. However, the university Safety Resources unit does not believe other members of the campus community are at risk.

U of S Safety Resources announced in an email on Oct. 7 that a U of S member has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The email states that based on the individual’s class schedule, they have not been on campus since Oct. 1 and that the case is isolated to the College of Medicine. The email does not confirm whether the individual is a student or not.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority is currently doing contact tracing to alert any other members of the campus community who may have been exposed. 

“All individuals identified through contact tracing have been provided with instructions for completing COVID-19 testing and 14-day self-isolation until Oct. 16,” the email reads. 

According to Gordon Hunchak, U of S chief communications officer, the individual that tested positive has already received advice and instructions from the SHA on how to proceed, and they are currently in self-isolation. Additionally, Hunchak says that the university is taking its own course of action to ensure the safety of the campus community.

“The U of S has undertaken extensive cleaning and safety measures to ensure that any space on campus visited by the individual is safe for the broader campus community,” Hunchak said.

According to the university’s COVID-19 guidelines, the U of S takes two simultaneous steps when a case is suspected. On the one side, the individual gets tested to confirm the case, after which the SHA does contact tracing and notifies the university of the potential impact. The SHA also further advises the campus on appropriate actions.

Meanwhile, the university does a preliminary closure of the individual’s areas, and the individual or their supervisor submits an incident report through the Safety Resources website. This will trigger the next step, which is to apply the corresponding college or unit’s contingency plan. 

Both sides converge afterwards, when the Crisis Operations Team leads the updates to the incident-specific response plan. The COT will lead the next steps of the specific scenario before reopening the exposed workstations.

The U of S is mostly operating remotely this academic year. Most buildings are closed, and there is a limited number of approved students, faculty and staff members on campus. 

“We want to assure our community that our campus facilities are frequently sanitized and affected areas are thoroughly cleaned,” the email reads.

“We remind everyone to continue to practice safe social distancing, frequently wash your hands, wear a mask, and always self-monitor for symptoms.”

J.C. Balicanta Narag | Editor-in-Chief

Photo: Riley Deacon