Western asked all students in London Hall who traveled home for Thanksgiving to not return for at least two weeks, as the health unit confirms the outbreak in residence spans multiple floors.
The university said they will work with students unable to isolate at home to "find an appropriate location to quarantine."
Those on affected floors who remained in London Hall for the Thanksgiving weekend will be tested Tuesday and were asked to quarantine in their rooms, according to Chris Alleyne, associate vice-president of Housing and Ancillary Services.
Students living on non-affected floors in London Hall can continue using the cafeteria in Essex Hall and attending in-person classes, but have been told to self-monitor for symptoms and limit their social circles.
Four students in London Hall are currently linked to the outbreak. None are hospitalized, though the Middlesex-London Health Unit would not clarify if the students are asymptomatic.
At least 74 Western University students have tested positive for the coronavirus, five have been cases in residence buildings. This is Western’s third outbreak since the start of classes last month — the first two outbreaks were not linked to campus.
The MLHU has not identified the source of the outbreak as the rising number of cases in London makes tracing the source of infection challenging, according to Dr. Alex Summers, associate medical officer of health with the MLHU.
“We know that there has been a general increase in cases among post-[secondary] students,” said Dr. Summers. “We think this is just likely related to that general increase.”
The outbreak comes as London is reporting its largest single-day increase of cases since the pandemic began, with 25 new cases Monday and 20 cases the day before.
While Western has the highest reported case count among universities and colleges in the country, Dr. Summers said the university does not need to change its operations.
“The policies that are currently in place have worked very effectively at Western,” said Dr. Summers.
Western said 358 students are currently living in London Hall's 10 floors. The suite-style residence has single bedrooms and students share bathrooms and a kitchenettes with one or two “suitemates.”
Students quarantining are expected to make academic accommodations with their professors if they have in-person courses. Western also asked students to contact housing if they left “academic necessities,” like a computer or textbooks, in residence.
Western will deliver meals to students on affected floors. The health unit says those students can interact with their suitemates, if they also remained in residence for Thanksgiving.
The MLHU is currently reaching out to close contacts of the positive cases, as the four infected students and their immediate contacts are already quarantining off-campus.
“For any students who are returning to the London region it is absolutely critical that as you’re returning, you limit your close contacts to only your housemates or only your dormmates,” said Dr. Summers. “If you start to expand your close contacts beyond this we will continue to see transmission and the likelihood that you will get sick goes up.”
Western’s testing centre reopens Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. after closing for the Thanksgiving weekend. Only staff or students with symptoms of the coronavirus or direct exposure to a positive case can get tested.
With files from Kirat Walia, News Editor.
Update (Oct. 12, 2020, 4:24 p.m., Oct. 13, 2020, 10:12 a.m.): This article was updated with additional information from Western University.
Correction (Oct. 12, 2020, 8:17 p.m.): This article was corrected to clarify that Western has the highest number of "reported" cases among Canadian universities and colleges. This count is based on cases reported by Canadian universities and colleges or local health units.