The Ontario Police College has seen more than 90 positive cases of COVID-19 in a week since an outbreak was reported, the region’s medical officer of health said.
Last week, the college in Aylmer, Ont., halted all in-person learning for 14 days, in an effort to curb any further spread of COVID-19 at the institution. It also required all of its recruits who test positive to remain at the college to self-isolate.
On Thursday, the outbreak had reached a total of 93 active COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Southwestern Public Health (SWPH), said while the number of cases is not alarming, it is a clear example of just how fast the coronavirus can spread through congregate settings.
“This is a clear case of how easy the virus — and this is not even the variant, this is the routine virus — can spread when people live together,” Lock told CBC News on Thursday.
Lock said there is no concern regarding possible coronavirus variants among the cases at this time, as it would have likely come up in testing within the past week as cases emerged.
“If it had been a variant of concern, we would’ve known by now,” Lock said. “We expected the numbers to go up, and they still may go up higher.”
On Thursday, SWPH reported 83 new cases of COVID-19, with 66 logged in Aylmer. The number was a major spike in cases compared to last week when Aylmer reported no new cases of COVID-19.
Lock noted that some cases have not yet appeared on the SWPH dashboard as some recruits may have returned to their own jurisdiction. She also noted that due to an outage on Wednesday, Aylmer’s figure might not yet accurately reflect the outbreak.
CBC News has reached out to the Office of the Solicitor General for comment on Thursday but has not received a response.
Lock said given the number of students attending the college, the region had expected to see a rise in positive cases, which is why they conducted testing as quickly as possible.
More than 700 people were tested for COVID-19 over two days when the outbreak was reported on Feb. 22, Lock told CBC News.
The police college, which trains more than 400 recruits, has implemented a number of safety measures during the pandemic to curb further spread of the virus.
The measures include mandatory screening, on-site testing, personal protective equipment as well as implementing isolation whenever necessary.
“We knew that there was a significant risk that despite all the good effort put in into infection prevention,” Lock said. “There was a high risk of spread once we got a virus into that organization.”
All staff and recruits were tested for COVID-19 as of Feb. 25, according to the ministry.
Lock said most of those who have tested positive have mild illness, while many are asymptomatic.