DC prez on COVID-19 response: ‘We’re doing exceptionally well’

Durham College president Don Lovisa. Photo credit: Durham College

Thirty-two students at Durham College (DC) have become infected with COVID-19 since September, but none of the cases of been contracted on campus.

“There’s been no on-campus transmission, that’s the key,” says Don Lovisa, Durham College president.

Whenever there is a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus, the college speaks with officials from the Durham Region Health Department who assess the risk to the community as ‘no risk’, ‘low risk’ or ‘high risk’.

Only one of the DC cases has been deemed a high risk to the community. That case involved a student on the Whitby campus Oct. 23 who went into isolation.

Durham College's Whitby campus has been the only part of the college with a high-risk case so far.
Durham College's Whitby campus has been the only part of the college with a high-risk case so far. Photo credit: Durham College

“What happens with high risk is they will then contact those people who were in contact with the person with COVID, and they don’t deal with us (the college), they deal with the students directly and say ‘OK, because you’re at high risk, we want you to isolate for 14 days’,” says Lovisa. “But if students don’t get contacted by the health authorities, it means that there is no risk.”

Although Durham’s campus is closed, some students, in some programs, are still granted access to the school.

DC tracks all students coming to campus through their student ID number, so if there ever was an individual case or outbreak, they would be able to contact those who were in the building at the same time, according to Lovisa.

Students can also find updates on COVID-19 cases on campus through their email and https://durhamcollege.ca/information-regarding-novel-coronavirus/updates.

Lovisa says he is pleased with the ability of colleges across Ontario to keep their campuses safe during the pandemic, with no outbreaks being tied to a college so far. Durham has 32 cases for its enrolment of approximately 13,000 students. By comparison, Toronto’s Humber College, has reported 38 COVID-19 cases with an enrolment of about 33,000 students.

“I have to say the college system has done exceptionally well,” says Lovisa. “When you look at 24 colleges, and half a million students, there hasn’t been an outbreak.”

Durham has a pandemic planning team that includes covering an outbreak scenario, according to Lovisa.

The team includes representatives from occupational health and safety, campus safety, risk management, information technology, and they also work with Ontario Tech University due to its shared campus.

“It encompasses all the major operational pieces of the college, so when decisions are made about direction, they’re getting feedback from all different parts of the college,” says Lovisa.

Currently, the team is talking about what happens if Durham Region goes into a lockdown under the new COVID-19 Response Framework.

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