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BREAKING: Positive COVID-19 result in ILLC wastewater testing

By Heidi Lee and Edward Djan

A wastewater test in the International Living and Learning Centre (ILLC) residence returned a positive COVID-19 result, according to an email from Ryerson Facilities Management and Development (FMD) obtained by The Eyeopener

On Feb. 15, FMD stated in an email that a positive result means “an individual who is infected with COVID-19 has used the washroom facilities in the tested building,” adding that the individual may be asymptomatic and not realize they have the virus.

“Given the virulence of the Omicron variant and current rate of infections in Ontario, testing may continue to show the presence of COVID-19 in wastewater testing for some time,” the email reads. 

According to the City of Toronto, wastewater testing—also known as wastewater surveillance—is a method used to identify COVID-19 trends in a community and is “particularly useful” when PCR tests are limited. 

While wastewater testing can’t replace individual COVID-19 testing, this method could allow institutions and public health sectors to have “a broader understanding of COVID-19 activity,” the City of Toronto stated. 

FMD stated that they shared information about the COVID-19 wastewater testing project in residences on Jan. 27. Following the announcement of the project, the Daphne Cockwell Health Sciences Complex (DCC) and ILLC were tested as they “have more consistent occupants than other facilities on campus as congregate living settings,” the article reads. 

The testing is part of a collaborative research project the university is undertaking with partners from the municipal and provincial governments to study how wastewater can be used to monitor the prevalence of COVID-19.

According to the email sent to those living in residence, the school is not asking occupants to take any additional measures at this time. The email recommended occupants self-monitor for symptoms, maintain physical distancing and personal hygiene, wear well-fitted masks and seek rapid antigen tests on campus.

Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms are being asked to immediately contact housing and residence life at 1-888-960-1191 and complete a declaration form.

The Eye previously reported on the first known case of COVID-19 in residence on Oct. 10, 2020, when a student living in ILLC tested positive for COVID-19. 

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