A student infected with COVID-19 in a recent outbreak at Severn Court Student Residence in Peterborough has died, according to Peterborough Public Health.
“The individual was a male in his 30s who lived at Severn Court Student Residence,” states a media release issued by the health unit on Tuesday (March 16). “He was diagnosed with a COVID-19 variant of concern and hospitalized outside the region last week before passing away yesterday.”
On March 17, CTV News identified the man as Zachary Root, an accounting student at Fleming College.
The outbreak at Severn Court Student Residence at 555 Wilfred Drive in Peterborough was first declared on February 27. The outbreak, which was connected to at least one large gathering held at the privately owned student housing complex near Fleming College on February 20, is the largest to date in the Peterborough area.
“We acknowledge that the partygoers had no malicious intent toward my brother,” said Zachary Root’s brother Brandon in an email to CTV News. “There were students consistently knocking on his door throughout the night trying to get him to come and join in but he remained inside with the door locked.”
Root’s brother also told CTV News that Zachary did not participate in any of the parties, that he was fastidious about wearing a mask, practising physical distancing, and hand washing. He was also concerned about his fellow students not following public health measures.
“He cared about everyone being happy, safe and wanted to make sure he was doing what he could to protect others and stop the spread of COVID-19,” Root told CTV News. “He would want this event to reinforce the vital importance of our actions and adherence to public health guidelines.”
According to local medical officer of health Dr. Rosana Salvaterra at a virtual media briefing last Thursday (March 11), the total number of positive cases associated with the outbreak had climbed to 56 students — including a student who was hospitalized.
In its media release confirming the death of the hospitalized student, Peterborough Public Health states there have now been 59 cases associated with the Severn Court outbreak, all of which have screened positive for a variant of concern. To date most cases have been resolved, and there are only five active cases that remain linked to the outbreak.
“We send our deepest condolences to the family, and know that this is a painful tragedy for our entire community,” Dr. Salvaterra said. “As the youngest person to die locally from COVID-19, it reminds us how serious this pandemic is, that youth are not immune from its worst outcomes, and that we all have a role to play in ending it to prevent future tragedies.”
Dr. Salvaterra acknowledged outrage many in the community are experiencing about the impact of the outbreak, which resulted in the Peterborough region being moved into the ‘Red-Control’ level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework, and encouraged residents to speak with those they know or seek professional supports and limiting time on social media.
“The need to express our feelings is very real,” she said. “However, I think engaging in forums like social media is not as healthy as talking with someone who you can truly relate to.”
Fleming College president Maureen Adamson has issued a message of condolence on the student’s death.
“On behalf of the Fleming College community, I would like to express our deep sadness regarding the recent passing of a resident of Severn Court,” Adamson said. “We mourn the loss together with our community and share our heartfelt condolences with the family and friends of the deceased.”
Adamson added that flags at all Fleming College campuses will be flown at half-staff for the next two days in honour of the loss.
Counselling and support services are available to all members of the Fleming community. Students and employees can reach Counselling Services by calling 705-749-5530 x1296.
In addition, Webex drop-in counselling services are available on Wednesday (March 17) at 1 to 3 p.m. and on Friday (March 19) from 1 to 2 p.m. at flemingcollege.webex.com/meet/nancy.verduyn.
The original version of this story quoted a family member who publicly posted about the death on Reddit. As that family member has since deleted the posts and their Reddit account, kawarthaNOW has rewritten this story to exclude any of this material out of respect for the family.
The story has been updated to include the message of condolence from Fleming College and related information.
The story has been updated to include the report from CTV News.