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COVID-19 updates for July 2021

BY UA/AU | JUL 31 2021

July 28, 2021

Brock students in residence will need to be vaccinated this fall

Brock University is now requiring students to be fully vaccinated if they want to live in residence. Students must have at least one dose before moving in and must complete the two-shot series within 14 days of moving in. According to a survey conducted by the university of 2,000 students planning to live in residence, 94 per cent planned to get vaccinated. “Whether it’s to conduct research or to collaborate with colleagues, being on campus is such an important part of the graduate student experience,” said Graduate Students’ Association president Christopher Yendt in a university statement. “We know that the higher the rate of vaccination among students and the Brock community, the more things can open up, so we want to make sure that our students are getting vaccinated and that there are no roadblocks stopping that from happening.”

Constitutional Rights Centre sends legal notice to Western University regarding mandatory vaccines

The Constitutional Rights Centre (CRC), which represents Children’s Health Defense Canada, announced on July 26 that it has sent a legal notice to Western University, threatening a lawsuit unless the university scraps their vaccine mandate. This is according to an article published on True North. The CRC says mandatory vaccines “have no place in a constitutional democracy.” It also states that Western’s mandate “runs afoul of the principles and objectives… of numerous statutes including, the Healthcare Consent Act, and the Personal Health Information Protection Act.” It also says that “educational institutions have no business pressuring, influencing, forcing, compelling, coercing, nor extorting students to assume an Emergency Use Authorization only inoculation as a term of attending.”

No more physical distancing necessary at U of Calgary

Signage advising physical distancing in University of Calgary buildings is currently being removed to reflect the lifting of restrictions in Alberta. “Physical distancing is not being discouraged; however, it is no longer required on campus,” states a release. This includes public spaces, libraries, workspaces and classrooms. “We want everyone in the UCalgary community to feel safe on campus. Please remember that everyone will have slightly different levels of comfort as we move to this new stage.”

More details released about Trent’s fall plan

As we previously reported in April most students will be heading back to Trent University this fall. “We’re offering mostly in-person courses, but we are offering some online and hybrid and HyFlex, which is basically giving people the option to take online versions of the courses,” said Nona Robinson, associated vice-president of students at Trent in a Global News article. One thing to note is that masks will be required for students while in campus buildings, including classes.

URegina updates masking policy

CTV News is reporting that the University of Regina is updating its on-campus COVID-19 guidelines. This means that as of Aug. 1, masks will only be required in designated areas such as classrooms, labs, studios and in the library. The university will be opening all entrances to allow normal access to campus. Masks will be optional in public areas, like the food court, gym and theatres.

July 26, 2021

More universities announce mandatory vaccinations for student residences

The University of Guelph announced that any student living in residence this fall will need to be fully vaccinated. The Guelph-Mercury reported that those with only their first dose are being asked to arrange their second shot at least 14 days prior to moving in. Those arriving without being vaccinated must receive their first dose within seven days of arrival and their second within 30 days of their move-in date. “Our goal is to provide students with a welcoming and enjoyable campus living and learning experience while ensuring safe interactions,” said Charlotte Yates, the university’s president, in a release.

All first year, upper year, graduate, and live-in student staff are also required to be vaccinated at the University of Waterloo. According to a statement released by the university, residents need to have received their first dose before their scheduled residence move-in date and provide proof of vaccination to the university before they move in. “Residents must also get a second dose of an approved vaccine as soon as possible within the recommended time period and provide proof that they have done so by November 1, 2021,” states the release.

Another Waterloo region university, Wilfrid Laurier University, is also instituting mandatory vaccinations for its students living in residence. Like U of Waterloo, students will be encouraged to have their first dose of approved vaccine at least 14 days before arriving on campus. “Those who are unable to get vaccinated before moving in will have one week following their move-in date to receive their first dose, with the university helping to facilitate access to vaccines, subject to supply,” said the university’s press release.

The same message is going out to students who will be in residence at McMaster University this fall: get vaccinated. “We are working to make sure that students have as much opportunity as possible to enjoy a full residence experience,” said Sean Van Koughnett, associate vice president students and learning, and dean of students, in statement. “A survey of incoming residence students found that 97 per cent said they planned to be vaccinated before the beginning of term. This is an outstanding response and requiring vaccinations aligns well with what our students are telling us.” Students will be required to be fully vaccinated within 14 days of moving into residence, with at least one shot before their move-in date.

Vaccines not mandatory to return to UBC Okanagan campus this fall

The University British Columbia Okanagan will not be requiring students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be on campus this fall. “The health risk is low for in-person classes in the fall due to the expected number of partially and fully vaccinated individuals,” said the university in a statement, which was quoted in the Revelstoke Review.

UWindsor launches vaccination campaign

CTV News is reporting that the University of Windsor has launched a campaign called “Take the jab.” The aim is to encourage the 25-and-under student population to get vaccinated and share the message. The university is going to offer four different modes of course delivery this fall: face-to-face, hybrid, hy-flex and online. “We’re trying to do as much as we can face to face,” Lisa Porter, an associate professor of biomedical sciences at UWindsor, told CTV. The university hopes the campaign will connect students to reliable sources and empower them to make an informed choice to vaccinate against COVID-19.





Acadia striving for complete vaccination of campus population

In a recent statement, Acadia University president Peter Ricketts revealed Acadia’s new vaccination policy. “While vaccination is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended, and we are striving to reach a fully vaccinated campus community status,” he stated. “Our goal is for our campus to remain a safe place to work and study, so we are aiming to exceed the provincial levels of vaccination participation in hopes of being able to reduce restrictions on campus further.”

UBC student union calling for mandatory masks in classrooms, vaccines in residences

Global News is reporting that the University of British Columbia student union is asking their institution to make masks mandatory on campus this fall. It would also like vaccines to be mandatory in residences. The student union recently conducted a survey of students and found that more than 60 per cent of the nearly 8,000 respondents said they were concerned about exposure to COVID-19 in crowded lecture halls. “Students just don’t want to be sitting in 200- to 300-person lecture halls side-by-side without masks. Quite frankly, faculty don’t feel safe teaching in them either,” said Eshana Bhangu, the student union vice-president of academic and university affairs. Currently, masks are recommended but voluntary in indoor public places in B.C. The survey also found that 82 per cent of respondents support mandatory vaccines for those living in residence. “There’s just one resounding message we’re hearing at the [student union], and that’s that UBC needs to do more,” said Ms. Bhangu.

July 21, 2021

U of Guelph prof says students need to get vaccinated now

Manish N. Raizada, a professor and molecular geneticist at the University of Guelph, recently wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star, stating Canadian colleges and universities need to mandate vaccines for students within the next two weeks in order for campuses to operate “normally” in the fall.

“I am worried about the low (64 per cent) and plateauing COVID vaccination rates amongst postsecondary aged students,” she writes. She goes on to say that she is particularly worried about the Delta variant: “The postsecondary student segment encompasses two million Canadians. When partially vaccinated and unvaccinated students become infected this fall and then return home for a night or weekend, they may ignite a firestorm of Delta and newly emerging variants across the wider population.”

She cites that while many surveyed students say they intend to get vaccinated, there may not be a lot of follow-through. “How many 18-year-olds do you know that promise to do a task and then not complete it, despite the best of intentions?” She also states that after having been “caged” up at home for 18 months, the parties and gatherings will surely be large, “sometimes drunk and certainly unmasked, not physically distanced — and increasingly inside.”

She recommended universities ask students to prove double vaccination (which would be aided if provincial governments created vaccination cards or digital barcodes), and only then re-issue their student ID cards.

Vaccinations will not be mandatory for Western students, staff

The CBC is reporting that students at Western University – one of the universities with the highest number of positive cases on its campus during the pandemic – will not have to be vaccinated in order to attend classes this fall.

“We’re obviously encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and we feel that we’ve gone as far as we can go legally, and we’re very comfortable with our decision,” Alan Shepard, president of Western said at a news conference. He also said that Western is prepared to pivot to virtual learning on short notice if necessary but he does not anticipate needing to do so.

Meanwhile, Global News is reporting that the University of Western Ontario Faculty Association is calling on the university “to require all eligible students, staff, faculty, librarians and archivists to be fully vaccinated before coming to campus, acknowledging that some may be exempt for medical or religious reasons.” The article quotes union president Nigmendra Narain, who said many faculty members have been pushing for a vaccine mandate, citing concerns that in-person classes without physical distancing or capacity limits could lead to outbreaks. “Without a clear indication that the classroom they’re coming into is going to be safe … it’s going to be difficult for [students] to do the type of learning and produce the type of environment for their students to actually engage with this learning.”

Algoma “highly” recommending vaccinations, but not making them mandatory

The Sault Star is reporting that Algoma University is not implementing mandatory vaccinations for its students in residence this fall, but is “highly” recommending they get vaccinated, according to Algoma communications officer Megan Parlowe. The student union expressed gratitude towards the university for encouraging vaccination, but not enforcing it. “If AU mandated vaccination for the fall, it is likely that our international students will be disproportionately affected,” said Rebekah Gwynn, Algoma University Students’ Union president. She also said that the student union “would love to see” a vaccination rate near 100 per cent by the second semester “but we recognize that simply will not be a reality in September.”

No decisions made regarding mandatory vaccines at Nipissing

Officials at Nipissing University have said no decision has been made about whether students and staff need to be fully vaccinated to be on its campus this fall. This is according to a CTV News article, which quoted an official statement from the university: “In an effort to maintain a safe and healthy work and learning environment, continue being a good community partner, and support the health and wellbeing of our campus and broader community, Nipissing University encourages all faculty, staff and students to get vaccinated if and when they are able.”

U of T will not require COVID-19 vaccinations for in-person courses

Students will not have to prove they have been vaccinated in order to attend classes at the University of Toronto this fall, according to the Varsity, the U of T’s student newspaper. However, students living in residence are still mandated to get their vaccine. The article states that while in-person learning will not require the first dose of the vaccine, the university strongly encourages students to get vaccinated. Students returning to campus will have to check in to campus via UCheck, a system set up to identify COVID-19 risk status.

Students and staff not required to be vaccinated say U of Calgary, Mount Royal

CTV News is reporting that neither the University of Calgary nor Mount Royal University will be requiring its students or staff to be vaccinated when they return to campus in September. The article quotes an official statement from the U of Calgary: “Vaccination will not be a mandatory requirement for students. The university supports vaccination and is focused on removing barriers to individuals to access vaccines.”

Mount Royal’s general council and university secretary Amy Nixon also chimed in, stating, that administrators are focused on making the school a safe place for everyone when they return to classes, and that includes encouraging vaccinations. “We continue to look at and have conversations even with our colleagues in the postsecondary sector and Alberta Health Services about where there might be opportunity to bring vaccines onto campuses in a bigger way.”

Quebec “unlikely” to enforce mandatory vaccination directive on students

Quebec health minister Christian Dubé told reporters on July 16 that the province has no plans to force university students to get vaccinated when they return to classes in the fall. CTV News quoted the minister, who said “Our key principle is to roll out on a voluntary basis. It has worked so far, we will continue this way.” The article also states that in Quebec, more than 82 per cent of those eligible have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 50 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

Cases on campus

The University of Manitoba is reporting one case on its campus. So far, there has been a total of 88 positive cases at the university.

July 19, 2021

CBU and U of Ottawa mandate students living in residences to be vaccinated

Cape Breton University and the University of Ottawa have added themselves to the list of Canadian postsecondary institutions requiring students living in on-campus residences to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Last week, CBC reported that all students living in residence at CBU will be mandated to have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. The U of Ottawa also announced that student living in residences will need to have received at least their first dose of a vaccine.

These announcements come after several institutions – including Western University and the University of Toronto – also mandated vaccines for students living on campus. Recently, Seneca College, which has campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough, was the first postsecondary institution (and appears to be the only so far) in Canada to establish a vaccine requirement for all members of its community coming to campus in the fall, and not just for students in residence.

At CBU, students who have received just one dose can still live on campus, but they must have received that first dose at least 14 days before arriving and are required to get their second shot as soon as they can.

The students’ union president at CBU, Madlyn O’Brien, told the CBC that students are pleased with these guidelines. “We are all happy to see this initiative from the university because we know that vaccines help to keep all students safe,” she said. “Creating a safer environment on campus is exactly what we want to be happening.”

According to a CBC story, domestic students at the U of Ottawa must provide proof of vaccination and receive at least one dose of a Health Canada-approved vaccine before they move in, or within two weeks of moving in if they come to campus unvaccinated. Student who have already received one dose must get their second within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.

International students will be allowed in residence with any vaccine approved by the World Health Organization, but their second dose must be one authorized by Health Canada.

Ontario says universities in the province can fully reopen this fall

According to a memo sent on Friday and obtained by the Toronto Star, the Ontario provincial government will allow postsecondary institutions to return to in-person classes in September with no capacity limits or physical distancing requirements – although face masks will be required inside.

The Star reported that the memo notes universities and colleges should hold vaccine clinics and offer rapid COVID-19 testing to asymptomatic individuals, all while maintaining additional cleaning measures.

Along with these recommendations in the memo sent by the deputy minister for colleges and universities, Shelley Tapp, the document states that postsecondary institutions should offer mental health resources and supports to members of their communities, given the challenges many faced during the pandemic. “The impacts of COVID-19 have been challenging for all of us,” the memo said. “Institutions should make every effort to ensure that students and employees have the mental health and well-being supports they need.”

In a statement, Colleges and Universities Minister Jull Dunlop said that, as a mother of students attending Ontario universities, she knows “first-hand that many students are looking forward to returning to campus for in-person learning experiences. It is my hope that this news will bring some comfort in that regard.”

According to the Star, the government will issue an update to schools in early August to make sure they are in “alignment with the most current public health and safety guidance and advice for September 2021 and onwards.”

No vaccine mandate at Queen’s or CMU

Global News reported that Queen’s University will not be implementing any vaccine requirements for the fall. Instead, the university will encourage vaccination and try to make getting vaccinated easy.

“To support access to vaccines, plans are underway to host an on-campus vaccination clinic in early September that will be available to all students who need their first, or second dose, including international students,” the university said in a statement.

Mark Green, the university’s vice-principal, academic, told Global that about 97 per cent of students who applied to live in residence indicated that they would be fully vaccinated by the fall or that they are taking the steps to get there.

Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg announced it is aiming for a mostly in-person campus experience in the fall. In a message, the university’s president, Cheryl Pauls, said it’s expected that about 90 per cent of its classes will take place in person and there will be hybrid extensions for students who are not able to attend for COVID-19-related reasons. Dr. Pauls also said that “in keeping with Canadian law,” the university will not mandate vaccines for any students, staff or faculty.

The message also stated that campus housing has “protected spaces” for students who live on campus who need to self-isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms. The university also surveyed its community and 95 per cent of respondents said they have been vaccinated.

CMU has fared well during the pandemic. Dr. Pauls described “the story of COVID-19 during 2020-21 at CMU as ‘blessedly boring.’ There was no outbreak and no known transmission of COVID-19 on campus amongst those who live on campus or those who commute in for the day. That’s an amazing record.”

Cases on campus

The University of Waterloo announced that two individuals who attended a hockey day camp in early July on its campus have tested positive for COVID-19 and that the cases have been declared an outbreak.

The university said public health officials have contacted all known contacts of the individuals affected. The department of athletics and recreation is working with the Region of Waterloo Public Health to prevent further spread of the virus in children, staff and the community, the university added.

July 14, 2021

Cases on campus

The University of Waterloo announced three new COVID-19 cases on its campus — one on July 7July 9 and July 12. For the cases identified on July 7 and 9, the individuals are in self-isolation and do not have any known close contacts on campus, the university said. In the third case, the individual is also in self-isolation and public health is reaching out to identified close contacts while this person was on campus.

St. Thomas University to help international students isolate before fall term

The federal government has ended the 14-day isolation period for international travellers coming into Canada if they have been fully vaccinated with a Health Canada-approved vaccine. But not everyone has received those coveted Pfizer or Moderna shots, including international students.

St. Thomas University in Fredericton will be help international students who, not having received Health Canada-approved vaccines, need to spend two weeks in quarantine. The university made arrangements for these students to isolate in a campus residence that has been designated for that purpose, Ryan Sullivan, associate vice-president, enrolment, told Global News. “We’ll be providing meals and support to them while they’re in isolation,” he said.

International students have been asked to arrive on campus at least two weeks before the start of classes so they have time to complete their required isolation time. Students won’t be charged to isolate in the residence and can choose to isolate there even if they’re planning to live off campus during the academic year, Global News reported.

Laurier offering on-campus vaccine clinics

Wilfrid Laurier University is holding COVID-19 vaccination clinics for students, faculty and staff at the Student Wellness Centre on its Waterloo campus throughout the summer and fall. The next clinic will take place on July 16.

U of Calgary emphasizes its ‘trust in the science’ of COVID-19 vaccines

Senior leadership and research leaders at the University of Calgary have released a statement underlining the university’s “trust in the science, discipline and innovation that developed the COVID-19 vaccines” and encouraging all members of its campus community to get vaccinated.

“These vaccines are the output of rigorous, global scientific research,” said Ed McCauley, U of C’s president and vice-chancellor, in the statement. “Innovation and science have guided my entire academic career, and I do not hesitate to support them now.”

The province currently sits at a 74.1 per cent vaccination rate for the first dose, and 55.3 per cent of the province’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, but the numbers remain low in rural parts of the province.

The statement from the university — which also includes quotes from the university’s vice-president of research and the deans of both the faculty of nursing and the Cumming school of medicine — lists reasons to get vaccinated (e.g. for yourself, for your loved ones and to protect those under 12 who are not able to be vaccinated yet), evidence that the vaccines are safe, and ways staff, faculty and students can access vaccinations if they haven’t already.

“When a person gets vaccinated, they don’t just protect themselves, they also protect the doctors, nurses and other medical staff that are responsible for their care — as well as other nearby patients who may be at increased risk,” said Sandra Davidson, dean of the faculty of nursing.

Returning to campus safely and to our normal lives requires enough people to be fully vaccinated so that the disease does not continue to spread, the statement continued.

For those who know someone who is vaccine-hesitant, or for those who are worried themselves, the university has an FAQ webpage and webinar containing more information.

July 12, 2021

Quebec struggles to vaccinate 18- to 29-year-olds

Quebec’s status as the top province in administering COVID-19 vaccines per capita recently plummeted to seventh place, reported the Montreal Gazette. In fact, Michel Roger, the medical director of Quebec’s public health lab, has warned that if not enough age groups are fully vaccinated, the province could find itself in a fourth wave this fall driven by the Delta variant.

One key demographic that’s been slow to get vaccinated are young people. According to the CBC, Health Minister Christian Dubé is concerned about the 18 to 29 age group; at a 67 per cent vaccination rate, that age group is lagging behind the minimum 75 per cent vaccination rate required for a return to in-person classes for CEGEPS and universities this fall. “We have two months left,” Mr. Dubé said. “If we want an in-class return for CEGEP and university students, we absolutely need to get even better than 75 [per cent].”

To try to increase the pickup of vaccinations among students and staff, five institutions in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean have launched a campaign to encourage immunization. Three CEGEPS – Chicoutimi, Jonquière, Alma and Saint-Félicien – and the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi (UQAC) will share pro-vaccination messages over social media on their websites, in print media and on radio until mid-August. “What we want to put forward are all the positive aspects that the students could not experience during the pandemic,” which include in-person classes, gatherings and parties, said Marie Karlynne Laflamme, director of communications at UQAC.

Stine Linden-Anderson, dean of student affairs and an associate professor of psychology at Bishop’s University, said her university is reframing getting vaccinated as a “care for our community” initiative. The institution is trying to remove barriers by providing free taxi vouchers to students to allow them to travel to get their vaccines as well as a social media campaign. Dr. Linden-Anderson believes that shifting how the issue is framed and getting students to see themselves as part of a community will help. “With that lens, we’re going to reach the 75 [per cent],” she said.

“We believe that this study is important because it clarifies how the clotting ensues, and because we have been able to identify the molecules involved,” said Dr. Kelton, co-investigator of the study and co-medical director of the McMaster Platelet Immunology Laboratory. “The next step is to develop a rapid diagnostic and accurate test to diagnose VITT. Our major interest is now to move upstream from how the clots happen to preventing them from occurring.”

McMaster researchers closing in on preventing vaccine blood clots

A team of researchers at McMaster University has identified how COVID-19 vaccines that use adenovirus vectors trigger a rare, but sometimes fatal, blood clotting called vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT).

The VITT clotting disorder, caused by unusual antibodies to blood platelets being triggered by certain vaccines, has been seen in some patients after receiving the AstraZeneca or Johnson and Johnson vaccines, which both use adenoviral vectors. By learning how the vaccines trigger the blood clotting reaction, scientists will be able to find a way to better diagnose and treat VITT – and even prevent it and make vaccines safer.

An article with these findings, written by McMaster researchers Ishac Nazy, Angela Huynh, John Kelton, Donald Arnot and Mercy Daka, has been fast-tracked for publication in the journal Nature due to the importance of the research. “Our work also answers important questions about the connection between antibodies and clotting,” said principal investigator and corresponding author of the study, Dr. Nazy, in a statement.

Queen’s students charged with COVID-related offences

Global News reported that three Queen’s University students have been charged following a street party in Kingston’s university district. The individuals are 20 and 21 and are facing charges of hosting a gathering in excess of 25 people, which is an offence under the Reopening Ontario Act.

The students will be summoned to court in October and could face fines between $10,000 and $100,000, and imprisonment up to a year if convicted.

In a statement, the university said those found in violation of the university’s code of conduct could face sanctions for non-compliance. “We were disappointed to learn that several of our students are facing charges under the Reopening Ontario Act as a result of their involvement in a large gathering on Aberdeen Street over the July 1 long weekend,” said Mark Erdman, a university spokesperson.

University of Waterloo holds vaccination clinic

Health Services at the University of Waterloo is offering the Moderna vaccine to all students, employees and their family members (who are over 18) starting today. Anyone coming in for a vaccination must be symptom free and have completed the daily campus screening.

The university will run the clinics from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Mondays to Fridays.

Guelph students honour health-care workers with One Bench One Tree project

The is a fundraiser led by students who want to offer the “gift of rest” to health-care workers who have tirelessly fought against COVID-19.

The project, which is meant to provide a shady break for nurses, doctors and other health-care workers, has already installed its first bench and unveiled its first tree at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. The second installation will be at Hamilton General Hospital in August.

“We want to give [health-care workers] the gift of rest by placing a tree and bench in front of every hospital in Canada to thank them for their efforts,” Alli Neuhauser, a second-year master of landscape architecture student and member of the organizing committee, told Global News.

The students working with Landscape Ontario have received sponsorship from the Canadian Mental Health Association and a donation of 10 benches from Maglin Site Furniture based in Woodstock, Ont. They’re also working with Maple Leaves Forever, a charity that aims to plant native maples across the country, and purchasing sugar, red and silver maple trees to plant.

You can find out more or donate to the project on its website, www.1bench1tree.ca.

July 7, 2021

CoVaRR-Net officially launches

A new network of researchers has come together to investigate COVID-19 variants of concern. They call themselves the Coronavirus Variants Rapid Response Network (CoVaRR-Net). Their goal? “Rapidly answer critical and immediate questions regarding variants, such as their increased transmissibility, likelihood to cause severe cases of COVID-19, and resistance to vaccines,” according to the mandate on their website. Based out of the faculty of medicine at the University of Ottawa, the team of interdisciplinary researchers from institutions across the country will assist in the Government of Canada’s overall strategy to address the potential threat of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants. “We aim to create mechanisms, such as a national biobank, a data sharing platform, and material sharing agreements to allow researchers to share physical research resources, data and knowledge, making it easier and faster for researchers to get what they need to study variants in Canada.”

Several universities assess/upgrade their ventilation systems before fall return

McMaster University is currently assessing and making any required updates to the ventilation systems in buildings on its campus. The university is also installing high standard air filters (MERV-13 air filters, standing for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) in all buildings. A MERV 13 filter has a higher capture efficiency than a normal filter and can help remove finer particles from the air that recirculates through the system.

Nathaniel Pirocchi, HVAC controls mechanic, assesses part of the ventilation system in the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning.

Western University is also installing MERV filters on its campus, and in areas with a higher potential for aerosolization of particles, such as the music faculty buildings. The university has completed a full overhaul of the air filters. In addition, the university is also ramping up building ventilation fans two hours earlier and keeping them running two hours later than usual every day to keep the air as fresh as possible during normal business hours. Ventilation fans will also no longer be shut down on hot and humid days. This was usually done as a way to reduce energy consumption during high-demand times.

“Ventilation alone is not a panacea for tackling COVID-19,” says Dan Cooper, associate director of buildings and grounds for Simon Fraser University facilities services. “It’s one tool to help mitigate spread and doesn’t work without some other interventions in place. Vaccination, frequent hand washing and staying home if you’re sick are also pretty crucial.”

That being said, SFU has also been working hard to make sure the ventilation systems on campus will be as efficient as possible for the fall. This includes flushing spaces by running HVAC units at full capacity before and after people are in a space and upgrading air filters – which should be done in all buildings by September.

SFU AC mechanic Nassor Da-Silva and energy specialist Jaelim Jeon check the ventilation in a classroom in the 4000 level of the Academic Quadrangle with HVAC balancing contractor Ken Mah on June 3, 2021.

B.C. ministry of advanced education and skills training releases new return-to-campus guidelines

The British Columbia government released new guidelines for postsecondary institutions in the province on July 5 as they plan their reopening in September. The “COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Guidelines” highlights the importance of public health measures, such as daily health checks and hand hygiene, getting vaccinated and staying home when sick. The guidelines state that wearing a mask will be based on personal choice and will no longer be required in indoor common areas unless recommended by public health (however, masks are still recommended from July 1 until at least Sept. 7). Fall classes will also be scheduled without physical distancing requirements.

The document stipulates that postsecondary institutions should continue “to work with First Nations and Indigenous community partners to meet the unique needs of Indigenous learners and communities.”

It also states that “postsecondary institutions should begin easing restrictions in workspaces and common areas, including the need for barriers or occupancy limits, during this transition period in order to be ready to enter Step 4 of the BC Restart Plan on September 7, 2021.”

University of Winnipeg launches vaccination campaign

Titled Back2Gether, the University of Winnipeg has launched a vaccination campaign for its community. The university is asking that everyone get two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine and is encouraging people to use the hashtag #Back2gether to share messages and keep up to date with the campaign.

UBC prof offers advice regarding re-entry anxiety

Lynn Alden, a clinical psychologist and psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, is offering advice to anyone feeling anxious about life returning to pre-pandemic standards. “There are going to be a lot of adjustments. We have to renegotiate our relationship with the world. It’s going to take a while for people to adapt.” Dr. Alden offers six tips to help people cope:

  1. Give yourself time to adapt

Expect that it could take a few months before we start to understand the new social rules and ways of interaction, Dr. Alden says.

  1. Manage your expectations

“It might take some time to re-establish social relationships to get back to the same comfort level. What you expect may happen when you return to work may not be what actually happens,” she says.

  1. Take the opportunity to reboot

Look at your pre-pandemic patterns and tendencies and consider using this period of transition as a chance to reset.

  1. Identify your anxious feelings

“Studies show that just labelling your emotions can give you a sense of control,” Dr. Alden says. “You can identify what you feel threatened by and challenge some of those thoughts.”

  1. Learn anxiety management techniques

Simple things like practising calming breathing techniques or progressive muscle relaxation can help you cope with anxiety.

  1. Find your flow

Dr. Alden notes that basic things such as sleep and exercise are important in dealing with anxiety. So is managing stress. Find an activity that really absorbs your attention like running, reading or gardening.

UNB opens long-term care simulation lab

The University of New Brunswick has officially opened a long-term care simulation lab. This project will give researchers a better understanding of how to prevent the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 among long-term care residents. The laboratory replicates a long-term care setting without compromising the safety of actual residents or staff. From this understanding, researchers will be able to develop, test and implement medical and social countermeasures to communicable disease, contributing to this crucial body of knowledge.

“The COVID-19 response highlights the fact that evidence on best practices and infection prevention and control measures often do not reflect the realities of long-term care, which include cultural factors, shared spaces and equipment use and individual behaviours related to cognitive impairments,” said Rose McCloskey, lead researcher for the project. “Although we are on the path to green, the knowledge generated will be key in preventing, preparing for, and responding to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases in long-term care facilities, and better ensuring the safety of residents and staff in New Brunswick and beyond.”

July 5, 2021

Vaccines not mandatory on Manitoba university campuses

The CBC reported that the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, Université de Saint-Boniface, University College of the North and Brandon University – as well as Assiniboine Community College and Red River College – will not require its community members to be vaccinated ahead of the fall term.

Brandon University president and vice-chancellor David Docherty told the CBC that the issue has been discussed with both the province and other presidents of universities and colleges. “We can’t demand anybody to get the vaccine. That’s not within our power or the province’s power,” he said. “There are privacy limitations and rights issues that the province was wary [of] … and I certainly agree with those.”

The University College of the North has been advised by lawyers not to make vaccines mandatory, said Dan Smith, vice-president, academic and research. “We understand that practice on this and the law is evolving over time, but right now, that is what our legal counsel has advised us and that’s what we’re going to go with,” he explained.

Universities in the province are also planning on a blended model of classes for this upcoming academic term. According to the CBC, all Manitoba universities are encouraging double vaccinations to protect against the coronavirus.

B.C. universities impacted by province’s move to step three of restart plan

On July 1, British Columbia moved to step three of the province’s four-step restart plan. According to the University of Victoria, businesses and universities are now expected to gradually transition from COVID-19 specific safety plans to a new communicable disease plan.

UVic said its own plan should be available within two weeks, as Occupation Health, Safety and Environment works on developing transitional guidance for July and August. Until then, members of the community are asked to continue all safety measures in place.

Some university services are impacted by the move to step three. These include athletics and recreation (e.g. indoor spectators are allowed with 50 people or 50 per cent capacity, outdoor spectators allowed with 5,000 people or 50 per cent capacity), indoor/outdoor gatherings and events (with the same limitations as sporting events) and cross-province travel (e.g. Canada-wide travel is now permitted).

University graduates find unique ways to celebrate convocation

This year, many graduates aren’t able to experience convocation the way they would have liked: walking across a stage in a cap and gown to receive that diploma, then celebrating their achievements with classmates, friends and family. Instead, some are trying to make the most of graduating during a pandemic by getting creative.

As reported by the CBC, University of Waterloo graduate Chelsea La Vecchia and University of Alberta graduate Andrew Odegard both held backyard celebrations with their immediate families.

Ms. La Veccia, who graduated with a master of arts in digital media, was with her mom, dad and husband in her parents’ backyard in Toronto – and their celebration, like the school year, didn’t go as planned. They brought a television outside to try to stream convocation, but the viewing party turned out to be “a mess”; the television froze as her name was being called. “In the midst of trying to eat and then also trying to figure out the tech, I missed I think probably 30 minutes of the ceremony,” Ms. La Veccia said. It was disappointing, but great to celebrate with family at home, she added.

Mr. Odegard graduated from the U of A with a bachelor of science degree. His backyard celebration included a giant inflatable pub – that’s right, a pub – that his family had one in an auction held by a local radio station in St. Albert.

“I would’ve rather done it in person,” Mr. Odegard said. “Classes would have been easier; I would’ve gotten to see my friends in school and have that traditional grad. But it just wasn’t possible.”

But it was “all pretty fun,” he admitted. Everyone in his family is fully vaccinated, so his grandparents – who he’d barely seen throughout the pandemic – were able to join.

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