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COVID-19 updates for August 2021

BY UA/AU | AUG 31 2021

August 30, 2021

B.C. universities to require rapid testing or proof of vaccination

British Columbia’s public health officer, Bonnie Henry, has said universities can only mandate double vaccination for staff and faculty, not students. But universities in the province have found a middle ground to respond to calls from their campus communities for vaccination mandates. Dr. Henry’s office and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training have given universities the green light to announce rapid testing or proof of vaccination requirements.

On Aug. 26, UBC announced that it will require COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff, with exemptions for those who have already been vaccinated. The university stated that it will implement a process for “confidential self-disclosure” of vaccination status for everyone coming to campus and that more details about this process will be shared when it’s available.

This rule follows an Aug. 25 order from Dr. Henry requiring the wearing of non-medical masks in public indoor settings, including postsecondary institutions. Another previous public health order, requiring proof of vaccination from individuals living in student housing and taking part in activities such as concerts, conferences, exercise classes and sporting events, remains in place.

After UBC made this announcement, other universities in the province followed suit. On Aug. 27, Emily Carr University announced that proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test will required from everyone coming to campus, including students, staff, faculty and visitors. Also on Aug. 27, Philip Steenkamp, president of Royal Roads University, shared that the university will require everyone on campus to confidentially self-declare their vaccination status or participate in regular rapid COVID-19 testing. Vancouver Island University said it is finalizing details before the start of the fall term, looking into how members of its community can confidentially and securely declare their vaccination status and what accommodations will be provided to those who cannot get vaccinated.

The University of Northern British Columbia appears more hesitant to institute similar requirements. UNBC is “investigating [proof of vaccination and rapid testing] as circumstances change,” said the university’s president, Geoff Payne. “You may see announcements from other institutions who have already made decisions that are right for them, so it is important you are aware of UNBC’s ongoing planning efforts to address the safety within our community.”

Universities respond to Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health letter

A letter from the Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH) has prompted some updates from Ontario universities. It was addressed to all university and college presidents in the province and recommends mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies from all postsecondary institutions there.

The University of Ottawa previously announced that vaccinations would be mandated on its campus. Following the COMOH letter, the university said it will require proof of vaccination for all individuals coming to campus, with the first dose required by Sept. 7 and full vaccination by Oct. 15.

Queen’s University had announced that it would require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for anyone to access its campus. Now, however, the university will not allow unvaccinated individuals without an approved accommodation to attend campus or participate in any university activity in person. “All individuals who are participating in university activities in person must attest to receiving their first dose of a Health Canada – or World Health Organization (WHO) – approved vaccine before they come to campus via an online tool, which is expected to be launched by Sept. 1, and must receive their final required dose of vaccine no later than Oct. 15, 2021,” the university said in a statement.”

Wilfrid Laurier University updated its requirements by announcing students, staff and faculty must provide proof of their vaccination status by Sept. 7. Those who haven’t been fully vaccinated will be required to undergo rapid testing. Laurier said it expects all students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated no later than Oct. 8, unless they have an approved exemption.

The University of Toronto announced that students, faculty, staff and librarians will need to submit proof of immunization before coming to campus, and that those who are not vaccinated will not be able to access any of the university’s campuses or university-owned buildings elsewhere. Soon, members of the U of T community will be able to upload proof of vaccination to the university’s UCheck system.

Brock University has released its online COVID-19 vaccination declaration tool, and has created a web page dedicated to answering questions about the university’s vaccination requirement and how to upload proof of vaccination through the tool. When its vaccine mandate takes effect on Sept. 7, anyone coming to campus, aside from those who meet specific and limited medical or human rights accommodation criteria, must upload proof online.

New mandates in Nova Scotia

Cape Breton University announced that all students, staff and faculty are expected to be fully vaccinated (14 days past their second dose) by Oct. 15. Those who cannot be vaccinated for reasons protected by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act must be tested twice a week and wear a mask, the university said.

Sir Francis Xavier University has begun consultations with union leadership and the university’s student union to discuss a mandatory testing policy for its campus community. The university said testing will be free, available during regular working hours, and will not be required for those who are fully vaccinated and have proper proof of vaccination.

Saint Mary’s University announced it will require proof of full vaccination from all faculty, staff and students and will begin collecting proof no later than Sept. 3 “to ensure the community is ready for the return to class.” The university added that anyone who is not fully vaccinated or who chooses not to provide proof of vaccination must be tested for COVID-19 twice a week at on-campus testing facilities and will be provided with information on how to access the COVID-19 vaccine.

Quebec’s passport system playing out at Bishop’s

With a vaccine passport system going into effect on Sept. 1, Bishop’s University has announced a few places on campus where proof of vaccination will be mandatory. Vaccines will be required to access the university’s gyms, the campus bar, food outlets, to play on a sports team and during orientation week. The university added that since the Quebec government has deemed university education essential, those who are not vaccinated will have access to their classes and the library, and will be able to access some takeout food that they can eat outside or in their own residence room.

‘Interim’ vaccine requirement at Brandon U

Brandon University has announced an “interim administrative decision” to require faculty, staff and students to either provide proof of full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they come to campus. The university stated that full vaccination will be required by no later than Oct. 31, allowing members of the university’s community to take part in on-campus vaccination clinics from Sept. 7 to Sept. 9 if they have not received their first or second dose. “This is an interim administrative decision made in the interests of providing some clarity and fairness to students and faculty, as well as offering the safest possible educational experience for the Fall Term,” the university said in a statement.

Some U of C profs move courses online amid Alberta’s fourth wave

The Calgary Herald reported that students at the University of Calgary are frustrated after learning courses that they thought would be held in person were recently switched to online delivery. According to the university, professors and instructors had until Aug. 20 to decide whether they would deliver classes online or in person, the newspaper said. In August, about 10 per cent of lectures, labs, seminars and tutorials were moved online due to the fourth wave of COVID-19 in Alberta.

The president of the U of C’s student union, Nicole Schmidt, said the “last minute nature” of the decision to switch from in-person classes to online classes is concerning and that many students have made their way to Calgary, bought parking passes or are living on campus. She’d like the university to keep offering classes in person, as was originally planned.

“We have a number of students who prefer online, and a number of students who prefer in-person, but unfortunately with the last-minute decision the university has made here, they’re not really affording students the ability to pick the delivery format that works best for them,” Ms. Schmidt told the Calgary Herald.

The province is seeing its highest case numbers since May and is leading the country in active cases, according to a Global News report. As of Aug. 26, Alberta had 9,066 active cases of COVID-19.

August 25, 2021

B.C. announces new proof of vaccination card

On Aug. 23, the provincial government of British Columbia announced that if their residents want to attend indoor ticketed sporting events, indoor and patio dining in restaurants, fitness centres, casinos and indoor organized events, such as conferences and weddings, they will need to show proof of vaccination in the form of the BC Vaccine Card. This card will come into effect on Sept. 13.

“The BC Vaccine Card will apply to postsecondary campuses and will require proof of vaccination for the activities listed above, as well as participating in activities such as varsity and intramural sports and student clubs. Student housing will also be part of the public health order. The requirement for proof of vaccination in student housing will come into effect on Sept. 7,” said Santa Ono, president of the University of British Columbia in a press release.

“These new measures will help reduce transmission and keep our communities safe and ensure we can continue to keep businesses open and safely enjoy much-needed social events,” said Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer.

Some universities clarify their vaccine mandates

The University of Guelph is one of many institutions that have released some clarifications regarding their vaccine mandates. “Beginning Sept. 7, faculty, staff and students who intend to access U of G buildings at both the Guelph and Ridgetown campuses and all university-managed facilities must register their proof of vaccination. Details on how to provide proof of vaccination will be available soon,” said new president Charlotte Yates in a press release on Aug. 23.

“We will also require all visitors to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to access our buildings and managed facilities. Those over the age of 12 who are not vaccinated must receive a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 72 hours before accessing our indoor spaces.”

The University of Toronto has also released updated guidelines, the CBC is reporting. They will now require students and staff to show proof they’ve been immunized when classes return this fall. “This September, all members of the university community — including students, staff, faculty, and librarians — will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or register in the university’s rapid screening program, where results will need to be uploaded regularly,” a spokesperson told the CBC in a statement.

University of Waterloo president and vice chancellor Vivek Goel also announced updates to the school’s vaccine mandate. “I am pleased that the Council of Medical Officers of Health have recommended today that all postsecondary institutions in the province must require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 for people coming to campuses. This provides a consistent set of recommendations for implementation of vaccination policies across regions. I am therefore encouraged that all members of the Council of Ontario Universities have agreed to act on this recommendation […] Starting September 7, everyone in the University of Waterloo community, including visitors, must provide proof of vaccination before coming to campus.”

He also stated that any unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals must test negative on a rapid antigen test no more than 72 hours before coming to any campuses or buildings.

CTV News is reporting that Carleton University has updated its COVID-19 vaccination guidelines for students, staff and visitors, and will no longer allow unvaccinated individuals on campus without a valid exemption. “Any individual who cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds or other protected grounds recognized by the Ontario Human Rights Code can request an exemption. All individuals who are unvaccinated due to permitted exemptions or who are awaiting their second dose are required to adhere to additional health and safety measures, including frequent rapid testing,” said Suzanne Blanchard, the university’s COVID-19 lead. “Unvaccinated individuals without an approved permitted exemption will not be able to attend campus or any University activity in person.”

More universities announce new vaccine mandates

The University of Prince Edward Island is requiring that all faculty, staff and students be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18. This is according to a recent article published by the CBC. “It was something that our members had been asking for and we’ve been advocating for them, and it’s great that we’ve moved beyond discussing whether it’s important to have such a policy,” said Michael Arfken, president of the UPEI Faculty Association.

On Aug. 19, the University of Manitoba announced it will be requiring faculty, staff, students and campus visitors to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Individuals aged 12 and over are required to have their first dose by Sept. 22 and their second dose by the end of October 2021.

“My sincerest hope is for a safe and successful return to campus this fall, with a full return by January. We know that vaccines are the most effective tool to achieve this, and we thank everyone for doing their part,” said U of M president Michael Benarroch in a statement to the university community.

On Aug. 23, Mount Saint Vincent University announced it will be requiring all students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible and by Oct. 13 at the latest. “Proof of vaccination will be required,” said Ramona Lumpkin, interim vice-president and chancellor, in a statement. Those who cannot get vaccinated either for medical or religious reasons will be tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

“While aspects of this semester will look unlike anything we’ve experienced before, I have no doubt it will still be a rewarding time. Thank you to all members of our community who continue to work to keep one another safe, both by following Public Health advice and adhering to university protocols.”

Campaign to promote confidence in vaccinations launches in Alberta

Concordia University of Edmonton, NorQuest College, MacEwan University and the University of Lethbridge have announced that they are collaborating on a new campaign to promote confidence in COVID-19 vaccines and encourage postsecondary students to get their shots prior to the upcoming academic year.

Called VacciNATION, the campaign targets youth from diverse communities across the province and takes a peer-to-peer approach to sharing information, dispelling myths, and promoting immunization. The campaign also wants students to become ambassadors and create materials that they believe will resonate with their peers. Students who submit materials will be eligible to win one of five cash prizes.

McGill faculty groups call for vaccine mandate

The Globe and Mail is reporting that several faculty groups at McGill University are calling for the school to implement a vaccine mandate because they are worried about COVID-19 transmission when classes resume. This includes the McGill Association of University Teachers, the university’s school of population and global health, the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health as well as a group of law professors. McGill has responded, stating that it is taking several steps to keep students and staff safe, including requiring masks in classrooms and improving ventilation. “In the absence of specific legal authorization, mandatory vaccination can be justified legally only if other reasonable means are insufficiently effective to ensure the health and safety of the community,” said university spokeswoman Katherine Gombay. Currently, universities are not included in the provincial vaccine passport, set to start Sept. 1.

Manitoba will not force postsecondary institutions to mandate vaccines

The Winnipeg Free Press is reporting that the provincial government in Manitoba will not implement a universal vaccine mandate on university or college campuses out of respect for their institutional autonomy. This is according to the minister in charge of postsecondary education, Wayne Ewasko.

“A lot of concerns that were out there was that the government was going to be telling the post-secondaries what to do and they wanted to [retain] their autonomy and so that’s what we’re respecting,” he said. According to the article, several universities in the province have already announced vaccine mandates, including the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg, Red River College, Canadian Mennonite University, Assiniboine Community College, University College of the North and Providence University College.

August 23, 2021

U of Winnipeg to require proof of vaccination

Announcements about vaccine requirements universities are putting in place continued to be shared over the course of last week.

On Aug. 19, the University of Winnipeg announced that students, faculty and staff will be required to provide proof of full vaccination to access campus this fall. The university said that 79 per cent of its faculty and staff and 72 per cent of students who responded to a voluntary online poll support a vaccination requirement, and that of those who participated, 92 per cent of students and 97 per cent of faculty and staff have received either their first or second doses.

The university added that the campus will remain closed to the public for the fall term and that members of its community – students, faculty and staff – who are authorized to be on site will enter through controlled access points. They must show proof of full vaccination or attest to being partially vaccinated and provide proof within a specified timeframe. The university will also consider options like remote learning and working or accessing campus with proof of a negative COVID-19 test result.

“Our vaccination requirement may inconvenience a few people, but it will give peace of mind to many. Above all, we believe it is the right thing to do,” said James Currie, interim president and vice-chancellor.

Immunization requirements for East Coast universities

The New Brunswick provincial government is getting ready to mandate vaccines for provincial public sector employees and a testing program for unvaccinated employees. Universities in the province have decided to follow suite and announce their own vaccine mandates.

Changing its tune on mandatory vaccines, St. Thomas University announced that it will be implementing campus-wide vaccine requirements, although the specific parameters aren’t developed quite yet. The university will report back with details soon, said Dawn Russell, president and vice-chancellor.

The University of New Brunswick also made a similar announcement. Students, faculty and staff will be required to be fully vaccinated with two doses of an approved vaccine and those who are unvaccinated will need to participate in regular COVID-19 testing. The university said it will release more information about the implementation of this policy – such as dates for first and second doses – after further consultation with New Brunswick Public Health.

With a goal of getting its campus community fully vaccinated by mid-October, Saint Mary’s University has adopted mandatory COVID-19 vaccine requirements for students in resident, student athletes and staff and coaches in the department of athletics and recreation. In a statement, the university said students, staff and faculty who are “not subject to the mandatory requirements for vaccinations are required to follow public health recommendations to be fully vaccinated.”

Memorial University will be implementing two new measures this fall: mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for its campus community and required mask-wearing on in all indoor spaces. The university will share further details – including dates for first and second doses and the process for exemptions – as soon as possible.

More vaccine announcements from Ontario universities

According to the Sault Star, Algoma University will be asking students to attest that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 when they return to campus in September. Individuals who cannot or have not been vaccinated will be tested at least weekly and will be expected to follow other health and safety protocols.

“The attestation seems to be the most favoured way to go at this time,” said Asima Vezina, Algoma’s president and vice-chancellor. “We are not looking to isolate one group over another. We think it’s important to have a universal policy for everybody.”

The university also plans to hold an on-campus vaccination clinic in September to help students get immunized by the second week of October.

Earlier this month, OCAD University’s president, Ana Serrano, sent a message to students, faculty and staff about the university’s plans for the fall. She shared that members of the campus community will be required to self-declare their vaccination status before they can participate in any activity on campus. Ms. Serrano added that the university will introduce a rapid screening program for those who can’t be vaccinated and must come to campus.

“We believe these measures will provide an extra layer of safety and comfort for all. It’s important to note that our recent student survey indicated over 90 [per cent] of our students are partially or fully vaccinated or have a plan to get vaccinated,” she said. “Another [two per cent] of our students wish to be vaccinated, but cannot easily access vaccines where they are, and intend to get vaccinated when they arrive in Canada for their studies.”

Double vaxxed Trent students could win free tuition

On Aug. 18, Trent University announced that anyone coming to campus, as of Sept. 7, will need to provide proof of their two doses of a COVID-19 vaccination. Those who do not have both vaccinations will have to complete COVID-19 testing before coming to campus. The university said it will also host on-campus pop-up vaccine clinics for staff, students and faculty.

To encourage students to get vaccinated, those who submit proof of two doses by Sept. 7 will be entered in a draw that could win them free tuition for the fall semester. Details can be found via students’ Trent email or online.

University students choosing to defer studies for fall 2021 semester

While online learning has been a convenient way to take university courses for some, it isn’t the best form of learning for others. The Toronto Star took a look at the rate of student deferrals for the fall term and reported that, with a fourth wave looming, not being able to be fully back on campus is leading students to defer; the odd tutorial or campus lab isn’t enough to convince them to stay registered for classes.

“We’ve seen a lot of young adults start university only to take a leave or drop out in the past year and a half, because they’ve struggled with the online format, haven’t built meaningful roots at the school, and can’t fathom another year strictly online,” Michele Foster, a psychologist and the co-director of the Toronto Psychology Group, told the Star. “For many [people], resilience isn’t what it once was … there’s a lot of anxiety and hopelessness right now.”

Deferral requests appear to be slightly down from last year for many universities, but higher than the rate of deferrals in 2019. According to the Star, McMaster university received 101 deferral requests for the upcoming academic year. The University of Toronto expects about 500 requests for deferrals. As of Aug. 17, Ryerson University received 166 requests for deferrals and Trent University had 250 deferral requests as of Aug. 12.

August 18, 2021

The situation in Alberta

According to the Globe and Mail, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and Mount Royal University have said they will strongly encourage vaccination for their communities, but won’t go so far as to mandate it.

Lorian Hardcastle, a U of C professor who specializes in health law told the Globe and Mail that the decision by Alberta postsecondary institutions to opt-out of mandating vaccines “must be political in nature,” considering schools in other provinces are doing the opposite.

“The main legal argument that comes up against mandatory vaccine is the charter. It’s not actually clear the charter applies to universities, or to this particular university decision,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be much of a legal barrier as long as universities design a vaccination program that complies with provincial human rights law, so (it) accommodates people who can’t get vaccinated.”

Also, three universities: the U of A, the U of C, and the University of Lethbridge released a joint statement that will require all those coming to campus to undergo regular rapid testing, starting Sept. 1. Those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are exempt from this requirement.

Students, faculty and staff who are not fully vaccinated, and those who would prefer not to disclose their vaccine status, will need to regularly complete a rapid screening test and receive a negative result before they participate in in-person activities.

Also, non-medical face masks must now be worn in all public indoor areas on all three university campuses where physical distancing is not possible. However, masks will not have to be worn while:

  • working alone in private offices.
  • working outdoors when there is a minimum of two metres between people.
  • meeting indoors and there is a minimum of two metres between people.
  • working alone in a shared space.
  • working in a cubicle with plexiglass, wall, or other approved barrier between people and when not providing services to anyone.
  • in a classroom where there is a minimum of two metres between instructor or among students.

Brandon University faculty union calls for mandatory vaccinations

The CBC is reporting that the executive of the Brandon University Faculty Association passed a motion last week calling on the university to require vaccines. This follows a call on Aug. 3 from the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations for the provincial government and university administrators to require vaccines on all Manitoba campuses. However, when the CBC contacted the province’s universities and colleges in July, they stated they would not make vaccinations compulsory when the fall term starts.

Masks mandatory in classrooms and labs at Mount Royal University this fall

According to a recent statement by Mount Royal University, masks will be required in classrooms and labs, as well as for any indoor gatherings of 20 or more people. Masks are also strongly recommended in common spaces, including hallways and meeting or group areas. “If you are not fully vaccinated, masks are strongly recommended in all areas on campus,” said the statement. However, if you are working or learning alone in an office or similar space, you do not need to wear a mask.

Quebec government mandates masks for postsecondary schools

On Aug. 17, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that students in CEGEPs and universities will be required to wear masks while seated in class, not just in common areas. According to Global News, Quebec is hoping to carry out a “vaccination blitz” over the next two weeks as schools reopen and the province’s vaccine passport system to access some non-essential services comes into effect.

“I’m calling on all Quebecers,” Premier François Legault said. “Please, book an appointment.”

Some East Coast universities not mandating vaccines

The University of New Brunswick, St. Thomas University and Mount Allison University have decided against mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for students. This is according to the CBC, which also reported that the universities will instead be focusing on education to try to boost vaccination rates.

“So while we’re not mandating vaccinations at this point in time, we are strongly encouraging it. And we are supporting our faculty, students and staff to be vaccinated,” Kathy Wilson, acting vice-president, academic, at UNB, told the CBC.

According to Dr. Wilson, UNB is working on a database where students can self-declare their vaccine status. Masks will be required at UNB and STU in indoor spaces. According to the article, masks will be required at Mount Allison for scheduled, in-person classes and at larger, in-person events on campus.

More Ontario universities announce vaccine mandates

Lakehead University has announced that all of its community will have to be vaccinated this fall. “After careful consideration, I am announcing that Lakehead University will be implementing a mandatory vaccination policy requiring Lakehead students, faculty and staff arriving on our campuses and properties to have received their first vaccine dose by Sept. 7, and be fully vaccinated no later than Oct. 7,” said Moira McPherson, president and vice-chancellor at Lakehead, in a statement released by the university.

McMaster University has also announced that it is requiring mandatory vaccines for anyone coming to campus starting Sept. 7. This includes students, faculty, staff and visitors. “The new policy will require that anyone accessing campus or a university facility in person upload proof that they are fully vaccinated, or that they have received an exemption from the university for a validated human rights ground,” said David Farrar, president of McMaster, in a statement.

“To help make this transition as smooth as possible, a McMaster system is being developed to allow for the uploading and validation of proof of vaccination or testing.”

According to McMaster’s statement, those attending university locations or placements in hospitals and health facilities who are not yet fully vaccinated, or who have not yet received an exemption on validated human rights grounds, will be required to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test result twice a week. This process will last between Sept. 7 and Oct. 18. After that, vaccines or an approved exemption will be needed to attend a McMaster campus or facility.

Laurentian University has also extended its vaccine mandate to include everyone on campus. Previously, just those in residence and athletes were required to be vaccinated. According to CTV News, this new policy goes into effect on Sept. 8. Anyone on campus who is not fully vaccinated after that date will be subjected to testing and screening.

Nipissing University will require proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 for all students, faculty, staff and other individuals coming to campus this fall. According to a statement on the university’s website, students, faculty and staff will be asked to attest to their vaccination status through a secure portal. More information on this process will be shared as details are finalized. Visitors to campus will also be asked to attest to their vaccination status. Information on the attestation process for visitors will be communicated as details are finalized.

McGill law professors urging proof of vaccination on campus

According the Montreal Gazette, a group of law professors at McGill University says the university’s failure to impose vaccination mandates “discriminates against those with a disability, contrary to Article 10 of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.” Law professor Richard Gold and 11 of his colleagues sent a letter outlining their concerns to top school officials including Principal Suzanne Fortier.

“There is mounting pressure for these vaccination mandates, and we will see if that wave comes into Quebec,” said Mr. Gold. “Our real goal with this was simply to challenge the university’s position because it doesn’t make sense.”

According to the article, universities such as McGill “were only concentrating on whether they could be sued for bringing this mandate in, but we wanted to make them aware that they could be sued for not bringing it in,” Mr. Gold said. “They don’t get a free ride legally. There is potential liability if someone gets sick through a non-vaccinated person.”

In response, a university spokesperson said that “unless the government mandates vaccination, in the Quebec context we cannot legally require it. McGill will continue to take a prudent planning approach that allows us to adapt as the health and well-being of our community remains a top priority. The university encourages people to follow the government of Quebec’s vaccination directives.”

UVic faculty submit vaccine and mask petition

The Times Colonist is reporting that faculty at the University of Victoria have been circulating a petition calling for vaccine and mask mandates at postsecondary institutions. So far, they have over 2,000 signatures, which have been submitted to provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan.

“With the return to campus being just three weeks away, we need our institutions of higher learning to follow the science and implement vaccine and masking requirement on campus,” said Lynne Marks, UVic faculty association president. “These signatures were gathered over six days, showing just how concerned faculty, students and staff are regarding a return to campus without masks, without distancing and without requirements for vaccination.”

Dr. Marks also said that “the continued silence” from the province “has raised anxiety on campus to a fever pitch and frustrated scientific experts at the university who have struggled to understand the government’s approach.”

The UVic group collaborated with faculty at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia to circulate the petition.

U of Waterloo student union raises concerns over vaccine policy regarding international students

“One of the bigger concerns we’re hearing is from international students about which vaccines will be accepted here in Canada,” Ben Easton, president of the University of Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association, recently told the Waterloo Region Record. “There will certainly be students arriving from places where vaccines haven’t been available yet and others who have been vaccinated by non-Health Canada approved vaccines,” said Mr. Easton. He also told the newspaper that more clarity is needed around vaccine regulations.

“There’s a lot happening,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a lack of clarity in these reopening plans and that’s something we are trying to help figure out and communicate to our students.”

Currently, the U of Waterloo does not require proof of vaccination for people to be on campus, but is asking the community to self-declare their vaccination status.

August 16, 2021

More vaccination mandates

On the heels of vaccine mandate announcements from several universities in Ontario (see Aug. 13 update), Wilfrid Laurier University, Ryerson University, the University of Windsor, the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina announced new vaccination measures on their campuses as last week came to a close.

In a news release, Laurier announced it would require all students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated or have plans to be fully vaccinated to return to campus in the fall. On Sept. 7, members of the Laurier community will be required to confirm their vaccination status before attending the Brantford or Waterloo campuses, or the Laurier locations in Kitchener, Toronto or Milton. The news release added that those who do not provide proof of vaccination will be given information on the province’s vaccination program, must commit to regular COVID-19 testing and must receive a negative test result before coming to campus.

“As the pandemic has progressed, the university has been urging members of the Laurier community to take part in our shared responsibility by getting vaccinated,” said the university’s president, Deborah MacLatchy. “This requirement will help us protect the health of each other and allows us to play an essential role in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.”

Mohamed Lachemi, Ryerson’s president, announced the university will require attestation of vaccination status for faculty, staff, students, contractors and visitors coming to its campus in the fall, beginning Sept. 7. Anyone who has not been fully vaccinated who chooses not to disclose their status will need a negative COVID-19 test to come to campus. Ryerson had previously announced that it would require all students in residence and varsity athletes to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by Health Canada or the World Health Organization.

The U of Windsor has also made vaccines mandatory for staff, faculty and students who intend to come to campus. The university stated that a first dose of a Health Canada-approved vaccine will be required by Sept. 1 and a second dose by Oct. 1. Individuals who do not have their first dose by Sept. 1 will need to undergo regular COVID-19 testing to access campus. The U of Windsor added that all members of its community will be required to declare their COVID-19 status.

In a statement, the U of S also announced that all students, faculty and staff will be expected to be vaccinated for the fall term with World Health Organization-approved vaccine. Proof of first dose will be required by Sept. 7 and proof of second dose will be required by Oct. 8. Those who are unable or choose not to get vaccinated will need to provide regular negative COVID-19 test results and to submit daily symptom checklists to access the U of S campus. Also, those involved in higher risk activities, including sports and living in residences, will be required to be vaccinated.

“The science is unequivocal and overwhelming: vaccinations are the clearest path to beating COVID-19 and its dangerous variants,” said Peter Stoicheff, the U of S’s president. “We are eager to resume as much in-person teaching, learning and research as we possibly can by January. Only widespread vaccination and testing throughout our campuses can make this happen.”

So far, the U of S and the U of Regina appear to be the only universities outside of Ontario that have announced COVID-19 vaccine mandates. In the afternoon of Aug. 13, the U of Regina announced that, due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, the more transmissible Delta variant and the relatively low vaccination rates of people under 30 in the province, vaccination will be required for its campus community.

For the 2021-22 academic year, the U of Regina will require faculty, staff and students to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1. The university said it will provide additional information in the coming days, including information about requests for exemption under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.

Masks mandatory in SFU’s biology department

The biology department at Simon Fraser University has decided to go its own way on COVID-19 measures. CTV News reported that in an email to the biology department, Isabelle Côté, who is chair of biological sciences, said masks are mandatory in all biology classrooms and that staff have the right to refuse unvaccinated individuals entry to offices and labs. These new measures exceed the ones in place for the university as a whole.

“We’re not asking for proof of vaccination,” Dr. Côté told CTV News. “We’re simply making it clear, if you’re not vaccinated, you should not be entering faculty offices or faculty labs.” She added that she has received praise from students and staff, and that many are saying they feel safer because of these new rules.

Cases on campus

Wilfrid Laurier University announced one new COVID-19 case on its Waterloo campus. The individual is an employee of the university and is currently in self-isolation.

August 13, 2021

More universities announce vaccine mandates

Following the University of Ottawa’s announcement earlier this week that anyone coming to its campus in the fall term will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (first dose by Sept. 7 and second dose by Oct. 15), several other universities in Ontario began to follow suit with vaccine mandates for their entire campus communities.

Western University announced a new policy on Aug. 11 requiring proof of COVID-vaccination for students, staff and faculty on its main campus, as well as the campuses of affiliate university colleges Huron, Brescia and King’s. Individuals without proof of vaccination will need to be tested twice a week to be allowed on campus. Western had already announced vaccine requirements for students in residence. The new rule follows careful consultation with public health partners and faculty experts in medicine, law and ethics, the university said in a statement.

On the same day, the University of Toronto made a similar announcement. It too had already mandated vaccinations for those living in residences and participating in certain activities (such as varsity sports and musical instruction) and extended the vaccine requirement for anyone intending to step foot on campus. U of T community members must self-declare their vaccination status before they can participate in in-person activities, explained Salvatore Spadafora, a professor and special advisor to the president on COVID-19. “If, for some reason, an individual is not able to be vaccinated, they will need to participate in the university’s rapid screening program,” Dr. Spadafora added. “They will also have to take additional public health measures.”

In a message to the University of Guelph community on Aug. 12, President Charlotte Yates announced that the university will be mandating vaccines for faculty, staff and students at its Guelph and Ridgetown campuses, as well as indoors at all U of Guelph managed field stations. The mandate will be in place for the academic year and was decided upon by the university’s executive team, with strong support from the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health Unit and Chatham-Kent Public Health, Dr. Yates said. She added that the university will be engaging with its senate, board of governors and other groups as it develops the details of its vaccine mandate plan.

Also on Aug. 12, Ontario Tech University shared that, starting Sept. 3, all students, faculty, staff and other individuals coming to any campus locations must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The university is urging all members of its community to be fully vaccinated before the fall semester begins, but will allow individuals until Oct. 17 to receive their second dose. Ontario Tech will also continue to follow Durham Region Public Health directives, including wearing masks, washing hands and testing frequently. “We all have the responsibility of keeping each other safe,” said Steven Murphy, the university’s president, in a statement. “By supporting this mandatory vaccination directive, we all contribute to stopping the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, now and over the long term.”

Queen’s University joined the institutions above on Aug. 12 as well, announcing that COVID-19 vaccinations will be required for all staff, students and faculty returning to campus. According to a statement from the university, members of the Queen’s community will need to be fully vaccinated or have a plan to do so by Sept. 7. Anyone coming to campus who has not been fully vaccinated will need to undertake additional health and safety protocols and be tested for the virus. “We know from medical science that ensuring high vaccination rates is the most effective way to mitigate a fourth wave and to best safeguard our anticipated full return to campus,” said the university’s principal and vice-chancellor, Patrick Deane. “We have made these decisions based on the advice of, and in consultation with, medical and public health experts, and feel strongly that our Queen’s community will do its part to support these efforts for the common good.”

Carleton University also made this same vaccine announcement on Aug. 12. In a statement, Suzanne Blanchard, the university’s COVID-19 lead, said that due to the rising risk of the Delta variant and evolving public health advice, Carleton will be implementing vaccination requirements for campus access for fall 2021. To be granted full access to campus, she explained, students, faculty and staff will be required to have received a full course of a vaccine approved by Health Canada or the World Heatlh Organization. “Attestation of vaccination will be mandatory,” Ms. Blanchard continued. “Individuals who cannot attest to being fully vaccinated will be required to undergo rapid testing in order to temporarily be allowed to access campus, and will be provided with information on vaccination and booking an appointment as rapidly as possible.”

York University made a late-day announcement on Aug. 12 as well. “After consultations with stakeholders across the university, including student and employee groups, York will require all community members and visitors on our campuses this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19, subject to medical and human rights exemptions, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations,” said Rhonda Lenton, York president and vice chancellor in the statement.

Brock University will also be requiring all people coming to campus to be vaccinated. “All members of the Brock community returning to campus will be required to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status and be prepared to furnish proof of vaccination to the University,” reads the statement. Faculty, staff and students must have receive a first dose of a Health Canada-approved vaccine by Sept. 7, with a second dose required by October 15. According to a survey sent to students, more than 90 per cent are already vaccinated against COVID-19 or intend to be by the beginning of the fall term.

August 11, 2021

The University of Ottawa mandates vaccines for everyone returning to campus

Anyone looking to access the University of Ottawa campus as of September will have to be vaccinated. This is according to a statement released by the university on Aug. 10. “All members of the uOttawa community returning to campus will be required to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status prior to their return by using the COVID-19 Assessment tool as of September 1,” the statement reads.

The decision to make vaccines mandatory was made by the U of O’s executive committee of the board of governors on the recommendation of the university’s academic and administrative leadership, in alignment with the latest guidelines from Ottawa Public Health authorities.

Two Quebec universities to require mask wearing on campus

CTV News is reporting that McGill University and Université de Montréal will be requiring students to wear masks at all times during classes this fall. The article also states that McGill will be limiting class sizes to 150 people. Professors at both universities will be allowed to remove their masks to teach, as long as they are at least two metres away from students. Furthermore, at U de M, masks can be removed if the person is in an enclosed office alone, in an individual workroom in the libraries, in a meeting room or in the dining area, as long as a two metre distance can be maintained.

Vaccines required for Ontario Tech varsity athletes

In order to play sports this fall, all athletes at Ontario Tech University must be fully vaccinated, according to an article published by Global News. Ontario Tech has more than 220 athletes on 16 teams. Athletics director Scott Barker says a high risk of COVID-19 transmission suspended the 2020 season and they don’t want to risk another disruption this year.

Self-declaration of vaccination required for U of Waterloo campus access

Starting Sept. 1, anyone coming to the University of Waterloo campus will need to anonymously self-declare their vaccination status. “This step is important as we continue to find ways to create safe spaces for working and learning. Our plans will remain flexible as we assess the ever-changing risks presented by COVID-19 and as public health and government guidance also change over time,” said James W.E. Rush, vice-president, academic, and provost in a statement released by the university.

“Ensuring high rates of vaccination remains one of the most important ways we can protect public health,” Dr. Rush said. “Last week, the Council of Ontario Universities wrote to the provincial government calling for mandatory vaccination and validation of vaccination status or negative test results for anyone studying or working at postsecondary institutions this fall. We support these calls.”

Starting Sept. 1, students, faculty and staff will check in using the university’s Campus Check-In tool. It will ask users to declare whether they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If the answer is “yes”, they must have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days. If the response is “no,” or “prefer not to say,” the tool will provide information about vaccination, booking appointments and other public health measures.

According to a CTV article, anyone who isn’t vaccinated will need a negative COVID-19 test prior to coming to campus. Anyone who tests positive using the rapid test will need to go for a confirmatory PCR test and self-isolate under public health guidelines.

U of Calgary survey shows almost 100 per cent of students and staff are vaccinated

More than 92 per cent of faculty and staff and more than 84 per cent of students at the University of Calgary have already been vaccinated, and more plan to be before classes resume next month, according to a survey released Tuesday, and reported on by CTV News. A total of 11,426 members of the university community responded to the survey. The survey also found some people are anxious about returning to campus, with 56.3 per cent of respondents concerned they will get COVID-19 at the university and transmit it home to their family. About 55 per cent of respondents were concerned that insufficient measures are in place on campus to protect the university community and 38.6 per cent were concerned that they would get COVID-19 at the university and get very sick.

B.C. faculty groups call for revision of provincial rules

According to the CBC, health officials in British Columbia say university students can expect a full return to campus come fall despite rising cases in the province. Under current regulations, COVID-19 vaccinations are not mandatory to attend postsecondary institutions but are recommended. Mask-wearing is also a personal choice, aligning with the province’s broader restart plan.

However, some faculty groups are calling on the province for revised guidelines amid the soaring cases. “Even if we do have high vaccination rates, what we know now with the Delta variant, is that we really do need to have vaccination along with public health measures,” said Katie Gravestock, a chief steward for the teaching support staff union at Simon Fraser University.

CTV News is also reporting that several universities in the province have signed an open letter asking the provincial government to implement stronger public health measures before in-person classes resume in the fall.

“The B.C. COVID-19 Return-to-Campus guidelines are not consistent with the best-available evidence and disregard the layers of protection that could prevent COVID-19 transmission in postsecondary environments,” Ms. Gravestock told CTV.

“We are requesting that the Ministry publish new guidelines that correct these deficiencies so that students, teaching and support staff, and faculty have safer places of work and learning.”

When asked about the letter, Bonnie Henry – the province’s health officer – told reporters at a news conference that she had seen the letter and that her office has been “working very closely” with colleges and universities on this issue.

“There are many important points that we are addressing,” she said. “There are some that we’ll need to continue to work with them on, but these are ongoing discussions.”

U of Winnipeg asked to make vaccines mandatory

Global News is reporting that the University of Winnipeg faculty association is asking that all staff, students and faculty be fully vaccinated before stepping foot on campus. So far, none of the postsecondary institutions in Manitoba have mandated the use of masks or require staff and students to be fully vaccinated to attend classes on campus.

“We have a robust safety plan in place that includes mandatory masking, enhanced ventilation, and enhanced cleaning. We are following the guidance of Manitoba Shared Health and we are in regular contact with the Manitoba government,” the university said in a statement.

“We understand that the Faculty Association is discussing these topics and their views will be taken into consideration as we ramp up for a successful resumption of in-person learning this fall.”

August 9, 2021

Vaccine mandate at Carleton

On Aug. 5, Carleton University announced that all students participating in activities that are deemed “higher risk” in terms of potential COVID-19 transmission must be fully vaccinated against the virus. This includes students moving in and out of residence, those in varsity and competitive club sports and those who participate in music performance instruction. In a statement, the university also said all faculty, staff and students will be required to self-declare their vaccination status.

Students who are required to be fully vaccinated must receive their first dose by Sept. 10 and their second dose no later than Oct. 15. “We are truly pleased that vaccination rates across these activities are already extremely high, and we will work with those who have not had the chance to be vaccinated yet to provide immunization as quickly as possible,” said Suzanne Blanchard, Carleton’s COVID-19 lead and a member of the university’s COVID-19 steering committee.

Ms. Blanchard added that students who self-declare that they are not vaccinated, or “prefer not to say,” will be given information about vaccinations, booking appointments and other relevant public health information they will have to follow.

Laurier athletes must be vaccinated to play

Last week we reported that several universities – including the University of Guelph and Brock University – will require their varsity athletes to be fully vaccinated. Since then, Wilfrid Laurier University has followed suit by announcing that student athletes playing interuniversity sports will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The university has also mandated vaccines for students living in residence.

CTV News reported that athletes and student trainers must be fully vaccinated with a Health Canada-approved vaccine for 14 days before they can compete in any competition. Students should get their first dose before Aug. 16 and their second one by Sept. 30. Additionally, officials are encouraging students to be vaccinated before coming to training camps, which begin on Sept. 2.

“The university is implementing extensive precautionary measures to offer a safe learning and interuniversity sport environment,” said Ivan Joseph, vice-president, student affairs. “By following the vaccine recommendations of the OUA [Ontario University Athletics], we will allow our student-athletes to fully participate in their sports and engage in this key component of their university experience.”

Quebec announces vaccine passports, easing of requirements in classrooms

Facing an increase in COVID-19 cases, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that the province will issue a vaccination passport for residents who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, the Montreal Gazette reported. According to Mr. Legault, the passport will be used to gain access to non-essential services. Quebec is officially entering a fourth wave and the premier said he expects the number of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 to increase.

Even with the rise in cases, Mr. Legault said that the province is still planning to have all elementary, high school, CEGEP and university students attend in-person classes in the fall. All students, whether they are vaccinated or not, will be allowed to return to classes, Mr. Legault added.

These students also do not have to wear masks or physically distance, according to a report by CTV News. Higher Education Minister Danielle McCann announced Friday that when university students arrive in the classroom, they do not have to stay two metres apart and can remove their masks once seated at their desk.

This easing of rules is only allowed in the classroom, however; masks and physical distancing will be required when students move to and from classes. Additionally, only fully vaccinated students will be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities, such as sports.

Western conducting vaccination survey

Western University is surveying its campus community to get a sense of the university’s vaccination rates and inform health and safety measures in preparation for the fall term. The survey, which is confidential and geared toward all Western students, faculty and staff, launched on Aug. 4. The last day to respond to the survey is today, Aug. 9.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority,” said Alan Shepard, the university’s president, in a statement. “The survey is an important aspect of Western’s comprehensive plan to ensure that we implement safe and evidence-based measures as we welcome our community back this September.”

After a year of what seemed like countless outbreaks in the university’s residence buildings, Western mandated vaccinations for students in residence for fall 2021. The university also has an on-campus testing and vaccination centre that is open and available to all university community members.

UPEI faculty worried about air quality on campus

Concerned about the air quality in campus buildings, faculty and staff at the University of Prince Edward Island are asking for a “robust” ventilation strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

In a letter addressed the UPEI’s president, the university’s faculty association and the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 1870 asked for cleaner air and called on the university to improve air quality. “Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions,” Michael Arfken, president of the faculty association, told the CBC.

Mr. Arfken said the association recently conducted a survey of its members and found that air quality was one of the biggest concerns among faculty. There are concerns about the ventilation systems in old buildings, he added. The Main Building, the oldest on campus, was built in 1854 and has not been given substantial upgrades for at least three decades.

“I have asked questions about ventilation and what’s being done. We’ve been told that essentially everything’s fine and they’re doing what needs to be done,” Mr. Arfken said. “But we haven’t had any concrete information about that.”

In a statement sent by email, the university said it has several strategies to ensure health and safety standards are met on campus, including mechanical ventilation and natural ventilation through windows and shutters. The systems meet or exceed standards for air exchange, the statement said. Employees can also report air quality issues through the university’s health, safety and environment department web page.

August 4, 2021

Faculty clamoring for tougher COVID-19 measures

A number of op-eds have been penned by faculty at postsecondary institutions across the country calling for stricter rules to prevent infections on campus. Lauren Cipriano, an associate professor at the Ivey Business School, Gregory Gloor, a professor of biochemistry at Western University and two colleagues argue in The Globe and Mail that mandatory vaccination policies are crucial to avoiding more campus shutdowns. “Those who wish to remain unvaccinated could be accommodated by remote learning or by mandatory frequent testing,” they write.

Meanwhile Debra Parkes and Carissima Mathen, law professors at the University of British Columbia and the University of Ottawa, respectively, write in The Vancouver Sun that the reluctance to embrace vaccine mandates at universities is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the Charter of Right and Freedoms. “In fact, there is a sound constitutional basis on which universities can require proof of vaccination status, during a pandemic, as a condition of enrolment,” they say.

At the University of Calgary, economics Professor Aidan Hollis has posted an open letter to the university’s president, Ed McCauley. Hollis said the absence of a vaccine requirement on campus “inhibits people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons from participating in campus life” and called into question whether the school was making safety a top priority. McCauley responded in an email, which Hollis subsequently posted online, that said “it is not currently possible to require vaccines to attend university or insist on knowing vaccine status of individuals.” The response in turn led Hollis to urge the provincial government to allow Alberta’s universities to demand proof of vaccination.

Amir Attaran and Jacob Shelley, law professors at the University of Ottawa and Western University, write in Maclean’s that Canadian universities are making themselves “the dunces of COVID-19” by not requiring vaccinations. They point to policies adopted at some of the world’s top institutions of higher learning south of the border – Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, Yale and others – that require students, staff and faculty be vaccinated to come to campus.

Quebec rethinking target for resuming in-person classes

The Quebec government may approve returning to in-person classes for postsecondary students this fall even if it does not meet its original target for vaccinating people in the relevant age group. That’s according to a report from Radio-Canada. Provincial officials had said previously that in-person classes would only be permitted if three-quarters of people between the ages of 16 and 29 were fully vaccinated in time. Instead, the report says Quebec may announce back-to-school plans for CEGEP and universities based on the vaccination rates among students only. Those rates have already surpassed 80 per cent. 

Mandatory vaccinations for varsity athletics

Brock University says all 900 students playing on varsity teams will need to be fully vaccinated before they can compete this year. The University of Ottawa is also implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for all student athletes competing in Gee-Gees varsity sports for the upcoming 2021-2022 season, saying they must receive the first shot by Aug. 1 at the latest. Officials at the University of Guelph have announced a similar measure, saying the decision is supported by the local public health authority. And the University of Toronto is requiring all students, faculty and staff “who participate in activities that carry a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission” to be vaccinated. That includes varsity sports.

Memorial will adopt hybrid teaching model this fall

Memorial University President Vianne Timmons says there will be a hybrid model in place for students during the fall semester. In an interview with VOCM, she explains the decision is based on the available public health information that was available when the decision was made last month. Dr. Timmons says she is hopeful there will be a full return to in-person learning come the winter semester.

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