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COVID-19: updates for February 2022

BY UA/AU | FEB 28 2022

February 23, 2022

Universities take varied response to ending vaccine requirements

Many provincial governments have announced the end of vaccine mandates, with some universities choosing to follow suit. In Alberta, where in-person learning will resume on Feb. 28, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta and Mount Royal University have all decided to drop their vaccine mandates, citing high rates of vaccination among students. Masking, however, will remain in place until at least the end of April.

Ontario is also ending its vaccine certificate program on March 1, but Ontario universities including the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph, and York University are choosing to uphold their vaccine mandates and masking requirements until at least the end of the winter term, according to The Canadian Press.

In British Columbia, CTV News reported that a public health order that requires vaccinations for postsecondary students living in residence has been extended until June 30.

High school students may be unprepared for postsecondary education

Most high school students in Canada have had their education severely disrupted due to the pandemic, causing educators to worry about how prepared they are for university. CBC News reported that the pandemic has caused gaps in learning, as high school teachers chose more lenient assessment methods such as open-book exams. Returning to in-person exams may prove exceedingly challenging for new cohorts entering the university system, the report said.

February 16, 2022

Universities in Alberta and Saskatchewan react to the lifting of public health restrictions

After the abrupt announcement that Alberta would be lifting most COVID-19 public health restrictions last week, minister of advanced education Demetrios Nicolaides wrote a letter to postsecondary institution board chairs asking them to “align their COVID-19 policies and practices with that of Alberta’s government.” It was met with mixed reaction from the province’s universities, with Mount Royal University saying that they will maintain their vaccine requirement while the University of Calgary has dropped it. The University of Alberta, meanwhile, has chosen to keep their mask requirement in place for the “immediate” future, according to CTV News, a move that is supported by the students’ union.

“This is not something most students want,” Christian Fotang, U of A students’ union vice president external, told the news organization. “It’s not something students asked for. It seems like a solution in search of a problem.”

In Saskatchewan, the provincial government plans to lift the last of its public health restrictions by March 1. The University of Regina, however, is planning to keep its mask mandate and is requiring non-vaccinated students to take a rapid antigen test three times a week, according to the Regina Leader-Post. The university will also be lifting proof of vaccination requirements for those who only periodically visit campus, although those visitors will be encouraged to take a rapid test before arriving.

Students, staff call for hybrid learning model

Some University of Victoria students are planning to walk out of class this week to protest the return of in-person learning, which they say does not accommodate the immunocompromised as well as those who are uncomfortable or unbale to return to campus. A similar dispute has arisen at McMaster University in Ontario, where students, faculty and staff have signed a petition to extend online learning.

February 9, 2022

More students across Canada return to a new normal on campus

Many students at the University of Waterloo told CTV News they are happy to be back on campus, with the university beginning its gradual return to in-person learning on Feb. 7, a return date chosen by several Ontario universities. Enhanced safety measures including new mask mandates and improved disinfection are being implemented across some campuses. The University of Toronto has also seen staff and students return to campus this week.

At Trent University, students are questioning the safety of returning to residences, and asking for an online learning option for the semester, according to Global News. Trent has also launched a vaccine booster campaign with clinics being hosted on campus this week.

Despite the Alberta government’s recent announcement that many COVID-19 health measures will be lifted on Feb. 14, This comes as student representatives at the University of Alberta are arguing that the school has failed to meet basic standards for online courses. “Students generally feel they have not gotten what they have paid for, they have gotten an online education that is substantially worse than it had to be, and they’re upset and frustrated and demanding the university to do something about it,” said Rowan Ley, president of the U of A’s students’ union to the Edmonton Sun. Further south, the University of Calgary announced it is maintaining its mask mandate and vaccine requirements, as reported by CTV News.

CTV News has also reported that UBC students will receive N95 masks and rapid tests if they are symptomatic upon their return to campus this week.

The news organization also reported that the University of Saskatchewan has welcomed back staff and students who have a 99 per cent vaccination rate.

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