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COVID-19 updates for January 2021

BY UA/AU | JAN 01 2021

January 27, 2021

COVID cases on campus

An outbreak of COVID-19 has been declared at McGill University. According to Fabrice Labeau, deputy provost, student life and learning, 44 students living in residence had tested positive for the virus as of Sunday, with most of the affected students residing in Royal Victoria College. The outbreak is a result of unsanctioned gatherings in campus housing. The CBC reports that McGill responded by kicking some 15 students out of residence and suspending related privileges for seven days.

The number of cases tied to an outbreak in campus housing at the University of Guelph has climbed to 49. Public health declared the outbreak last week and traced it back to gatherings of about 50 people in total at the university’s East Village Townhouses nearly two weeks ago. A news report notes that 200 students are now self-isolating and that the university has issued 32 fines of $120 to students who attended the parties. In a statement to the Toronto Star, the university said it is “increasing security on campus, including security guards and more security cameras, within residences to ensure protocols are being followed by and is also considering implementing a curfew.”

Brock University says a member of its community recently tested positive for COVID-19. The individual was last on campus on January 19.

Public health officials in Halifax are asking all postsecondary students in the city to get tested for COVID-19 whether or not they have symptoms or have recently come into contact with someone who has the virus. Several cases have been identified in Nova Scotia’s student population, which has led the municipality to offer pop-up rapid testing at Dalhousie University. Rapid testing will also soon be available at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., and at Cape Breton University in Sydney, N.S.

Ontario promises funds for university pandemic relief and PPE research

Ontario’s Colleges and Universities Minister Ross Romano says the provincial government will provide COVID-relief support to postsecondary institutions facing financial shortages due to the pandemic. At a press conference on Tuesday, the minister said:

“Obviously there are impacts as a result of having to spend additional dollars on COVID-related supports and to help ensure health and safety … and obviously there were additional revenue losses as a result of reduced tuition, and then revenue losses as a result of not being able to use the facilities on campuses to the fullest. … We are working with our colleagues across government, and certainly with our institutions, and we are trying to quantify where the support is most necessary and the best way that we can use what are ultimately limited resources to try and remedy that the best that we can.”

Mr. Romano also announced that the government will distribute $2.3 million to McMaster University and the University of Toronto for research and development related to personal protective equipment. The projects are supported through the province’s Ontario Together Fund.

More than $1.1 million will go to U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health’s testing of new filters for N95, surgical and procedure masks, and to the school’s development of new masks and research into decontamination and reuse practices. The $1.3 million earmarked for McMaster will support the work of the Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials as it works with Canadian manufacturers in designing, manufacturing and testing PPE.

January 25, 2021

COVID cases on campus

This past Thursday, Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin Public Health declared an outbreak in the residence system at the University of Guelph. The university reports that the outbreak is connected to “unsanctioned gatherings” that took place January 15 and 16. As of yesterday, the university says there are 31 cases associated with this outbreak. According to CTV News, the university is looking into disciplinary action against the students who went to the parties. “We were extremely disappointed to learn that there were gatherings on campus,” said Carrie Chassels, vice-provost of student affairs. “The students involved in this high-risk activity have shown a serious lack of judgment and care for community protocols around COVID-19. Participating in a gathering on campus is a violation of the current lockdown regulations and health guidelines, as well as the expectations that we conveyed to students in residence.”

An individual at Acadia University tested positive for COVID-19 last week after having completed a 14-day self-isolation period. The student attended classes on campus January 18, 19 and 20. Public health has identified 10 close contacts, and warns that anyone in the university student centre between 12 and 2:30 p.m. on those days was potentially been exposed to the virus.

Laurentian University reported a new case in its student residences last week. The case is unrelated to a previous case reported in campus housing.

Mount Allison University also has a new case of COVID-19 in its community. The affected person is currently asymptomatic and self-isolating off campus. The university notes that this is the second case in its community since the start of the pandemic.

There are two new cases at McMaster University. The cases are unrelated: one involves a student who was last on campus on January 19, and the other involves an international student who had been quarantining in residence since arriving to campus in early January.

International students: co-op and affordable flights

International students who are on a co-op work term don’t have to wait for their permit to begin their job placements, according to a new policy released last week by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Toronto Star reports. Students can start working while their applications for their co-op work permit are being processed. This is a special permit that allows international students to complete all work components related to their academic degree, including co-op terms, internships and practicum. It is a separate permit that students have to apply for, in addition to their study permit, with which students are authorized to complete non-academic-related work. The new policy applies to students who are studying remotely in their home country as well.

Also last week, the University of Windsor and Air Canada announced that they have reached an agreement to help international students find affordable flights to Canada. “We are delighted to have entered into a partnership … especially given the changing international travel landscape,” says Chris Busch, associate vice-president for enrolment management at U of Windsor. Cooperation between the university and the airline “will facilitate the flight booking process while offering exclusive promotional rates for our students as they start their educational journey,” he says. Under current COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, international students can enroll and travel to Canada as long as they hold a study permit and the host university is a designated learning institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by the federal government. U of Windsor does have the appropriate designation and approval.

McMaster offers residence rooms to health workers

As of January 20, McMaster University is offering residence rooms and meals at cost to health-care workers who need to self-isolate. The university will accommodate single-occupancy stays from three to 14 days. The program is being facilitated and staffed by the Thrive Group, a community-based non-profit organization.

McGill, ULaval plan to track sewage for COVID-19

The provincial research funding agency, the Fonds de recherche du Québec, announced earlier this month an investment of $1 million in a project to screen wastewater for COVID-19, led by researchers Peter Vanrolleghem at Université Laval and Dominic Frigon at McGill University. The other partners in the $1.7M project are the Trottier Family Foundation, Molson Foundation and the National Centre in Environmental Technology and Electrochemistry.

The six-month research initiative aims to test wastewater in major urban centres and smaller municipalities across Québec to detect the presence of the virus that is responsible for COVID-19. According to the announcement, “Making wastewater monitoring part of the crisis management approach enables early geolocation-based virus detection to help break the virus transmission chain and avoid outbreaks.” The study areas are Montréal, Laval and Québec City, as well as the Bas-Saint-Laurent and Mauricie-Centre-du-Québec regions.

Back in the fall, we reported on McMaster University’s efforts to monitor the wastewater at several sites on campus to provide an early warning to the presence of the novel coronavirus on campus. Queen’s University also announced in the fall it was starting a pilot project to monitor wastewater in the surrounding community as part of larger national wastewater surveillance project called the COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition.

January 20, 2021

COVID cases on campus

Brock University has disclosed a new case of COVID-19 in its community. The person involved was last on campus January 14.

London Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital is dealing with a fresh outbreak of COVID-19. Just weeks after declaring the end of a COVID outbreak that had spread throughout the facility, a new outbreak of at least seven cases has been traced to the hospital’s emergency room. So far, the cases have been limited to hospital staff. The hospital is based at Western University.

Yesterday, McMaster University announced that a student had tested positive for the coronavirus. That person hadn’t visited campus since January 14.

Most universities in Toronto don’t post individual announcements alerting the community to positive cases at the institution. Instead, they maintain a dashboard to track reported cases. According to University of Toronto’s dashboard, three people who had recently visited the St. George (downtown) campus between January 14 and 17 had tested positive for COVID, while a total of five U of T community members had reported positive tests between January 14 and 17. York University’s COVID tracking site alerts the public to eight confirmed cases. An article published by the Ryersonian notes that Ryerson University has not been making case counts public, though the Ryerson Faculty Association has been made aware of 17 positive COVID-19 cases to date.

The University of Waterloo has been alerted to one new case in its community. That person hasn’t been on campus since January 5.

Bishop’s U rolls out on-campus COVID testing

Bishop’s University has hired a private firm to carry out COVID testing on students living in campus housing. Testing is voluntary and intended to avoid an outbreak like the institution in Sherbrooke, Quebec, dealt with last term. The CBC reports that the first round of the test is saliva-based and shipped to a U.S. lab in batches. If a batch returns a positive result, each person in that pool will be asked to submit a nasal swab to confirm the test results.

Dean of students Stine Linden-Andersen told the CBC that, so far, “students are very willing to do it. It’s not a painful test or anything, and it’s quite easily done.”

Memorial employees to return to campus February 1

In just under two weeks, all staff at Memorial University will be back to work full-time on campus. That’s the message university administration delivered in an update posted on Memorial’s website yesterday.

“Memorial’s campuses are safe. The university has followed all public health guidelines and implemented measures to ensure the return to campus is a positive experience,” the update reads, noting that COVID-19 case counts in Newfoundland and Labrador are low.

The return to campus started gradually in November and affects all departments. The university will recognize “limited exceptions based on density requirements, medical accommodations, work from home pilot programs and business continuity planning for essential functions and services. Faculty have had access to their offices since early in the summer and their terms of employment do not specify their hours or location of work.”

In the update, Memorial administrators note that empathy for staff during this transition is “crucial.”

Western chancellor off vaccine task force

The chancellor of Western University has resigned from Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force after a report surfaced that she had travelled to Barbados last month. Chancellor Linda Hasenfratz, who is also the CEO of auto parts manufacturer Linamar, was named to the task force responsible for vaccine roll out across the province late last year.

U of Calgary to examine COVID impacts and racial disparity in its community

The University of Calgary is currently running a survey of its community to find out how the pandemic is differently affecting its various populations. The university’s office of equity, diversity, and inclusion is overseeing the survey, which will be included as part of the institution’s report to the Dimensions EDI Pilot tri-agency program.

Survey data will be collected until the end of January. The office explains that the data will “help us understand how diverse members of our community are experiencing the pandemic and, in turn, better enable us to develop targeted support methods and policy changes with a better understanding of how identity impacts individual experiences.” The survey is open to faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers and students.

NSERC urges researchers to keep science in the spotlight

Alejandro Adem, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, sent a call out on behalf of the funding agency this week encouraging researchers to help maintain the public interest that STEM research has generated during the pandemic.

“Perhaps more than any period in recent memory, the time since Canada went into pandemic emergency lockdown mode has sometimes seemed like a sustained and intensive science lesson. The purpose of this message is to invite you to keep the momentum going and leverage this mass science lesson we’ve all participated in to foster a truly broad-based culture of science literacy and awareness. You represent the best of our cutting-edge science and engineering research, and together, we can inspire and encourage Canadians of all ages to explore how scientific discovery, innovation and technology help shape our daily lives. If there is one legacy of COVID-19 in Canada, it is that our country is one where people feel not just better informed, but also more capable of grasping scientific and technical issues. This means we’ll be in a stronger position to thrive in the post-pandemic world.”

The email goes on to urge researchers to participate in NSERC-sponsored youth outreach events Science Odyssey and Science Literacy Week.

January 18, 2021

COVID cases on campus

A few students in Nova Scotia tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Dalhousie University was alerted to two new cases involving a student – one on Thursday and another on Saturday. On Friday, Cape Breton University announced a second case involving a student on campus that week. A case was reported on Sunday at Mount Saint Vincent University.

Trent University reported one new case on campus last Thursday. The student tested positive while living in a residence hall reserved for quarantine.

A student living in residence at Laurentian University has tested positive for COVID-19.

Tri-agency updates COVID-related exceptions to training awards

Canada’s three main research funders – the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research – have issued an update for holders of their research training awards. Recipients at the master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral levels may continue to defer the start of their award or seek a pause (preferably in four-month increments) “for reasons related to the COVID-19 situation.”

The update also stipulates that the funding agencies “will also continue to support training award holders who, given the challenges posed by the pandemic, can only devote part-time hours to their research. These recipients may continue to hold their award and will be paid at the full amount. The amount will not be prorated, and the end date of their award will remain unchanged.”

With some exceptions, award recipients can also choose to make use of their funding while pursuing their research remotely rather than on site.

Public libraries in Quebec open for students

A number of public libraries around Quebec will be offering dedicated study spaces for students. Despite simultaneously rolling out strict lockdown measures across the province, the Quebec government has asked libraries to make these spaces available so that students at any level can have access to a reliable internet connection and a quiet location to work. Ève Lagacé, director general of the Association of Public Libraries of Quebec, told the Montreal Gazette that the organization asked the government to approve this plan in October after receiving several requests from the public.

Head of UBC school of public health steps down

Peter Berman announced on Friday that he has resigned as director of the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Berman had courted backlash after news broke that he had travelled outside of the country for personal reasons over the holiday break. In a letter posted to the UBC website, Dr. Berman noted that he decided to step down since his actions had created a division among the school’s faculty members. “I took this difficult decision based on my assessment that the conditions of distress and division currently prevailing at SPPH make it impossible for me to continue to provide effective leadership to grow and develop our school, our community and our profession in my role as SPPH Director,” he wrote. “I deeply regret any actions of mine that may have caused this situation.”

January 13, 2021

COVID cases on campus

Brock University has been alerted that a member of its community recently contracted COVID-19.

On January 12, McMaster University reported two new, unrelated cases in its community. One involves a student who was last on campus on January 8, and the other is a staff member employed by a third-part company who had last been on campus January 7.

According to the COVID-19 dashboard maintained by Queen’s University, that institution reported five cases in its off-campus community between January 4 and 10. No cases have been reported for the current week.

It seems Nova Scotia’s mandatory isolation period for out-of-province students and its strong encouragement for these students to get tested a few days after entering the province is seeing results. Three of the province’s eight new cases reported today involved university students:

A student at Cape Breton University has tested positive for COVID-19. The student arrived on campus January 5. The student has been isolating off-campus since their arrival in the region and voluntarily participated in asymptomatic COVID testing.

A second student at St. Francis Xavier University has tested positive for the coronavirus. The student lives off campus.

St. Mary’s University reports a positive case involving a student living in campus accommodations.

N.S. earmarks $25M for universities affected by COVID-19

The provincial government of Nova Scotia will make $25 million available to help universities offset the added costs of responding to the pandemic. The money will help 10 universities, which have all seen a loss in revenue from tuition and ancillary services as well as added expenses related to online learning, implementing new safety protocols and other late-breaking changes. A Global News report breaks down the funding that will be delivered to each institution:

  • Acadia University $2,187,700
  • Atlantic School of Theology $218,800
  • Cape Breton University $2,187,700
  • Dalhousie University $9,479,700
  • Mount Saint Vincent University $1,458,400
  • NSCAD University $1,215,400
  • FX University $3,646,100
  • Saint Mary’s University $2,916,900
  • University of King’s College $1,324,700
  • Université Sainte-Anne $364,600

CTV News notes that this institutional relief package comes on the heels the province’s promise to offer a one-time grant of $750 to all recipients of Nova Scotia Student Assistance for the 2020-21 school year. Some 13,000 students will benefit from the temporary grant program.

Head of UBC public health school apologizes for holiday travel but faculty aren’t buying it

Peter Berman, head of the school of population and public health at the University of British Columbia wrote a public apology for travelling to Hawaii over the holiday break. Nineteen faculty members of the school Dr. Berman oversees have since published an open letter expressing their disappointment and frustration with his decision to vacation abroad, his lack of respect for public health guidelines discouraging non-essential travel and his failure to set a good public example.

Laurentian offers rapid antigen testing

Laurentian University is offering Rapid COVID-19 Antigen testing for campus residents and are now testing asymptomatic students at their request. In a message to the community, president Robert Haché noted that any rapid test that returns a positive result will then be subject to more rigorous testing within 24 hours to confirm. “The ability to test asymptomatic individuals is above and beyond what most campuses are able to provide, and we expect that it will help us detect positive cases more quickly,” he wrote. The testing was made possible due to a grant from the Ministry of Health and Public Health Ontario.

Another virtual convocation for York

It’s only January, but York University has decided to cancel in-person convocation celebrations in June. Once again the university will opt for a virtual ceremony. In a statement posted to York’s website, president Rhonda Lenton said that graduates will be invited to a live ceremony once it’s safe to do so. “If it is safe to do so, and within public health guidelines, we may be able to further enhance our celebration event with some limited in-person activities. We will have more details to share about these plans later in the winter term,” she said.

January 12, 2021


International student update

Air travel restrictions

Travellers flying into Canada from abroad must now show proof of a negative COVID-19 test issued within days of boarding their Canada-bound flight. The new rule came into effect on January 7. All travellers aged 5 and up must be tested within 72 hours regardless of whether their travel is for non-essential or essential reasons (including those who have been approved to travel for work or study abroad). Airlines specifically require passengers to show the results of polymerase chain reaction or loop-mediated isothermal amplification tests.

Many international travellers (such as these WestJet customers) are finding it difficult to book tests and get their results back in time for their flights, to which Canada’s Minister of Health Patty Hajdu said: “This is exactly why we are advising people not to travel internationally. … [S]tay home, cancel your travel if not absolutely necessary.” Travellers must still quarantine for 14 days upon entering Canada despite a negative COVID-19 test.

An explainer by CTV News notes that “approximately 6,000 cases of COVID-19 in the country – just under two percent of the total – have been linked to international travel.” Meanwhile, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control are alerting passengers on more than a dozen flights that occurred over the holidays, both international and domestic, of potential COVID-19 exposure.

Post-graduation work permits

Last week, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marco Mendicino announced that recent international students in Canada who either currently hold or have held a post-graduation work permit (PGWP) will be eligible for a new temporary open work permit. This decision is set to help holders of PGWPs who have seen their employment opportunities drastically cut back due to the pandemic. According to a press release, these new open permits will be valid for 18 months and will allow former international students to stay in Canada and find work – a key requirement for permanent residency. PGWPs are typically valid from between one to three years.

To qualify for the new alternate work permit, an applicant must either hold a PGWP that expired on or after January 30, 2020, or a PGWP that expires in four months or less from the date they apply for the new permit. Applicants must also have “a valid temporary status, or be applying to restore their status,” and must currently be in Canada. Applications open on January 27 and will be accepted until July 27.

IRCC estimates that up to 52,000 recent postsecondary graduates with expired or expiring PGWPs could benefit from the new open work permit. The ministry notes that of the “nearly 61,000 PGWP holders whose work permit had an expiry date between January and December 2020, about half either have already become permanent residents or have a permanent residence application in processing.”

In a statement to the Toronto Star, Mr. Mendicino said the new policy sends a “simple” message to international students and graduates: “We don’t just want you to study here, we want you to stay here.”

The federal government notes that international students contribute $21 billion to Canada’s economy every year.

In December, World Education Services published survey results suggesting that international students in Canada are disappointed with the country’s pandemic response and supports for their cohort. According to Times Higher Education, nearly 5,000 respondents said that “more than a quarter had lost their primary income during COVID shutdowns and that one-third have struggled to pay housing costs. At the same time, such students are either ineligible for government social services or unaware of what assistance they could receive.”

Quarantine plans

Despite these new travel restrictions, universities are still anticipating a small wave of international students to come to campus for the winter term and are planning accordingly.

Both international students and domestic students living on campus at the University of Windsor will have to adhere to “a modified quarantine” while Ontario operates under a lockdown. The university has prepared an infographic to explain the specific measures required for international students (i.e. pre-departure COVID-19 tests, quarantine accommodation bookings, etc.). However, all students residing in campus housing will have to get tested for COVID-19 during the university’s scheduled testing clinics this week. Students will remain in quarantine for either 14 days after arriving in residence, or until they receive a negative COVID-19 test result.

International students joining Université de Sherbrooke are being paired up with a peer mentor for the duration of their two-week quarantine. These mentors help the new students integrate to the university and the local community as best as they can through virtual technology. Radio-Canada notes that many of the international students who decided to come to Sherbrooke despite the provincial lockdown and the online-only term did so to simplify their workload (no more tricky time-zone differences) and are feeling hopeful about the months ahead.

Federal policy requires postsecondary institutions to have provincially approved COVID-19 plans in place in order to welcome international students to campus. These plans must outline how the university will enforce and support a two-week quarantine – where the student will be housed, how they will travel from airport to those accommodations, etc. But, as this article from Global News explains, each university can choose how it will meet these expectations.

The article examines how two institutions in Nova Scotia are approaching the accommodations requirement: Saint Mary’s University is putting students up in residence or at an approved hotel, with the possibility of fees for either option being partially covered by a subsidy. Meanwhile, Dalhousie University students are quarantining in hotels on their own dime upon arrival in the province. In a statement released last week, Dalhousie explains why it opted for this plan:

“Dalhousie’s plan, due to the number of students, our location and need to provide the required supervision, had no option other than to use hotels because on-campus housing was unfortunately not an option. Providing the necessary supervision to hundreds of international students throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality and the province was not possible. A university with very few international students living off campus in a rural community in one or two locations may be in a position to offer the appropriate supervision being requested by the government. But this would depend on the university’s unique situation.”

The statement also noted that Dalhousie has committed to pay 50 percent of the quarantine costs for “new international students and those returning for the first time since the start of the pandemic,” up to a total of $400,000 for the cohort. The institution has aside a total of $100,000 in financial aid for those students who need additional assistance covering these costs.

An official at St. Thomas University told the CBC that New Brunswick is requiring international students to get tested for COVID 10 days after finishing their quarantine.

Untangling the situation in Atlantic Canada

It’s not just international students who are facing quarantine woes at the start of this term. Although the Atlantic bubble burst some months ago, Nova Scotia has only recently tightened restrictions on provincial border crossings from New Brunswick. Anyone travelling from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia will now have to self-isolate for 14 days. Only travellers from Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are currently exempt from Nova Scotia’s isolation rule. Dalhousie is advising travellers from these two provinces not to stop or to minimize stops in New Brunswick on their way to Nova Scotia. It is also encouraging anyone who arrived from New Brunswick or who had visitors from New Brunswick within the past 14 days to get tested for COVID. St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish had asked that students from New Brunswick arrive by January 10 and that students arriving from other Atlantic provinces delay their arrival to January 24, with in-person instruction resuming on January 25.

The Government of Nova Scotia has decided that domestic students arriving in the province won’t be required to get tested for the coronavirus. It is, however, strongly recommending that all postsecondary students who arrive in the province from outside Atlantic Canada on or after January 4 to get one COVID-19 test halfway through their 14-day self-isolation period.

On January 5, New Brunswick increased its pandemic alert level to orange due to rising COVID case numbers. The University of New Brunswick announced it will restart the few in-person classes it’s offering this term as of January 18. According to the CBC, the province will welcome 1,200 new and returning university students to the province for winter term. Each of these students will have to self-isolate for the two-week period. The province is also recommending that domestic students get tested for COVID 10 days after they’re self-isolation period has ended (this is reportedly mandatory for international students arriving in the province).

Approximately 600 students at the University of Prince Edward Island are self-isolating after arriving in the province for the new school term. Students needing a space to isolate have been offered hotel rooms. Those students who are arriving on P.E.I. for the first time this school year, their room and meals are free, but those who are returning after holiday travel will have to pay for their expenses out of pocket. “It was viewed that if you make a choice to leave, there are implications for that,” Donna Sutton, associate vice-president of students and registrar at UPEI, told the CBC. She said about 370 UPEI students are self-isolating in the hotel rooms provided, while the rest had made their own isolation plans.

Universities ask students to take extra precaution at start of winter term

The new precautions in Atlantic Canada are just some of the steps that universities across the country are taking in the hopes of safely transitioning into the winter term. Queen’s University, for one, is essentially asking students to stay away not just from campus but also from the city of Kingston while Ontario’s lockdown is in effect. The university is “strongly urging all students living on or off campus to avoid returning to Kingston until after the shutdown ends, unless absolutely necessary for their academic activities or wellbeing.” The shutdown is currently scheduled to end on January 23, but with today’s announcement of a stay-at-home-order coming on January 14, it’s possible the lockdown will be extended.

An article in the Globe and Mail outlines some of the other measures that universities in Canada are implementing, or that they’re asking students and staff to undertake, including Western University’s decision to stagger residence move-in through to late February and after reading week – a move we reported on in yesterday’s COVID update.

January 11, 2021

Welcome back, readers. We hope you have a safe and smooth transition into the winter term and into this new year. For our first COVID update of 2021, we’ll start with COVID case numbers on campuses and return tomorrow with updates on developments for international students in Canada, the situation universities in Atlantic Canada are facing as COVID cases spread across the region, and other news.

COVID-19 cases on campus

Several cases have been reported at universities in Nova Scotia.

St. Francis Xavier University finished 2020 without a single case of COVID-19 in its community (see update posted on December 21, 2020). Unfortunately, it’s starting off 2021 with two positive cases. Last week, the university reported that a student who returned to residence in Antigonish on January 3 was self-isolating after testing positive for the coronavirus. Over the weekend, StFX added a second case to its total count after another student in residence tested positive (the cases are unrelated).

Dalhousie University has two cases of COVID-19 in its community. On January 5, the university announced that a student in campus housing in Halifax had tested positive and is now self-isolating with the university’s assistance. Yesterday, the province reported that a Dalhousie student living off campus in Halifax also tested positive.

In Wolfville, N.S., a student at Acadia University has tested positive for the virus, though remains asymptomatic. The student is self-isolating in residence. “This development is a reminder that COVID-19 continues to have an impact on our daily lives. The onus is on each of us to do what we can to protect ourselves and others. Please stay safe and healthy, and follow the best practices that health experts continue to stress during the pandemic,” said a message posted to Acadia’s website on Sunday.

In one of the hardest-hit regions of Ontario, the University of Windsor has identified one case of COVID-19 involving a community member who had recently been on campus. The university has reported a total of 19 cases since March 2020.

McMaster University has been alerted to several cases among its community members. The university posted an update on January 4 noting three unrelated cases involving two employees (one who’d last been on campus on December 21 and the other on December 22) and one international graduate student who had been quarantining in residence according to federal guidelines after arriving in the country in late December. On January 7, the university posted an update noting that a staff member who had been on campus earlier that same week had tested positive for COVID-19. The following day, McMaster identified a separate staff case involving an employee who had been on campus on December 29.

On its COVID tracking dashboard, the University of Toronto has identified seven total cases of COVID-19 involving U of T staff or students, though only two have been confirmed on a U of T campus: one at its St. George campus in downtown Toronto and one at its Scarborough campus.

The University of Waterloo confirms that one person who visited campus on January 4 has since tested positive for the coronavirus.

University Hospital, located on the Western University campus, seems to have gotten its COVID-19 cases under control after seven weeks of outbreaks in the institution. (Hat tip to Ken Steele for bringing that update to our attention.) Unfortunately, this good news for the hospital comes just as the Middlesex-London region reaches record case counts (University Hospital might be outbreak-free, but it’s still struggling with overcapacity and has recently brought in a refrigerated trailer to temporarily store the dead). The situation facing the region has prompted Western to delay the start of its few in-person learning activities to February 21, after the reading week break. The university will also stagger the return of students to residence into February.

According to a tracking dashboard, the University of Manitoba has had one active case of COVID-19 in its community between December 23 and January 25, which was identified at the university’s Fort Garry campus.

As of January 8, the University of Calgary is reporting three cases that involved possible campus community exposure in the past four to seven days.

And on a related note, the Ubyssey explains why the University of British Columbia doesn’t publicly disclose its COVID-19 case numbers:

“The BC Centre for Disease Control and other B.C. public health institutions have focused on patient privacy throughout the pandemic. This means that while specific health advisories might be posted for bars, restaurants or other places where contact tracing is challenging, cases on campus are not reported to the university community unless contact tracing is impossible, said a Vancouver Coastal Health spokesperson.”

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