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COVID-19 updates for September 2021


September 29, 2021

Thirty people sent to hospital after Fake Homecoming at Western

The National Post reported that 30 people were taken to hospital, six in critical or serious condition, after Western University’s Fake Homecoming turned into an all-night rager.

“Given the number of people involved, it’s quite likely somebody there had COVID and it’s quite possible that we would see spread related to that,” Chris Mackie, Middlesex-London medical officer of health, said at a news conference with other civic leaders Monday.

“Being outdoors is generally quite protective and reduces your risk of COVID significantly. But if you’re in close contact for long periods without masks, that really negates the benefit of being outside,” he said.

The article described videos that cropped up on social media showing hundreds of partiers, mostly without masks and not physical distanced, on city streets after dark.

The mayor of London, Ed Holder, was also at the same news conference. He commended Western students for acting responsibly over the weekend, during the day. “Many stayed away from Broughdale and surrounding areas and those who did attend were generally respectful,” he said. “However, it was a somewhat different story during the evening and overnight hours Saturday, especially in the Huron Street area.”


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U of Guelph students warned after off-campus party

University of Guelph students are being warned “to find the balance between building new connections and having new experiences, and being responsible citizens and following public health guidelines amid the fourth wave of COVID-19.” This statement, made by the U of G’s interim vice-provost of student affairs Irene Thompson, came after a party near private, off-campus housing in Guelph on Saturday. CBC News reported that the of U of G president, Charlotte Yates, was disappointed at how many students appeared to have attended the unsanctioned party and the way they behaved. The article also quoted the mayor of Guelph, who tweeted at people taking part in the parties, saying “enjoy the fines and upcoming academic discipline hearings you rightly deserve.”

Rapid testing required for any UNB campus activities if you’re unvaccinated

Effective Sept. 27, all faculty, staff and students at the University of New Brunswick who want to engage in on-campus activities and in-person classes are required to complete mandatory, regular COVID-19 rapid testing. Individuals who demonstrate proof of full vaccination are exempt from rapid testing.

“For those individuals who are not in compliance with the testing requirements or who do not have a vaccination exemption, or for whom accommodation has not been granted, you will not be permitted on campus,” said Paul J. Mazerolle, president and vice-chancellor, in a statement.

Dalhousie extends mask mandate

Dalhousie University’s current mask guidance is being extended to Dec. 31. According to a recent statement, the university will continue to ask people to wear masks in indoor common spaces (including classrooms and residence common spaces) through the end of the fall term, subject to any changes in epidemiology or public restrictions that would require further changes.

“This guidance will continue regardless of whether or not the province of Nova Scotia removes its own mask requirements (which could happen as early as next week). Even if the provincial mask mandate is lifted, we expect Public Health to continue [to] recommend mask wearing as general practice, especially in spaces where people gather in large numbers. For this reason, extending Dalhousie’s own mask guidance through the end of the semester is in the best interest of both the safety and continuing comfort of our Dalhousie community,” the statement said.

Cases on campus

McMaster University is reporting one new case of COVID-19 on its campus. The student was tested on Sept. 27 and was last on campus Sept. 25, in Wallingford Hall.

An outbreak has been declared in a Brock University nursing program after two positive cases were confirmed over the weekend. The first individual tested positive on Sept. 17 and the second on Sept. 26.

Currently, one case is being reported at the University of Ottawa.

Three new cases have been reported on the St. George campus of the University of Toronto.

Wilfrid Laurier University has been notified that two students on the Waterloo campus have tested positive for COVID-19. According to the university, the two cases are not connected.

Ten new cases of COVID-19 have been identified at McGill University.

The University of Saskatchewan is also reporting 10 new cases involving members of the university community on and off campus.

September 27, 2021

Dalhousie reckons with weekend homecoming parties

Officials at Dalhousie University are urging hundreds of students who attended unofficial homecoming parties over the weekend to stay away from campus until Oct. 4 as a precaution, according to Global News. The news report cited a statement issued Sunday night from Frank Harvey, provost and vice-president academic. “This weekend’s illegal gathering poses a potential risk to our ability to continue with a safe, sustainable in-person learning experience this fall,” it said. The university is also asking any students that attended the parties to get tested for COVID-19 and avoid social interactions for the time being.

The students could also face disciplinary action ranging from mandatory training to suspension or even expulsion from the university, CTV News reported. Dalhousie said in a tweet that officials are “gravely disappointed in the deplorable, reckless behaviour of students who organized and attended large, unsanctioned and illegal street parties near campus” and that they “are working very hard to ensure appropriate consequences will follow.”

Western homecoming draws crowds too

Videos circulating on social media show hundreds of people partying on the streets of London, Ont., near Western University’s campus over the weekend – most of them without masks or and without physical distancing, according to the London Free Press. The article stated police cleared the parties on Broughdale Avenue in the afternoon but the revelry apparently resumed later in the evening. Western president Alan Shepard had previously warned students to avoid such gatherings, saying it could put the return to in-person classes at risk due to the risk of COVID-19 infections.

Union wants distancing rules, limits on class size in Ontario

The Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario is asking the province to institute new regulations on university campuses, The Canadian Press reported on Sept. 23. Earlier this month, the provincial government said it would not be implementing such measures, as postsecondary institutions resume in-person classes. CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn said that proof-of-vaccination and mandatory masking policies alone will not stop the Delta variant from spreading. The union represents administration, food-service and research staff as well as teaching assistants across 17 campuses.

Faculty associations in Alberta demand more COVID-19 measures

Eight faculty association presidents have sent a letter to Alberta’s Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides requesting that the government implement a provincial vaccine mandate for all postsecondary campuses, Global News reported on Sept. 23. It said the letter also demanded that contact tracing be reinstated, and improved communication from the provincial government on how to put its public health measures into effect. The faculty association presidents represent about 3,500 workers in Edmonton, Calgary, Olds, Red Deer and Medicine Hat, the report said.

U of Waterloo monitoring wastewater for signs of infections

Researchers at the University of Waterloo are taking an innovative approach to testing for COVID-19 on campus. They’re analyzing wastewater at several student residences for signs of infections and have already detected the virus at two residences, the Ron Eydt Village and Village 1, even though the school has not confirmed any infections. “We don’t know if they’re asymptomatic or symptomatic. We don’t know if they’ve been visiting for five minutes. All we know is that somebody in … that area, with collecting that water, has discharged a fragment of the virus into the water,” Mark Servos, who is in charge of the pilot project, told CBC News. “It’s more likely that there are asymptomatic people that don’t even know, and so what we want to do is inform the students so that they can take the proper action and the university can take the proper action so that they can protect people.”

Cases on campus

McMaster University said Friday it was notified about a confirmed COVID-19 case on campus. It involves a student was tested on the same day. Their last visit to campus, on Sept. 21, was to the McMaster University Student Centre and the Burke Science Building.

The University of Toronto says three cases were reported between Sept. 23 and Sept. 26 among members of the St. George campus community, but all took place off campus.

The University of Ottawa is reporting one case among members of its community who were on campus within the preceding seven days.

September 22, 2021

Three postsecondary institutions in Calgary set new rules

After cancelling classes due to the fourth wave currently hitting Alberta, the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology are reopening their campuses with some new rules. The Calgary Herald is reporting that MRU announced it will participate in the provincial government’s new vaccine passport system, called the restrictions exemption program. All members of the campus community will be asked to provide proof of vaccination by Oct. 4. Previously, students only had to self-declare their vaccine status, the article states. Meanwhile, the U of C will now require students to upload proof of vaccination to their website. The article said that “starting in 2022, only fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to attend campus.” . SAIT also opted to take part in the new passport system, and those who don’t submit proof of vaccination will be required to complete regular rapid testing.

Montreal public health asking postsecondary school administrators to help with COVID-19 contact tracing

The CBC is reporting that “faced with the rapid rise in cases of COVID-19, [Montreal public health officials] are in a period of increased hiring and training of investigators in order to be more efficient in responding to the demands of educational settings.” Therefore, the agency is relying on postsecondary administrators to help with contact tracing. This is a temporary solution, said Montreal public health director Mylène Drouin, only expected to last until Sept. 24. “To reassure your community, know that the majority of moderate-risk contacts are already identified by public health investigators who call cases upon receipt of a positive test,” Dr. Drouin said in a letter to the CBC. She went on to say that the approach for the school year will judge the majority of contacts in postsecondary schools to be low-risk because masks are worn, there is good vaccination coverage and health measures are in place.

StFx extends mask wearing until winter semester

On Sept. 20, St. Francis Xavier University announced it is extending its mask-wearing policy, mandatory in all indoor spaces, including classrooms, until the end of the fall semester. The university said a few factors influenced this decision: the province delaying Phase 5 of its reopening plan, the relatively high case counts being reported in the Atlantic region, and evidence of community spread within Nova Scotia’s Central Health Zone. “Wearing non-medical masks is considered part of our own personal preventive measures we should be taking to do our part in keeping everyone safe and healthy,” said president and vice-chancellor Andy Harkin in a statement.

U of Waterloo hoping for ‘normal’ winter semester

“Looking ahead, as we plan to deliver a more normal level of winter term classes in person, we will continue to work with our local public health team to make sure our plans protect your physical and mental health.” This was the main message in a statement released by the University of Waterloo to its community on Sept. 20. “This means we will largely return to our pre-pandemic approaches to academic life at Waterloo.” The statement went on to say that the undergraduate course selection for the winter term will soon be released and “all students can start to plan for a term of learning in person that has not been possible since early 2020.”

McGill profs criticize university’s lack of COVID measures

In a recent op-ed published by the Globe and Mail, McGill University professors Richard Gold and Joanne Liu criticized McGill’s lack of pro-activeness when it comes to the pandemic. “McGill has taken the attitude that everything will simply turn out okay. We have seen this story before and it never turns out well,” they state. The authors go on to say that while McGill requires masks for students in classrooms, they aren’t required for faculty while lecturing. “Some very large classes have been moved online, but most are still happening in person, and there’s no physical distancing in classrooms, some of which are crowded,” they say. The university “has let down […] students and staff and faculty who rely on the university to maintain an adequate level of safety.”

One of McGill’s contentions is that it cannot adopt a proof-of-vaccination requirement because Quebec law prohibits it, the professors say. “Yet not only have 35 of its own law professors and instructors said otherwise, but the rector of the Université de Montréal, Daniel Jutras, acknowledged as much. There is no law or human rights provision that prevents the university, in a time of declared pandemic, from bringing in the same common-sense requirements that virtually every other major Canadian and U.S. university has implemented.”

The two go on to say that other large universities elsewhere in Canada have implemented many pandemic measures (including vaccine mandates) with great success and this is causing McGill to fall behind. “[McGill] is refusing to put common sense and public-health evidence into practice. It needs to do more or vulnerable people will be harmed on its campus.”

Cases on campus

For the seven-day period ending Sept. 16, the University of Saskatchewan was informed of 35 positive COVID-19 cases involving members of the university community on and off campus. Beginning next week, the university will be posting the locations, both on and off campus, where the positive cases have been reported.

One student has tested positive at McMaster University. The student was last on campus Sept. 17, in A.N. Bourns Science Building and Bates Residence. The student has been moved to a self-isolation space on campus.

McGill University is currently reporting 13 cases on its campus, with a possible indication of transmission on campus via the McIntyre Building laboratory.

September 20, 2021

Universities see high rates of vaccination

According to the University of Saskatchewan, a vast majority of its students, staff and faculty have been vaccinated against COVID-19. In a press release, President Peter Stoicheff said that 25,000 students, staff and faculty (92 per cent of the campus population) have shared their vaccination status. Out of those, 97 per cent have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 91 per cent are fully vaccinated.

“These numbers far exceed those of the general population in this province, and indeed across the country. We will continue to work to get these numbers higher, as full participation is vital to continue offering in-person activities,” Dr. Stoicheff said.

Three per cent of those who submitted their vaccination status are either unvaccinated or are choosing not to disclose whether they’re vaccinated. These individuals, Dr. Stoicheff continued, are now required to submit two negative rapid test results each week and complete a daily symptom record to be allowed to participate in on-campus activities.

Early results from the University of Ottawa’s vaccine declaration survey show 91 per cent of respondents are fully vaccinated, reported Global News. Additionally, 96 per cent of professors and staff have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The U of Ottawa mandated full vaccinations for everyone on campus this fall term and is expecting everyone, including contractors and visitors, to provide proof of vaccination.

As of Sept. 17, there were 49,610 respondents to the university’s survey, 38,747 of whom were students (according to Global News, there are roughly 46,000 U of Ottawa students registered for classes this term). The university anticipates the numbers will go up ahead of Oct. 15, which is the deadline for members of its community to be fully vaccinated.

The University of Guelph has also reported a high rate of vaccination in its community. According to the university, 99 per cent of those who have submitted their vaccination status (24,000 from the Guelph and Ridgetown campuses, including almost 20,000 students) are either partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only one per cent of respondents have requested or have been granted an exemption to COVID-19 vaccination.

“We are encouraged by the strong response by our students, staff and faculty,” said the university’s president, Charlotte Yates. “Keeping our university and nearby communities safe is a shared responsibility, and I want to thank our students, faculty and staff for doing their part.”

The U of G’s mandatory vaccine requirement went into effect on Sept. 7 and will remain in place for the academic year. Campus visitors must also be vaccinated to access any university building or university-managed facility.

Proof of vaccination required at McGill libraries

McGill University announced that proof of vaccination will soon be required to access its libraries. The new policy was announced in a memo shared with the university community on Friday and will come into effect in October, CTV News reported. When the new policy is enacted, students, faculty, researchers, instructors and administrative and support staff will have to show their vaccine passport to use the entire library system. Library staff and employees will be exempt from the policy.

However, according to CTV News, some faculty members – who want a widespread vaccine mandate – say the new policy isn’t enough to protect people on campus.

Richard Gold, a law professor and director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy, told CTV News that he welcomes the shift in requiring a vaccine passport to access spaces such as the library, but that the policy should cover all of campus. “The logic of it makes no sense. If you’re going to do it in a library, why are you not doing it in a classroom?” he said.

Hefty fines issued in Kingston and fears of rising case counts

Kingston police and bylaw officers issued thousands of dollars of fines in the city’s university district on Friday night under an emergency order created to discourage large parties and curb the spread of COVID-19, reported the CBC. In total, police fined 20 individuals and issued 38 citations for liquor act offences in the university area.

The city issued an emergency order on Sept. 10, after several raucous parties took place in the university district. It raised fines to $2,000 – four times what they were before the emergency order.

Cases on campus

Global News reported that as cases connected to Queen’s University rise, and as large parties in Kingston continue to take place, faculty members are worried about crowding on campus.

The university’s decision to go back to full-time, in-person learning was taken too quickly, said Samantha King, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. She believes that, even with a vaccine mandate, the university should have taken a more careful approach.

“Yes, the parties are a problem. The behaviour is really irresponsible. But it’s very hard, on the one hand, to say students shouldn’t be congregating that way and then to ask them to attend a 700-person class inside, you know, for hours at a time,” she said.

Since Aug. 24, there have been 24 cases of COVID-19 linked to the university. The local health unit said transmission was traced back to parties and that the positive cases were mostly among people between the ages of 18 and 29.

Trent University reported two new cases of COVID-19 among students – one at its Peterborough campus and one at its Durham campus. Both students are self-isolating and will not return to campus until public health advises them to do so, the university said.

September 16, 2021

Alberta universities close campuses as province declares state of emergency

On Sept. 15, Alberta announced a number of new public health and safety measures as COVID-19 surges and takes a heavy toll on the province’s health-care system. These measures include a declared state of emergency and a new proof-of-vaccination program.

The measures also include physical distancing requirements that, according to universities, mean in-person classes are cancelled and campuses are closed until Sept. 20, when postsecondary institutions will be allowed to implement a Restrictions Exemption Program. This new program is the province’s version of a vaccine passport and will require businesses and institutions, including universities, to require proof of vaccination or negative rapid test results to continue to operate as usual.

In a press release, the University of Lethbridge stated that the ministry of advanced education sent an email to all postsecondary institutions in the province informing them of the new distancing measures that they must adhere to until Sept. 20. The U of L has cancelled in-person classes from Sept. 16 to 19 while online classes will continue to run. In-person classes will resume in Sept. 20.

The University of Alberta cancelled all classes on campus and closed all campuses on Sept. 16. The university announced that it will share further information on Sept. 17 about the status of classes and activities for that day, along with its own requirements and procedures for complying with the Restrictions Exemption Program. Given these new measures and the uncertainty some students may be feeling, the U of A has extended its fall term registration deadline to Sept. 20.

MacEwan University has also cancelled all in-person classes and lab work for Sept. 16 and 17 and will provide an update to its community before Sept. 20 about the restrictions coming to campus. Any student enrolled in a practicum, co-op or field placement should follow the guidelines of their host organization, the university said. Further, on-campus social events and extracurricular activities will be paused until further notice.

It’s a similar story at Mount Royal University. For the rest of the week, in-person classes are cancelled and campus is closed, the university stated. Employees should work from home if they are able and essential employees on campus must stay at least two metres apart.

Concordia University of Edmonton tweeted that all classes and campus activities on Sept. 16, 17, 18 and 19 are cancelled as the university is unable to maintain the province’s new physical distancing requirement. The university stated it will share more information with its community in the near future.

In a statement released Sept. 15, the University of Calgary announced the cancellation of all in-person classes from Sept. 16 to 19. The university said it will assess the situation over the next few days and follow up on the status of future classes. Online classes and the online portion of blended classes will continue, as can research operations as long as physically distancing takes place and individuals wear masks.

September 15, 2021

Nine institutions in Alberta announce vaccine mandates

On Sept. 13, the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, MacEwan University, Medicine Hat College, Mount Royal University, NAIT, SAIT and NorQuest College collectively announced that they would be implementing vaccine mandates on their campuses, some starting as soon as Nov. 1. Rapid testing won’t continue on some of the campuses, like the U of A, once the new vaccine policy comes into effect.

“Alberta’s postsecondary institutions are working together and taking a coordinated approach to ensure safety on our campuses for students, faculty, staff and visitors this fall, and beyond. We are taking an approach to health and safety that is best suited for the learning, studying, researching, working, and living environments of our campuses. The safety of our large, diverse community has been our top consideration when making both short-term and long-term plans throughout the pandemic,” said Bill Flanagan, president of U of A, in a press release.

The universities implementing their new vaccine mandate on Nov. 1 are the U of A and U of Lethbridge. The U of C, MacEwan and Mount Royal will be requiring that everyone be vaccinated at the start of the Winter 2022 term.

“These decisions were not made lightly,” said Tim Rahilly, president and vice-chancellor of Mount Royal. “Vaccinations are the most effective health measure we can take to protect ourselves and our community against COVID-19. Every member of our campus community — students, faculty, staff and visitors — must be a part of the effort to provide the safest environment possible given the seriousness of the fourth wave of the pandemic and the ongoing threat to public health and the health care system.”

Mount Allison announces vaccine mandate too

All students, faculty, and staff at Mount Allison University should be fully vaccinated as soon as possible, and by Oct. 1 at the latest.  They will also be asked to prove their vaccination status by that date. However, the press release emphasized that those who do not provide proof of vaccination will not be prevented from studying or working at Mount Allison.

“Students may continue to work or study on campus, but will be subject to increased health and safety regulations that include mask-wearing and regular testing provided by the university,” said the press release.

Unlike some other universities, visitors to the Mount Allison campus will not have to prove they are vaccinated. “However, we will ensure visitors are aware of the policies and practices in place on campus (i.e. masks required in all indoor spaces) and take other relevant precautions.”

Not everyone likes vaccine mandates

The Globe and Mail is reporting that a few professors at Canadian postsecondary universities are questioning whether vaccine mandates are the best move. The article features an interview with Steven Pelech, a professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of British Columbia who has a PhD in biochemistry. He said his views about the risk of vaccination have made him persona non grata in his department. “My department head is telling me people aren’t happy with me, but she isn’t giving me any trouble,” he said.

The article also mentions an email that was circulated to Brock University students by economics professor Cornelius Christian. In it, he encouraged students to look into exemptions for religious reasons or reasons of “bodily autonomy.”

“People at universities are engaged in debate all the time, that’s what universities are for,” said Lynn Wells, president of Brock, but she declined to address the email directly in the article. She also said the university has been clear about its vaccine policy.

“Debate is different from compliance with university policy and with government regulations. … If people want to debate […] they’re welcome to do that. But in order to come onto campus, they must be vaccinated.”

“Record number” of U of T staff members and professors feel unsafe returning to campus

According to Terezia Zorić, president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association and an OISE professor, many U of T professors and staff are not feeling great about being back on campus, especially those who teach classes with student counts in the triple digits. Ms. Zorić spoke to the Toronto Star, saying hundreds of faculty and staff members are now “panicked” because the vaccine mandate “isn’t yet up and running,” among other concerns. She told the newspaper: “there has been a chaotic approach. It’s really unfair to students. I’m embarrassed our university hasn’t been more respectful to its students, staff, faculty and librarians to take a more methodical, careful approach.”

According to the article, about 55 per cent of the 16,000 course offerings at U of T this fall have been planned as in-person classes. Individual academic units, in collaboration with their instructors and teaching staff, are determining what they do in person versus online. Only classrooms that have been upgraded to a minimum of six air changes per hour will be used this term, a spokesperson added.

Cases on campus

McMaster University is reporting one case on its campus. The case involves an individual who was tested on Sept.8 and was last on campus Sept. 7, in Alumni Memorial Hall and the Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery (MDCL).

One positive case has been confirmed at St. Francis Xavier University. According to the university, the student had not attended classes, and began isolating upon experiencing symptoms.

On Sept. 10, an individual reported to OCAD University that there was a confirmed positive case. The individual was last on campus on Sept. 8 and received a positive test result on Sept. 9. The individual is now self-isolating at home.

The University of Toronto is also reporting one case on its St. George campus, during the period of Sept. 9-12.

Laurentian University has one positive case on its campus. CBC News is reporting that President Robert Haché was informed of the case by Public Health Sudbury and Districts on Sept. 10.

September 13, 2021

Increased fines for Kingston partygoers

Kingston has issued a new emergency order to try to curb ongoing street parties in the city’s university district. According to the Kingston Whig-Standard, the new increased penalties and enforcement powers are a response to unsanctioned parties that are being linked to rising COVID-19 case numbers in the city.

In a statement Mayor Bryan Paterson said the “community is fed up with this disrespectful behaviour“ that is putting people at risk. “The large street parties that have been occurring in the University District are appalling and downright dangerous in the midst of a pandemic,” he said. “They have put additional pressure on our emergency response personnel and on hospital staff that are already under strain.”

Now, the fine for attending an aggravated nuisance party has increased from $500 to $2,000 and individuals charged will be publicly identified. The Whig-Standard also reported that Kingston Police will increase their presence in the university area and immediately issue fines when a party is identified.

U of Guelph looking into parties, damage on campus

The University of Guelph is investigating large weekend parties on its campus that led to damage at a student residence, CTV News reported. The university has also warned that there could be consequences for students involved.

Students who witnessed the partying on Friday and Saturday nights described shopping cart races leading to injuries and someone climbing an eavestrough on one of the residence buildings.

“We are aware of the large unofficial gathering that occurred on campus this weekend,” the university said in a statement. “Our Campus Safety Office responded immediately and we are still investigating the situation. The University condemns the behaviour that resulted in minor damage to the exterior of one of our residence buildings. … If U of G students were involved, we will enforce the University’s Non-Academic Student Code of Conduct.”

High vaccination rates reported at Western

New figures shared by Western University suggest almost 100 per cent of students and staff at the university and its affiliates are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The London Free Press reported that the university has received proof of vaccination from more than 46,000 students and staff since it announced that vaccines would be required to access campus and attend classes.

According to the figures, 97 per cent of faculty and staff are vaccinated, 98 per cent of students are vaccinated and 99 per cent of students living in residences are vaccinated.

Atlantic University Sport announces vaccine mandate

The CBC reported that on Thursday, Atlantic University Sport (AUS) announced anyone without an exemption must have two doses on a COVID-19 vaccine for any AUS competition. The organization coordinates competitions between university-level athletic programs in Atlantic Canada. The new policy will affect students, coaches, team staff, officials, minor officials and game-day staff.

“As our communities adjust to living with COVID-19, we feel a responsibility to do everything within our power to protect the health of our student-athletes, coaching staff, fans and other stakeholders,” said AUS executive director Phil Currie. “We’re confident these measures are the right ones to take to ensure the safety of our participants and our communities.”

Individuals with approved vaccine exemptions for medical or human rights-based reasons will be required to undergo tests at least twice a week. Spectators will also need to wear masks unless they are eating and drinking.

London-area ethics professor denounces vaccine requirements

An ethics professor at Western affiliate Huron University College is refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, comparing herself in a video making the rounds on social media to Socrates “who was executed for asking questions” , the London Free Press reported.

In the video, Julie Ponesse challenges the widely accepted fact that vaccines are effective and safe – without providing evidence to support her claims – and says the university’s policy requiring everyone on campus to be vaccinated is “ethically wrong.” Dr. Ponesse adds that she is “facing imminent dismissal, after 20 years on the job, because I will not submit to having an experimental vaccine injected into my body.”

The video states that Dr. Ponesse was “dismissed,” which Huron officials say is untrue. Dr. Ponesse did not respond to requests by the Free Press for an interview.

According to the newspaper, the professor spoke at a People’s Party of Canada event in the riding of Elgin-Middlesex-London last week. Her video is being promoted online by a website that recommends ivermectin, a livestock deworming drug, as a “suitable candidate for early out-patient treatment of COVID-19.” Health Canada has warned against using this drug, which is intended for animals.

Despite Dr. Ponesse’s beliefs, there is plenty of evidence that shows vaccines are effective and safe, the article continued. “People who have received two doses will have better protection against both getting the virus and getting sick from the virus,” Kumanan Wilson, an internal medicine physician at the Ottawa Hospital, was quoted as saying.

September 8, 2021

Partying students reprimanded for breaking COVID rules

Several universities have had students fined or in some cases even arrested for attending parties at the start of the school year. One party near Queen’s University resulted in four people being arrested for public intoxication. According to the Whig-Standard, roughly 2,000 young people gathered on University Avenue in Kingston on Sept. 2. Going forward, city bylaw and police officers will be working with the student affairs office at Queen’s, going door-to-door disseminating information through educational pamphlets. As a result of the parties, the University District Safety Initiative came into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Friday night and will run until Sept. 19.

Meanwhile, a wild frat party involving hundreds of University of British Columbia students last weekend racked up $5,000 in COVID-19 related fines. According to CTV News, multiple fraternities and sororities were issued fines by university RCMP for noise and public health violations as a result of the party, where few guests were wearing masks and there was insufficient room for physical distancing.

“We do not want parties to jeopardize the safe return to campus and everything for which we have all worked so hard,” said Ainsley Carry, vice-president, students at UBC.

A few days after the UBC party, a student anonymously contacted Global News, stating that several students had contracted COVID-19 as a result of the party.

“At least 200 people have symptoms or have gotten tested and are positive,” she said. “There are talks they’re going to keep their diagnoses a secret so they can attend their classes and they won’t have to miss out on any first-week events and they don’t want to face any repercussions from the university itself.” So far, the public health authority has not declared an official outbreak as a result of the party.

The University of Victoria also had to deal with a party of over 1,000 students on Sept. 5. Global News reported that most of the student weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. As there are currently no restrictions on outdoor gatherings, or protocols on wearing masks or physical distancing in Victoria, the article said police officers only issued two tickets for underage drinking.

“The start of term is an exciting time on a university campus and building new social connections is a critical part of that experience. We appreciate those students who are acting responsibly and ask those involved in the incident last night to stop behaving in a manner that puts our fall return to campus at risk,” Jim Dunsdon, UVic associate vice-president of student affairs, said in a release.

In Guelph, Ont., police kicked off Project Safe Semester over Labour Day weekend to try and curb student partying. This comes after officers responded to more than 50 calls for service, including 15 noise complaints, according to Global News. The campaign will focus on education of relevant bylaws to gain compliance and will run until Oct. 3.

Meanwhile, the union that represents paramedics in Antigonish, N.S., say they are concerned after a video surfaced showing two people climbing on top of an ambulance at a St. Francis Xavier University party over the weekend.

“It’s just wrong on so many levels, and our paramedics deserve better than that,” Michael Nickerson, business manager and CEO of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 727, told Global News. He said his understanding is that paramedics were at the university treating a patient and were not in the ambulance at the time.

“Starting an IV, putting a tube down somebody’s throat to breathe for them — these are all techniques and procedures that take a lot of skill and a lot of time, and if the ambulance is rocking for any reason, then that can be detrimental to the patient.”

The article states that since the incident, the university has released a statement saying the behaviour shown in the video is “shocking, disappointing and totally unacceptable.” It is not yet clear if the two people who climbed on top of the ambulance attend StFX.

Several students at Wilfrid Laurier University who took part in illegal gatherings over the long weekend are also facing reprimands, including possibly being suspended or expelled from school. CBC News reported that Waterloo regional police broke up a crowd of over 1,000 people.

“During the gathering, a large chair was set on fire and was extinguished by Waterloo Fire Department,” police said in a news release. “There were no reported injuries as a result of the fire.”

Police said they also received reports of disturbances and suspicious persons calls, as individuals were observed walking through private properties in the area throughout the evening. According to the article, Laurier issued a statement on Sept. 7 calling the gatherings a “flagrant” violation of Ontario’s public health measures. “There is zero tolerance for this behaviour at Laurier,” said president and vice-chancellor Deborah MacLatchy in a statement.

More universities requiring proof of vaccination to access campus

Laurentian University has clarified its vaccine mandate by asking anyone who wants to come to campus to provide proof of vaccination. This rule comes into effect on Oct. 15. After that, any individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an exemption must provide proof of a negative rapid COVID-19 test “at a frequency required by the university, in order to enter campus or a university facility.”

Nipissing University is also requiring anyone coming to its campus to be fully vaccinated and prove it, as of Sept. 7. “Individuals must have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine no later than Sept. 7, and their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine no later than Oct. 18, and must provide proof of vaccination satisfactory to Nipissing University,” said the press release. People can upload their vaccination status using the Nipissing Safe App from Sept. 7 to Oct. 29.

The University of British Columbia has also announced it will be requiring all 90,000 of its students, faculty and staff to show proof of vaccination before setting foot on its campuses. According to CBC News, UBC president Santa Ono tweeted the announcement on Sept. 4, saying that members on campus will be asked to declare that they’re fully vaccinated and show proof, or undergo regular rapid testing. The details of how disclosure will be shared will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Brock and York delay in-person learning by one week

According to a press release, Brock University has decided that courses beginning between Tuesday, Sept. 7 and Friday, Sept. 10 will be online for those days only. “On-campus instruction will resume on Monday, Sept. 13 for all courses except those already designated for online delivery in the fall term.”

The press release goes on to say that this short-term move to online learning will allow members of the Brock community additional time to respond to the university’s vaccine mandate, such as uploading proof of their status.

In a similar move, York University announced the start of its fall semester would also be online until Sept. 12. “On-campus instruction for all classes designated as in-person will commence on Monday, Sept. 13,” said Rhonda Lenton, president and vice chancellor of York. “From Sept. 7 onwards, community members will only be required to use the YU Screen tool before coming to campus to 1) self-screen and 2) upload their proof of vaccination or submit a request for a medical exemption. More information will be forthcoming later this week for individuals who are not fully vaccinated by Sept. 7.”

U of Calgary students protest last-minute transition back to online

Several students gathered at MacEwan Hall at the University of Calgary on Sept. 7 to hold the university to account for transitioning classes to online two weeks before lectures started. The university left the decision to go back to online learning up to individual instructors and faculty, according to CTV News. The U of C responded to the protesters, saying the vast majority of its course offerings will involve in-person learning, despite the decision of some instructors to move classes online. According to the article, the university stated in August that roughly 80 per cent of fall courses would be conducted in the traditional mode of instruction.

Acadia relying on voluntary approach to vaccinations

As Acadia University welcomes back students, faculty and staff to its campus, it is using a “voluntary approach” for vaccinations. “This plan encourages everyone who is able to get fully vaccinated before arriving in our community, and where that is not possible to access vaccinations as soon as possible after arrival. Those who are not fully vaccinated are being directed to get tested twice a week at on-campus rapid testing clinics, and follow multiple layers of core public health measures to ensure health and safety,” said Peter Ricketts, president and vice-chancellor of Acadia, in a press release.

Lack of vaccine mandate at McGill denounced by administrators and students

On Sept. 4, Nathan C. Hall, McGill University’s associate dean of graduate and postdoctoral studies, took to Twitter to express his anger about McGill’s COVID-19 regulations. CTV News reported that his tweet (see below) has since been co-opted by numerous students and faculty to protest the school’s COVID safety protocols.

Right now, all classes will be held in person and social distancing will not be required. Masks will be mandatory for students, while professors will have the option to remove them.

“[…] They’re still maintaining that it’s illegal to ask for vaccine status and so we’re saying, ‘what’s going on here?” Claire Downie, vice-president of student affairs at the Students’ Society of McGill University, told CTV.

U of Winnipeg tightens COVID rules

While the University of Winnipeg had already instituted a vaccine mandate, they have now gone a step further by requiring all UW Collegiate high school students to be fully vaccinated to attend campus, as well as anyone using the university’s indoor recreation facilities.

“We are firmly committed to ensuring a safe return to campus and we know that getting vaccinated is the way forward,” James Currie, U of Winnipeg interim president and vice-chancellor, told Global News.

“Strengthening our vaccine mandate now will speed our return to normalcy. Like all organizations, we are adapting quickly to evolving circumstances and will do our best to support affected students with changes to their academic schedules if they are not vaccinated.”

Cases on campus

The University of Toronto is reporting one case at its Scarborough campus.

Currently, the University of Waterloo is reporting three cases on its Waterloo campus.

The University of Guelph is reporting four active cases on its campus.

For the seven-day period ending Sept. 2, the University of Saskatchewan was informed of four positive COVID-19 cases involving members of the university community.

September 1, 2021

U of Waterloo profs sign letter against vaccine mandate

Global News is reporting that 40 faculty, parents, students and staff members, including those working in the student success office and planning, have signed an open letter to protest the school’s COVID-related mandates. According to the article, the letter disputes the rationale for mandatory vaccinations and questions whether the school is violating charter rights in making the decision. The university responded to the letter, stating it respects the freedom of expression for members of its community, but “academic freedom comes with responsibilities to base research on an honest search for truth, to meet ethical and professional standards, and to not misrepresent expertise.”

Algoma will require proof of vaccination

Algoma University students, staff and visitors must show proof that they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19 to access the Queen Street East campus. This is according to an article written in the Sault Star. It says anyone who is unvaccinated or has only had one dose and needs to be on campus must be frequently tested and wear a mask and other personal protective equipment. Additional measures may be announced later.

U of Guelph tightens its vaccine rules

The University of Guelph has modified some of its COVID-19 vaccine measures. To access  buildings and university-managed facilities, you must have your first shot by Sept. 7 and your second by Oct. 15. On Aug. 31, the university released a statement saying that because it takes two weeks for a vaccine to build immunity, “some instructors may choose to deliver scheduled face-to-face courses remotely from Sept. 7 to 28. After Sept. 28, courses that were planned for face-to-face delivery will be delivered in person. […] This change to the first few weeks of course delivery can help us provide better protection as we navigate the fourth wave of COVID-19 in Ontario and the Delta variant.” If by Sept. 7 students have not received a vaccine or an approved exemption, they should switch to online learning courses.

The university also said instructors who are scheduled to teach in classrooms with a planned student capacity of 75 per cent or more have the option of transitioning to hybrid or remote course delivery for the entire fall semester. Students should check the school’s learning management system to see if any of their courses are affected.

Some UBCO programs quietly move back online

Prince George Now is reporting that the University of British Columbia Okanagan has changed some program delivery just weeks before classes begin, particularly courses in the human kinetics program. The article states that when some students voiced their criticism, the school responded by saying “Decisions regarding academic delivery are made by each faculty. A number of factors are taken into consideration, and we encourage you to reach out directly to the Faculty of Health and Social Development with questions.”

McGill students protest lack of vaccine mandate

The Students’ Society of McGill (SSMU) is holding a demonstration on Sept. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to protest what it is calling an unsafe and inaccessible return to in-person learning. “McGill is arguing that a return to campus is the best thing, and we totally agree — I can’t wait to be back on campus, personally, I know a million people who can’t wait either,” SSMU vice-president, external affairs, Sacha Delouvrier told the Montreal Gazette. “I just need to know that all students feel safe when they return to campus. […] The thing is, a vaccine mandate can be interpreted as forcing everyone to get vaccinated otherwise they can’t come [to campus], and that’s not what we want at all,” Ms. Delouvrier said. “We would like to ask McGill to provide, on multiple campus locations, frequent testing opportunities for students who don’t want to get vaccinated, or cannot.”

NSCAD joins other East Coast universities with vaccine mandates

On Aug. 30, we reported that several East Coast universities were implementing vaccine mandates. NSCAD University can now be added to the list as it is requiring its students, faculty and staff to have proof of COVID-19 vaccination starting Sept. 7. This is according to an article by Halifax Today. The article also states that those who do not wish to disclose their vaccination status or who choose to remain unvaccinated must complete two COVID-19 tests per week and provide proof of regular testing.

MacEwan implements mask mandate

Effective Sept. 3, masks or face coverings are required in all indoor spaces at MacEwan University. This includes hallways, study spaces, common areas and food service areas. The mandate will be in place until Dec. 31. Masks will also be required when entering and exiting a classroom. “By implementing this measure and our rapid testing program, we will not only create a safer campus environment, but also contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the wider community,” said Annette Trimbee, president and vice-chancellor at MacEwan.

Former McGill employee calls out lack of vaccine mandate in op-ed

Saleema Nawaz, a short fiction author who was an employee at McGill University for more than a dozen years, is asking the institution to live up to its reputation as the “Harvard of the North” and implement a vaccine mandate. She laid out her arguments in a recent op-ed, published by the Montreal Gazette. “If McGill is truly a world-class institution for higher education, shouldn’t it be leading by example?” she asked. “Nobody is suggesting the university has the right to give anybody the jab against their will — only that the requirement to attend a university lecture on infectious disease should be at least as stringent as the requirement to, say, play bingo.” She outlines the many letters that have been written by faculty members pleading with the university to implement a mandate, and the administration’s lacklustre responses. Ms. Nawaz writes that “the administration is sending a murky message about vaccines to the world at large and putting vulnerable students and staff at risk, not to mention the wider Montreal community.”

Meanwhile in the North…

Yukon University is requiring masks to be worn by all persons present on all of its campuses. This includes all hallways and public areas, as well as in all classrooms or meeting rooms where physical distancing is not possible. Anyone not wearing a mask will be asked to comply or leave the premises. The university also stated that it will not be mandating vaccines at this time. “Throughout this pandemic, the situation here in the Yukon has not mirrored the rest of Canada. By following the guidance of the CMOH [chief medical officer of health], and through the ongoing diligence of the YukonU community, we have thus far avoided a COVID outbreak at any of our campuses.”

Cases on campus

Wilfrid Laurier University is reporting one case at its Waterloo campus.

Trent University is currently reporting one case. The student was last on campus on Aug. 22 and did not access public indoor spaces.

The University of Toronto has also reported one case at its St. George campus.

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