Health and Safety Overview — Fall 2021

The latest plans for September and beyond

The health, safety and well-being of our Dalhousie communities has been our paramount concern throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with safety measures guided by the latest and best guidance from Nova Scotia Public Health. That remains the case for Fall 2021 as Dalhousie prepares to re-open safely to our students, faculty, staff and community members.

Nova Scotia’s universities are aligning their plans for the fall with the province’s re-opening plan. Nova Scotia hopes to reach its vaccination target for population immunity (75% fully vaccinated) and enter the final phase of re-opening by September. This does not mean COVID goes away at that point. We will all have to continue to live with the virus for some time: monitoring emerging variants, getting tested regularly, and working to protect unvaccinated groups (particularly children under 12). But widespread vaccination will significantly diminish COVID’s ability to spread among the population at large, meaning strategies to control and contain the virus will change and many public health restrictions Nova Scotians have been living with through the pandemic will eventually be lifted.

Below, you will find our most up-to-date outline of what we expect will be in place for September, subject to change based on updated restrictions or guidance from Nova Scotia Public Health.

Vaccination will be encouraged, promoted and available. It will not be required to be on campus.
  • Helping support the success of Nova Scotia’s vaccination campaign is essential to the success of our collective re-opening.
  • Vaccinations are widely accessible near each of our campuses.
  • Out-of-province or international students who are not fully vaccinated prior to arriving will be able to get vaccinated free-of-charge once they arrive in Nova Scotia.


All faculty, staff and students will be encouraged to get tested regularly for COVID. We are also planning specific testing (including wastewater testing) for residences.
  • Asymptomatic testing is an important part of Nova Scotia’s strategy to identify and limit further outbreaks of COVID-19.
  • Dalhousie expects to continue on-campus asymptomatic testing for students, faculty and staff, building on the pilot program launched this summer.
  • Based on Dal research led by Dr. Graham Gagnon, we are working to test residence wastewater to detect potential infections in our residence community, allowing us to quickly encourage testing and reduce any potential for spread.


Mask requirements will be lifted in alignment with public health guidance, though masks may be required in select settings and will continue to be encouraged for general protection from airborne disease.
  • We expect Nova Scotia’s mask mandate will be lifted at some point (possibly before September), which would mean non-medical masks or face coverings would no longer be required in most settings (ie. common spaces, lecture halls, etc.)
  • Masks may still be required by individual programs or university functions for particular safety reasons — any such requirements will be communicated by individual Faculties or units.
  • Masks can be worn in all settings at Dalhousie where they are deemed safe to wear (ie. if the masks themselves do not constitute a hazard, such as when working with pyrophoric materials, arc-flash concerns, etc.).
  • Mask use will be encouraged for anyone concerned about protecting from the spread of not only COVID but other communicable diseases including colds and flus.


Distancing restrictions will be lifted in alignment with public health guidance.
  • We expect most formal distancing requirements in Nova Scotia to be lifted at some point (possibly before September).
  • Barriers, plexiglass or other dividers will only be required in spaces where they were required prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some front-facing services may still choose to install or maintain plexiglass barriers for extra protection from communicable diseases.
  • Where appropriate and feasible, Dalhousie will strive to continue to provide extra separation in office and classroom setups given the proven benefit that even minimal extra separation has shown in protection against communicable diseases.


We do not expect significant gathering limits to affect Dalhousie activities.
  • Based on Nova Scotia’s phased reopening plan, we expect any gathering limits that may remain by September will have minimal impact on normal Dalhousie activities this fall.



Ventilation is being reviewed in learning, research and admin/office spaces, with improvements and alterations being made where required.
  • Dal’s Facilities and Environmental Health & Safety teams have reviewed ventilation in every learning space (600+), with remedial activity taking place over the summer as warranted (53 learning spaces). This includes alterations to some ventilation systems and, in other cases, installing Hepa Filtered Air Purifier Units to help clean and recycle air in tandem with operable windows (if possible)
  • Over 165 individual Return to Research requests have been assessed for adequate ventilation with remedial action taken where necessary.
  • Based on the building ventilation information derived from the assessment of the research and learning spaces, guidance for office and general spaces will be provided to unit leaders to assist with their return plans.
  • The majority of Dalhousie buildings have mechanical ventilation systems that will be operated in a manner that maximizes the use of outdoor fresh air and the rate of indoor air exchange.
  • High efficiency air filters will be employed widely on systems that are designed to recirculate air within a building and will be inspected and replaced on a regular schedule.


Cleaning and disinfection will continue at a high standard, and good hand-washing hygiene will continue to be encouraged.
  • Cleaning and disinfection will continue this fall at the high standard of cleaning that existed pre-pandemic, particularly focused on common touch points and spaces.
  • Hand-washing hygiene will be promoted in washroom spaces and hand sanitizer will be made available over 700 locations across campus.


We will continue to support our community in its return to campus with the same care and compassion as we have throughout the pandemic.
  • Dalhousie has a very robust accommodation program that has been key in compassionately responding to individuals requiring assistance in dealing with the impacts of the pandemic on their work and studies — this will continue this fall.
  • Human Resources has new guidelines for flexible work arrangements to support leaders, supervisors and employees in considering and/or managing flexible working arrangements.


In the event COVID-19 cases do occur, we are prepared to support those who are sick and help keep our community safe.
  • We will work closely with Nova Scotia Public Health on contact tracing and support in the event of COVID-19 cases or exposures related to our university community.
  • Dalhousie has a strong plan in place if a student in residence becomes ill during the school year.

Additional measures/layers may be added to our safety plan should they be deemed necessary.

Faculty and staff looking for more information to support return-to-campus planning should visit the Return to Campus internal website (login required).