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Return to Campus update: July 2021

Posted by Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic; Gitta Kulczycki, Vice-President Finance and Administration; Alice Aiken, Vice-President Research and Innovation on July 9, 2021 in News

MEMORANDUM

To:                   Dalhousie faculty and staff

From:               Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic
                        Gitta Kulczycki, Vice-President Finance and Administration
                        Alice Aiken, Vice-President Research and Innovation

Date:                Friday, July 9, 2021

Re:                   Return to Campus update: July 2021

After another difficult lockdown, Nova Scotia is reopening and our planning for the fall and return to campus continues with growing optimism. We continue to be impressed by how our Dal community has come together to plan; to support one another and our students; to keep each other safe; and to continue our vital work in the face of uncertainty and challenge. As we approach the fall, all that hard work is paying off. Thank you for all you do.

This memo includes updates on the following topics:

Safety planning and expectations for fall

As we’ve communicated previously, Dalhousie has been working with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE), Nova Scotia Public Health and our peer institutions on a postsecondary (PSE) return-to-campus framework.

However, the speed of vaccination and rapid progression of milestones in Nova Scotia’s re-opening plan has changed the parameters of our planning. The province is expecting to reach its Phase Five target (75% fully vaccinated) before September, which would allow many existing restrictions to be lifted this summer. Conversations with both LAE and Public Health suggest we can expect significantly fewer restrictions this fall than initially anticipated by the postsecondary framework.

As a result, all parties have agreed on a revised approach that will allow greater institutional flexibility around more general health and safety protocols, allowing universities to lift restrictions in alignment with Public Health guidance rather than a sector-specific PSE framework.

What this means for Dalhousie:

We are in the process of preparing an overview of our expected safety approach for September, based on this updated information, that we will share as early as next week. In general, though, our community should expect that many of the measures we have been living with throughout this pandemic (masks, distancing, barriers, etc.) will no longer be required. There will be very few exceptions to this general rule that we will outline in subsequent communications.

We appreciate everyone’s patience as we work through this changing landscape and continue to collaborate closely with Public Health and LAE to ensure a safe, successful fall term and return to campus.

Return to Campus process and resources

Based on conversations with Faculty and admin unit leaders about their return plans, most departments and units expect to increase their on-campus presence through the late summer and into the fall. Many are also planning to use the fall as a pilot period to take the opportunity to try out new ways of working using hybrid models of physical attendance on campus.

As noted above, our current expectation is that Faculties and units will be able to safely return to relatively normal on-campus operations in coming weeks, as befits their individual return plans and aligned with individual Faculty/unit priorities including service excellence and employee experience.

To that end, we have concluded our Return-to-Campus approval process and, effective immediately, will transition management of the return process to individual Faculty and admin unit leads. Leaders will be responsible for aligning their activities with the latest Public Health guidance and will not be required to submit their return plans to the Return to Campus committee for approval. Individual Faculty or admin unit leaders are responsible for communicating details of their return plans to their faculty and staff.

We are updating the internal Return to Campus website (login required) to serve as the main repository for faculty and staff return-to-campus information and support. Resources will be available for both Faculty/unit leaders as well as individual faculty and staff — including safety guidelines, flexible work guideance, ventilation notes, who to contact for specific questions/information, etc. — with additional documents and planning resources being added to the site regularly.

We are also discontinuing the COVID19@dal.ca email for general inquiries and advise everyone to direct questions or concerns either to your Faculty/unit leader or the appropriate support unit.

Return to Research: Expanded return scheduled for July 14

As was communicated to our research community last week, we are planning to expand research activity when Nova Scotia enters Phase Four of its reopening plan, currently expected to occur on July 14, 2021. Provided this occurs as expected, we will transition management of the expanded return approval process to individual Deans and Department Heads at that point. Once this transition begins, the previously-established three-step R2R approval process will be suspended.

Deans and Department Heads will be responsible for assessing and approving any new returns into research spaces, including requesting assessment of research space by Environmental Health & Safety and Facilities Management (if required) and maintaining any current ventilation-related occupancy restrictions that were applied to previously approved research spaces through the R2R process.

Travel

University-funded travel remains suspended until July 31, 2021.

As of last Wednesday, Nova Scotia is now open to travelers from the rest of Canada with self-isolation requirements based on vaccination status. For more information, visit https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/travel/

Starting Monday, July 5, the Government of Canada has begun implementing exemptions for fully vaccinated travelers who meet specific conditions, including pre-entry and arrival testing. For more information, visit the Government of Canada website. International students should consult with Dalhousie’s International Centre on their travel plans.

Blended learning resources for instructors

The Online Teaching website has been updated with new resources and guidance for instructors interested or planning a more blended approach to their courses this fall. Visit the Online Teaching website to learn more.

Vaccination and public health guidance

As we expect Nova Scotia’s COVID restrictions to continue to change significantly between now and September, please pay attention to the latest guidance from Nova Scotia Public Health and visit novascotia.ca/coronavirus for the most up-to-date information. We are also keeping our own Dalhousie COVID-19 Information and Updates website updated on a regular basis. Please encourage students to visit the site — specifically, our summary at dal.ca/fall2021 — for more information regarding the fall term.

Finally, we encourage all faculty and staff who have not yet received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to book an appointment today, and for those who are awaiting their second dose to rebook for an earlier appointment if you haven’t already done so. Note that for those of you in Halifax, if you are 18+ you can receive a first dose without an appointment at the Halifax Convention Centre walk-in vaccine clinic, and if you are 35+ you can get your second dose without an appointment there as well.  

We appreciate vaccination is a personal decision every faculty or staff member will make on their own, and that there are differing views in our community about the topic — from those with concerns or hesitancy about getting vaccinated to those who want us to mandate vaccination for everyone on campus. Our approach is to strongly encourage vaccinations, because our plans for returning to campus would not be possible without the strong uptake we’ve seen from Nova Scotians in getting vaccinated and the proven international success vaccines have had in helping slow the spread of COVID-19. That is why you will see us actively encouraging vaccination to our entire Dal community in the weeks and months ahead (including in a memo to students this week). You can learn more about Canada-approved vaccines at the Government of Canada website.

Sincerely,

Frank Harvey
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Gitta Kulczycki
Vice-President Finance and Administration

Alice Aiken
Vice-President Research and Innovation