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Updated safety guidance for fall (masks, vaccination, and living with COVID)

Posted by Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic on August 16, 2021 in News


To:                   Dalhousie students

From:              Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic

Date:               Monday, Augsut 16, 2021

Re:                   Updated safety guidance for fall (masks, vaccination, and living with COVID)


Last week, Nova Scotia Public Health (NSPH) approved a revised framework for universities and colleges for the fall [PDF – login required]. With this approval, we are now making Dalhousie’s full return-to-campus guidance document, based on the framework, available to our university community. Moving Forward: Dalhousie University Fall Return Guidance can be downloaded here [PDF – login required].

We have also updated our safety overview on the COVID-19 Information and Updates website, including more detailed FAQs of some of the most common questions we’ve been receiving.

In this memo, you’ll find notes and updates on select topics, including:

COVID outlook and our return to campus

Restrictions such as distancing, caps on class sizes, etc. will not be required for university operations this fall.

COVID cases have declined significantly in Nova Scotia, with no current community spread and border measures helping contain travel cases. The province’s vaccination rollout continues steadily and successfully, with over two-thirds of the total population fully vaccinated—the highest rates of full vaccination of any province in Canada. And the effectiveness of COVID vaccines is holding strong even against emerging variants: only 0.7% of the 4,200+ cases in the province since March have been in fully vaccinated individuals.  

Despite all this, uncertainties remain, and we know this is still an anxious time for many. It remains our assumption that Nova Scotia will enter the fifth and final phase of its re-opening plan before the start of classes, but we don’t yet know the exact date or details of how broader public health restrictions will be lifted at that point.

Dalhousie is well-positioned to navigate this uncertainty. By building a safety plan around multiple layers of protection, we have the ability to add, remove or modify layers as needed — as we are doing with our mask guidance (see below).

Mask use continuing through September

We are asking everyone to continue wearing non-medical masks in indoor common spaces (including classrooms) for the month of September. This is a shift from our original assumption for September and is in consideration of the significant number of students, staff and faculty returning to campus in September. We believe this direction also encourages everyone to treat masking as a way to be respectful of each other and show our shared commitment to one another’s health and safety.

You can read the FAQ of what this will mean.


Students, as well as faculty and staff, are being advised to be fully vaccinated prior to arriving on campus.

  • Full vaccination is necessary to avoid self-isolation/quarantine requirements for both domestic travelers from outside Atlantic Canada and international travelers.
  • Dalhousie will host on-campus vaccination clinics in Halifax this September, with both appointment bookings via the Nova Scotia vaccine appointment portal and drop-in vaccinations for Dalhousie and King’s students, faculty and staff. Details will be shared in the coming weeks. Arrangements for Truro are currently being explored as well.

Many have asked why we are not making vaccinations mandatory. Our approach to strongly encouraging vaccination for general campus activities is aligned with guidance provided by Dr. Robert Strang and Nova Scotia Public Health which have advised against mandatory vaccine requirements for universities, businesses or other organizations in the province.

Nova Scotia has the highest full vaccination rates of any province in Canada and no current community spread. Of course, the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. Many provinces are exploring the option of “vaccine passports,” and at least one of Nova Scotia’s political parties has raised this as an election commitment.

Although our approach to vaccination remains unchanged, we will continue to evaluate our stance with particular consideration towards future health risks driven by emerging variants.

Living with COVID

Dr. Strang and Nova Scotia Public Health have described the forthcoming final (fifth) phase of re-opening as “living with COVID.” This reflects a reality in which COVID will not completely disappear even with high vaccination rates — we will need to continue implementing strong and effective health procedures. For Dalhousie, this means:

  • Continued availability of asymptomatic testing for students, faculty and staff — including continuing the on-campus rapid testing program.
  • Continuing to follow and support any self-isolation and contact tracing requirements from Nova Scotia Public Health, along with communicating any exposure notifications should they occur.
  • Robust procedures in residence to ensure student safety, including wastewater testing.
  • Cleaning and disinfection continuing at the high standard that existed pre-pandemic, particularly focused on common touch points and spaces, with hand sanitizer readily available.
  • Ensuring accommodations are in place to support students, faculty and staff in the event of exposures and/or COVID cases.

We encourage all members of the Dalhousie community to get tested regularly, even if you are fully vaccinated. If you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, please get tested right away and follow Public Health guidelines. If you live in residence and receive a positive test result, please contact your RLM or Don for support. If you live off campus and are in need of support from Dalhousie, please contact Student Health & Wellness at 902-494-2171 (Halifax) or 902-893-6300 (Truro).

More information

Please visit the COVID-19 Information and Updates page for links to the latest, most up-to-date information about the fall term and returns to campus.

We know that people will have different levels of comfort being on campus, and encourage everyone to show empathy and understanding to other students, staff, and faculty as we all adjust to this “new normal.” While our campuses will be open, there are some support services that will continue to be offered online or by appointment only. Please visit the Campus Services page for an up-to-date list of how services will be offered.

Thank you, once again, for everyone’s incredible patience and commitment to safety as we continue our work towards returning to campus and starting the fall term.


Frank Harvey
Provost and Vice-President Academic

Dalhousie sits on the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq nation. We are all Treaty people.

We acknowledge the histories, contributions, and legacies of the African Nova Scotian people and communities who have been here for over 400 years.