COVID‑19 procedures and protocols for Fall 2022

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COVID‑19 procedures and protocols for Fall 2022

Posted by Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic on August 11, 2022 in News

MEMORANDUM

To:                   The Dalhousie University community

From:               Frank Harvey, Provost and Vice-President Academic

Date:                Thursday, August 11, 2022

Re:                   COVID-19 procedures and protocols for Fall 2022

The following memo summarizes planned COVID-19 procedures and protocols for Fall 2022, including:

·       Our strong and ongoing commitment to providing in-person learning experiences for our students this fall. Dalhousie will continue to prioritise in-person learning in all Faculties, Schools, Departments and programs, and will work to ensure best practices for staying safe and healthy as we deliver on this important commitment to our students.

·       Masks will be required in all indoor classrooms and instructional spaces, supported by the high-quality ventilation standards set throughout the pandemic. Masks continue to be welcome in other indoor spaces and are strongly recommended in libraries and learning commons as well as gathering spaces where physical distancing may be difficult (for example, hallways, lobbies and elevators).

·       All members of our Dalhousie community are expected to stay home when sick. Dalhousie has procedures in place to support students, faculty and staff in doing so.

Overview of our approach

Input from our COVID-19 Science Advisory Council, which includes several of Dalhousie’s leading experts in disease research and epidemiology, has informed our approach to procedures and protocols for the fall, with all options and health risks carefully considered. The increased transmissibility of post-Omicron variants means the virus now circulates in our broader community, but strong vaccination rates continue to limit serious illness and related health risks.

At this point there is no need to establish a vaccine mandate or re-launch our Campus Check system. Faculty, staff, and returning students are largely vaccinated and we know from the university's work last year that vaccine uptake is very high. Vaccinations are readily available to individuals who decide to receive the recommended booster doses. The guidance on our vaccine mandates may change in the next few months depending on COVID-19 epidemiology and whether the updated vaccines offer better protection against infection.

Students will be required to follow provincial health authority policies for vaccination to participate in learning activities. Student in the Faculties of Health, Dentistry and Medicine will receive additional guidance from their faculties on requirements for confirming vaccination status.

As we have done throughout the pandemic, we continue to consult closely with Nova Scotia Public Health and are prepared to re-implement enhanced COVID-19 safety measures during the fall term and beyond if needed, including but not limited to vaccine requirements and enhanced mask protocols.

Safer spaces – Masks required for the fall

As we return to fully in-person instruction in the fall, Dalhousie will be resuming mask requirements in all indoor instructional spaces during scheduled teaching time effective September 1 until at least the end of the fall term. Students in music classes where it's necessary to remove face masks in order to properly learn (voice, wind instruments, etc.) are asked to keep masks on in class when not actively training. Outdoor learning spaces, such as the fields on the Agricultural Campus, will not require masks.

This direction aligns with Nova Scotia Public Health’s continued strong recommendation that people wear masks in large indoor gathering spaces. Our instructional spaces and classrooms are the most significant and critical indoor spaces in which we gather. Given the expectation that COVID-19 spread will continue this fall, requiring masks in these spaces is a simple but significant step we can take to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission in our classrooms and allow participation in in-person learning more safely and comfortably (including those who may be immunocompromised or live with those who are). As was the case previously, instructors or other presenters (student presenters, etc.) may remove their mask while lecturing if they can fully maintain two metres of distance from all others.

Masks continue to be required at Student Health and Wellness clinics in Halifax and Truro and in other health-care contexts and settings on campus (Dental Clinic, Dal Physio Clinic, etc.). The Faculties of Medicine, Health, and Dentistry may have additional health and safety protocols to follow in accordance with provincial health authority policies designed for health-care spaces. Students can expect additional guidance from their Faculties in the coming weeks.

While mask wearing will remain voluntary in other campus spaces such as residences, athletic facilities, and research labs, masks are strongly recommended in libraries and learning commons as well as gathering spaces where physical distancing may be difficult. Lastly, if you are meeting with someone, either in a private office or shared work or campus space, remember to ask if they prefer that you wear a mask.

We continue to recommend three-ply face masks if possible.

In addition to masks, our classroom safety is also supported by the extensive ventilation review work that has been undertaken over the past two years. This included a review of ventilation in every learning space (600+) to ensure all met required standards for air exchange, guided by engineering best practice as well as with COVID-19 guidance from specific ventilation and facilities groups. Our office spaces typically allow for more distance between people than classrooms, but we have also made investments to increase air quality through additional ventilation systems in these spaces.

Staying healthy and avoiding infection

We’ve learned a great deal through the pandemic about what it takes to avoid infection from COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. Dalhousie will continue to actively promote and encourage these best practices across our communities during the fall term:

·       Stay home when sick. Don’t come to campus if you feel unwell and seek out testing.

·       Respect people’s space. Keep your distance when possible or requested.

·       Wear your mask. Bring your mask to the classroom and wear it — and we encourage everyone to wear a mask on campus.

·       Get vaccinated and boosted. Protect yourself and others by staying current with recommended shots as they are made available to you.

·       Follow hygiene best practices. Wash your hands and take advantage of widely available hand sanitizer when you’re out-and-about on campus.

·       Be a good neighbour. Respect our shared community, on campus and off, by following rules and recommendations.

We also encourage everyone in our community to review Nova Scotia Health’s guidance on “Protecting Myself and Others” for more information on how to stay healthy and avoid infection from COVID-19 and what to do if you have symptoms or test positive.

Policies and procedures in the event of illness

All members of the Dal community

·       Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19 should stay home (not attend classes or on-campus work) until they are no longer infectious. Even though self-isolation is no longer a Public Health requirement, we continue to ask our Dal community to make the right choice and stay home to avoid bringing COVID-19 and other illnesses into classes, workspaces and campus services.

·       Everyone is strongly encouraged to exercise caution in their activities while absent: maintaining appropriate distancing from others; following standard hygiene best practices; following Public Health guidelines for mask-wearing. For more information on what to do in case of infection, visit the Nova Scotia Health website.

Student illness

·       Courses and coursework: Students are to follow your course and/or program’s policy for student illness and missed classes, including the Student Declaration of Absence process as applicable. Where that process applies, all instructors are encouraged to use it to support students who need to miss class time or course requirements due to COVID-19 illness.

·       Residence: Recognizing that residences are students’ homes, our mask mandate will not extend to residence buildings at this time. Masks will continue to be strongly recommended and welcomed in residence, and our Residence Life and Student Health and Wellness teams will continue to support students with the tools they need to make good health hygiene choices (including providing test kits for students living in residence who are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms). More information will be shared with students moving into residence in the weeks leading up to move-in.

Employee illness

·       Employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 should refrain from working on campus. Employees who are able to work from home are encouraged to do so if they are feeling well enough to conduct their work. If an employee is required to miss work due to COVID-19, they should take sick leave in accordance with the provisions of their collective agreement or handbook.

·       In instances where a COVID-19-related absence exceeds five (5) working days, the employee and the supervisor should engage with Accessible Employment and use available leave banks (sick leave, vacation, time accumulated, family illness leave, if applicable) as per the relevant collective agreement or handbook.

·       The university will continue to provide up to four (4) paid sick days for employees who cannot work from home and who are not covered by leave provisions under a collective agreement or handbook, or where the employee has exhausted all of their existing sick leave. The purpose of COVID-19 paid sick leave is to provide some relief in the form of paid sick days for temporary, casual, Grant-Paid, and student employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are ill and unable to work remotely.

Accommodations

·       Students, faculty and staff whose circumstances require them to seek out a longer-term disability or human-rights accommodation related to COVID-19 are encouraged to do so.

·       Students should contact the Student Accessibility Centre.

·       Faculty and staff should contact Accessible Employment.

Dalhousie is committed to the health and safety of everyone who works, studies, and lives at our university. We all can take great pride in how our Dal community has stepped up to meet that commitment over the past two years — from our incredible vaccination rates through to the broader collective effort to create a supportive, compassionate campus environment. Let’s lean on what we’ve learned these past two years to help our campus and our community stay healthy and well this fall. Please continue to visit dal.ca/coronavirus for the latest information and guidance.

Sincerely,

Frank Harvey

Provost and Vice-President Academic

Dalhousie University is located in Mi'kma'ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi`kmaq. We are all treaty people.

We recognize that African Nova Scotians are a distinct people whose histories, legacies and contributions have enriched that part of Mi’kma’ki known as Nova Scotia for over 400 years.

Edit, September 6: Language around employee illness updated for clarity.