March 11: Update on COVID‑19
To: The Dalhousie University community
From: Teri Balser, Provost and Vice-President Academic and Ian Nason, Vice-President Finance and Administration
Date: March 11, 2020
Re: Update #3: COVID-19 - New travel restrictions, updated university planning info
This email is the latest in our regular communication with our community about COVID-19 (2019 Novel Coronavirus).
There are currently no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and the risk in Canada/Nova Scotia remains low at this time.
Prevention and preparedness remain key advice:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water (download this poster from the Province of Nova Scotia on handwashing tips)
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue (throw the tissue away)
- Clean high-touch surfaces and objects often
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- If you have been outside the country, closely monitor your health for 14 days and if you start to feel unwell stay at home/self-isolate away from the public. If you then develop fever, with a temperature 38°C or higher, and/or cough, call 811 for assessment.
Today, the WHO declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic. The Public Health Agency of Canada and Nova Scotia Public Health remain the best source for up-to-date information on this rapidly changing situation. More information including answers to some Frequently Asked Questions can be found at dal.ca/coronavirus
Updated travel advisory
In light of the evolving situation regarding COVID-19, and in addition to existing travel restrictions outlined in Dalhousie’s International Travel Policy, the university has decided to:
- Cancel all international field courses until September 2020; and
- Cancel all other student, faculty and staff travel for university purposes to ALL countries with a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) travel health notice related to COVID-19 at any risk level (1-4 inclusive).
The list of countries subject to a travel health notice is kept up to date by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Please review this website prior to booking travel or embarking on future trips as the situation is quickly changing and the list of countries subject to a travel health notice will likely expand. Students are encouraged to contact the International Centre with questions.
The university also understands that individuals may not be comfortable to proceed with university travel even though a travel health notice has not been issued for their destination. Please be assured that the university will work with all individuals to minimize both the impact on students’ academic careers as well as the associated financial impact for faculty, staff and students of cancelling travel.
Upon returning to Canada, all travellers should monitor their health for fever, cough and difficulty breathing for 14 days after arrival in Canada. If you have these symptoms, contact the public health authority in the province or territory you are in. All travellers returning from locations where increased health notices exist should consult with their local public health authority (811 in Nova Scotia) immediately and self-isolate for 14 days upon return to Canada.
Because the international spread of the virus is rapidly changing and unpredictable, a reminder to all individuals with upcoming travel plans to monitor the Public Health Agency of Canada website for changes to travel advisories.
University operations and response
Currently there is a low risk level in Nova Scotia and operations at Dalhousie largely continue as usual for now outside of travel advisories and restrictions. Classes and campus events are proceeding normally. In line with public health recommendations, Facilities Management Custodial Services are implementing increased prevention and control measures in their cleaning practices to emphasize disinfecting and cleaning of all high contact points and surfaces. We are responding to inquiries or issues from our community as they emerge, working with students, staff and faculty both abroad and on campus to ensure support and counsel is available when required.
We appreciate many in our community have questions about what might happen to university operations should the situation in Nova Scotia become more serious. The university continues to monitor the evolving situation and is carefully considering the impact on university activities, operations and events. Dalhousie has processes and plans in place for dealing with emergencies including communicable diseases like COVID-19. Precautionary planning is currently underway to ensure we are prepared in the event a more robust university response becomes necessary.
This planning is being led by a set of cross-departmental teams:
Several of these groups and teams have been meeting regularly in recent weeks, and all are now engaged and working through the Executive Management Team.
Our highest priority remains the safety and well-being of all members of the Dal community. We will continue to provide updates as our planning continues and advise should circumstances require further changes to university operations.
Other news and updates
- Public Health Agency of Canada and Nova Scotia Public Health remain the best source for up to date information on this rapidly changing situation. Please continue to visit dal.ca/coronavirus for more detailed information as we will be adding frequently asked questions as they emerge.
- This situation can represent a stressful time for students and others in our community here in Canada who may have families/friends around the world affected by this outbreak. The university has a number of supports for students through Student Health and Wellness in Halifax and in Truro as well as for faculty/staff through the Employee and Family Assistance Program. The International Centre teams in Halifax and Truro are also available for support. Contact information for all of these can be found at dal.ca/coronavirus
- We have also undertaken a social media campaign through our Dalhousie University channels to keep our community up-to-date and to also share best prevention practices like frequent handwashing, as an example.
- We were pleased to receive news late last week of three Dalhousie researchers who have been awarded $1.9M in total funding for COVID-19 research from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) addressing support for point-of-care clinicians, social implications of the disease and addressing stigma. Read more about this on Dal News.