Open Letter to U of G Community: Update on Provincial Framework, Safety Measures for Fall

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University of Guelph entrance wallDear University of Guelph Community:

We are writing to update you on new developments, both from the provincial government and from the University, regarding the fall 2021 semester that begins Sept. 9.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Colleges and Universities issued an updated framework for post-secondary institutions that included strong vaccination policies and flexible requirements for physical distancing and capacity limits.

This updated framework, which goes into effect Sept. 7, allows U of G to implement the many plans we have been working on throughout the summer to ensure a safe physical return to campus, including providing in-person teaching and learning and activities that support the student experience.

We have worked closely with our local and provincial public health units, as well as with other health experts and scholars, in developing these plans. We continue to work closely with them as we monitor the fluctuations of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a safe campus environment.

We understand that the emergence of a fourth wave of the pandemic, driven by the Delta variant, is causing uncertainty among some faculty, staff and students. We want to assure you that the University has sound safety plans in place that are consistent with those of other universities. We are taking careful measures to help protect your health and safety; it is our top priority.

We want to remind everyone of our health and safety measures; some key actions are highlighted later in this message. Safety information is also available online, including on the University’s COVID-19 web page.

U of G’s safety and educational plans correspond with the updated Post-secondary Education Health Measures Framework, which was developed by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ministry of Health.

Starting Sept. 7, as instructed by Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, all post-secondary institutions must have COVID-19 vaccination policies in place that include proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or receipt of an approved exemption. The government’s vaccination policy requirement aligns with U of G’s vaccination mandate and exemption plans, which go into effect Sept. 7. Details of the mandate and exemption plans were outlined in an email you received earlier today and are available on the COVID-19 website.

As of Sept. 7, to access U of G buildings and facilities, including research stations, individuals must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Those who have one dose of an approved two-dose vaccine and those with an approved exemption may also access U of G spaces, provided they take part in rapid testing and follow all safety protocols.  Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent outbreaks and protect individuals from negative health outcomes of COVID-19.

Beyond our vaccination mandate, U of G continues to protect the wellness, health and safety of the community in many ways. Public health directives applicable to U of G are established at the direction of Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Dr. Nicola Mercer, the Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph. U of G’s comprehensive safety protocols include:

  • Mandating an institutional vaccination policy
  • Wearing of masks
  • Additional personal protective equipment such as face shields, gloves or safety glasses
  • Signage to direct traffic flows
  •  Adopting a classroom Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning strategy and adjusting mechanical systems (ventilation) to ensure they operate to high quality standards
  • Installing sanitization stations across campus
  • Adjusting cleaning protocols to reflect evolving recommendations
  • Testing wastewater from campus residences
  •  Requiring the completion of COVID-19 safety training modules
  • Establishing a COVID-19 call centre

The provincial framework was also amended to permit flexible capacity limits and physical distancing requirements in indoor instructional spaces, including classrooms, labs and libraries. This aligns with guidance received by universities in mid-July and with preparations undertaken by U of G for the fall 2021 semester.

We recognize that some people are feeling uneasy about beginning in-person instruction so soon after our vaccination mandate goes into effect on Sept. 7. As an added measure to ensure health and safety, we are allowing faculty to choose to teach courses remotely until Sept. 28. These additional weeks will increase the level of protection for our community against COVID-19, including the Delta variant.

U of G will also proceed with plans to reduce density in classrooms; capacity will in most cases not exceed 75 per cent, and we continue to cap classes at 250. In addition, faculty teaching large courses with class density higher than 75 per cent may opt for remote delivery, so long as learning objectives are met through that modality, for the fall semester.

U of G is well positioned to realize its teaching plans for fall 2021, whether courses are delivered in-person, remotely or through distance education. We are taking all the necessary steps to keep our community safe and will continue to make decisions and take actions that prioritize health and wellness and the student experience, with guidance from government and public health.

Thank you all for your patience as we begin a new semester at U of G.