Charlotte Yates: Great. Hi, everyone. I think I’m live. And I’m looking to get a signal from my office that I am live. But I want to welcome everybody. I think from what I can see we have 354 attendees at the event. Welcome to the University of Guelph Town Hall. And I do want to say thank you for coming. It just shows how much interest we have, but also, we all share our concerns. And so, let me say – first of all – I welcome all the Vice Presidents who have joined us who will be part of the Q&A, and in particular, I welcome Dr. Tenenbaum, who is joining us today from Guelph-Wellington-Dufferin Public Health to provide us with some information coming out from public health. So, let us start with a territorial acknowledgement. As we gather virtually, I encourage us all to take a moment to reflect on the lands on which we reside and those that connect us as part of the University of Guelph. Guelph resides within the lands of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum and on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit.
We recognize the diverse and many communities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples who call these lands home today. Through this land acknowledgement and our actions day to day and as an institution, we reaffirm University of Guelph commitment to decolonization and reconciliation with indigenous peoples and lands. Last week, many of you will have noticed that the flags on our campus remained at half-mast one hour in honor of each of the 215 children whose remains were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Our hearts are with the families of those children, members of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation and with Indigenous communities across the country.
We are committed to continuing on a path of decolonization and reconciliation. And I want to reaffirm that commitment today, guided by the university’s Indigenous Strategy recently adopted by the Board of Governors. I also want to mention our hearts and thoughts are also with the loved ones of the four family members whose lives were taken in an Islamophobic attack in London, Ontario, just a few days ago. As we mourn, we must redouble our efforts towards reconciliation and our actions against racism. So, now let me turn to the subject of today’s Town Hall.
As we begin, I do want to acknowledge all the remarkable work that you’ve done throughout this entire academic year. And it’s remarkable that we’ve been so far apart as a campus for so long. We face many, many challenges, unlike – I think – any that we’ve faced in the history of the university. And I want to say and I’ve said it before, and you may get tired of hearing it, but I am proud and thankful to all of you for your resilience, your passion, your support for the university and for the community that is the university that has been demonstrated every day in the work that you do. You’ve adapted to online learning environments; you’ve helped move classes and students services to remote formats; you’ve held office hours virtually; you have kept our campus healthy, clean, safe.
Your research has pivoted often to fight the virus or to minimize the impact of the pandemic on your important research. And you’ve checked in with your peers, our students, colleagues to make sure that they are all right. Despite these setbacks and difficulties, and I know that we all have the scars from this last 15, 16 months. We’ve also continued in our mission to improve life and to improve the lives of our own community and to those around the world. I want to thank you for your contributions, and I want to recognize the incredible collective effort that it’s involved. Our goal today in the town hall is to provide you with a better picture or at least a more up to date picture of the health and safety measures in place to continuing protecting the health and safety of our community.
I want to thank University of Guelph’s four vice president. Vice presidents Gwen Chapman, Malcolm Campbell, Daniel Atlin and Sharmilla Rasheed, as well as Dr. Tenenbaum from the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, for being here to help answer your questions. While we do, do our best to provide complete answers, we will be capturing notes and we’ll answer your questions on our COVID-19 website. As information becomes available, I will say we received a lot of advanced questions. And so, we will be trying to respond to some of those. And we’ll be bundling those to make sure that we provide you with our responses. And of course, I’ll be monitoring the Q&A to make sure that I’m able to pose those questions. As you know, the pandemic can and has been changing rapidly. So, we will continue to seek guidance on our plans from public health. And by provincial regulation for the fall throughout the coming weeks and months.
I want to assure you that I think we have ample time for questions. But there are many areas which I believe are top of mind. In fact, I know many of you have posed these questions to us today, but previously, and as we get the information, we provide you with updated information. Unfortunately, as it does evolve, it does mean sometimes those answers change with time. We’ll do our best today to cover the topics of class enrollment, vaccinations, campus ventilation, and other important issues. I want our community to know that we are working closely with public health experts to implement health and safety measures in accordance with our current understandings of best practices. And we are listening to our community and community members and attempting to respond to your concerns.
Finally, we encourage everyone who is eligible for vaccination to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Since March, U of G has hosted a community COVID-19 vaccination center in the University Center. The community clinic, we’ll wrap up later this summer, but this fall vaccinations will continue to be available at our Guelph campus for faculty, students and staff. We’re currently vaccinating between 1000 and 1200 a day here on campus. We’re committed to facilitating vaccinations for our international students who may have been vaccinated out of the country. They have had a single shot out of the country or may not have had access to the vaccine before they arrived. We are providing and facilitating those vaccinations.
And, of course, we want to thank the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, Guelph Family Health Team, and U of G staff and volunteers for making this clinic run so smoothly. For anyone who has been here they will know the amount of effort, time and care involved by everyone from U of G, from the Family Health team from public health has made the vaccination center of success. So let me now turn to introducing Dr. Tenenbaum. Alongside our health and safety measures, our continued efforts at communication and cooperation will ensure that we have a successful Return to Campus. And of course, I see many of you in Zoom calls. I do see some of you when I’m on campus, which is regularly now, but I do look forward to more face-to-face interaction in the weeks and months ahead.
So, if I can, I will turn us over to Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, who is the Associate Medical Officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. Dr. Tenenbaum has been working with the health unit as a Physician Consultant since September 2018 and was appointed Associate Medical Officer of health in January 2019. Through this role, he works to ensure public health services in the region are impactful and responsible and responsive to local needs. Over the past year and more Dr. Tenenbaum, Dr. Mercer and the entire team at WDG Public Health have provided us excellent guidance that has helped us keep the University of Guelph community and the broader region safe and well. Dr. Tenenbaum. We are grateful for your support over the past year and a half, and that you have made time to offer your expertise this morning. So, I welcome you and I understand you do have a presentation for us. So, I’ll turn the mic over to you. And I believe that you’ll be put into the live mode. Thanks, everyone.
Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum: Thank you very much introduction Dr. Yates, thank you to everyone from University of Guelph who’s here today, including faculty, staff, students and other people who are connected to the campus community. I’m Matt Tenenbaum. And I’m the Associate Medical Officer of Health. And I really appreciate the chance to connect with you to share some updates about COVID-19 and vaccines, talk a bit about where we could be going in the coming months. And also fill questions that you might have that are quite understandable, given the constantly evolving situation. We’ll do our best to share the most recent up to date information we have and give our best sense of what to expect, with understanding, of course, things will change, and we’ll constantly be updating our information and our guidance. So, I’ll just walk through a little bit of the slides that I have on here just to kind of set the tone. But I do expect that you have lots of questions, and I look forward to answering them as we get further into the hour we have together.
[Slide 2 of PDF on screen, displaying a graph of daily new cases from February 2020 to June 2021 with peaks in January 2021 and May 2021.]
So, I usually like to start whenever I speak with people on the Zoom or Team calls, by just establishing where we have been with the pandemic, looking at the Ontario lands to start. We know that we began with the pandemic measures in last winter of 2020 and we had that first lockdown in the spring. Then things seem to relax over the summer as our case counts went down, we had a reopening process. And then we actually had to have some further restrictions because of rising cases in our second wave this past winter. And then again in our third wave this past year. We know that each wave has had its own characteristics. Each wave has had its own impacts. And of course, the numbers you see in the graph here reflect the impacts COVID-19 has had on people’s lives, people’s well-being, illnesses, hospitalizations, deaths, and certainly COVID-19 has had an impact across all of our community.
We’re now entering the phase on this sort of far side of the third wave where things are coming down quite nicely, things are looking more optimistic, which is, I think, quite fitting for the summer months we have and the warm weather and sunlight, we’re going to have in the weeks ahead. But we aren’t quite out of the woods yet, we aren’t down to zero, certainly. We aren’t quite down to where you were last summer. But things are heading in the right direction. And I think it gives us a sense about where we could be going in the summer, if things continue to work well as they have been over the past few weeks.
[Slide 3 of PDF on screen, displaying a graph of daily new cases from February 2020 to June 2021 and key indicators, including confirmed cases, total tests and test positivity.]
When you look specifically at our community, at Wellington, Dufferin, Guelph, we have a dashboard in our website where we have similar kinds of charts and graphs. That also show some of the key indicators that we use to understand the level of risk in our community, and the guide to public health measures that we recommend or that we implement ourselves. What we’ve been seeing recently is that our number of cases has been coming down, we’ve had a significant number in the April to May peak of our third wave. But that number has fortunately been coming down on account of all the protective measures that people in our community have been taking things like staying home wearing a mask, washing their hands, etc.
And people in our community taking those measures seriously has made a difference. Our cases are coming down quite nicely. Our reproductive number, which is a sense of the rate of growth of the pandemic is below one, which is a great sign. It means that we’re not on a growth trajectory right now. And things like our test positivity, the number of tests that come back positive, is also on its way down. These indicators are all reasons to be optimistic. We know we are certainly not out of the woods yet, and things can still change. And we’re carefully monitoring all these indicators. But right now, things seem to be in a good direction as we enter the early summer months. And we’re hoping that they’ll continue to stay that way as we go forward from here.
[Slide 4 of PDF on screen, displaying mask, washing hands and physical distancing as strategies to prevent COVID-19.]
Now, I know you’ve probably heard from us before, about the kinds of things we’re asking them to do around controlling the pandemic. And in some ways, it’s old hat, and you’re probably sick of hearing about it from us. But we know what kinds of things work when it comes to fighting a pandemic. And those are the things we have been talking about. Things like maintaining physical distancing from others, things like wearing a mask whenever you’re in close contact or indoors, staying home when you’re ill, making sure that you’re using well ventilated spaces, getting tested if you’re not feeling like yourself, and you’re feeling like you have symptoms. All of those things are things that we began doing way back in the beginning. They helped us control the first wave, the second wave and the third wave, because they work.
And they’ve had significant impact. They’ve also had significant toll. We know that, of course, a pandemic and all the measures have disrupted normal life. It changed the way we operate our university, for example, and so many other places in our community. And these measures while they’re effective, they do come at a cost to individuals, to family and to society. We are optimistic right now because on top of the measures we’ve always had, we have a really new and important tool in our tool belt, which is of course, the COVID-19 vaccines. And we’re hoping that while the measures we’ve been using to date, are going to help us manage as they have over the past. The vaccines are going to be something we add on top to help us get out of the pandemic over the medium to long term. And we’re going to use them to help us improve and stay in a better place as a community.
[Slide 5 of PDF on screen, displaying percentage of WDG community who has received first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines – 75% of 18+ population has at least one dose and 14.2% of 18+ population is fully vaccinated.]
We launched our vaccine program at the beginning of this calendar year at WDG, and we’ve actually made incredible progress. We are now at a point where over three quarters of the adults in our community have received at least one dose of vaccine. And a significant fraction of them have also received their second dose. We’re working our way, of course, towards immunizing as many people as possible with both first and second doses. And we’re trying to make the best that we have of the supply of vaccine that’s available to us. For many weeks, we have some challenges as a country and as a province with our vaccine supply. But we are now at a place where we have plenty of vaccine, working with partners, including partners at the university to make sure we’re able to scale up our immunization efforts and get vaccines into every arm, that’s willing to receive it. And that is going to help us get out of the pandemic. And we’re now in a place where we’re pleased to say we can offer vaccines to almost everyone in our community, certainly everyone over age 12.
[Slide 6 of PDF on screen, displaying percentage of WDG community who have received first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines by age group]
Tracking our progress in a different way, we actually have the ability to look at our vaccine uptake across different age groups. You’ll see that the uptake has been highest among the oldest age groups, which reflects the fact that we began prioritizing vaccine for people over 80, people over 70, people living in long term care homes and retirement homes. And as our supplies increase, we gradually moved our way down. And recently we began immunizing young people, people aged 12 and up, 15 and up, 20 and up, because we know that vaccines are approved and safe for all these different age groups. And getting as many people immunized as possible is going to be critical to controlling the pandemic and eventually working your way out of having to deal with COVID-19. So even though the younger age groups aren’t as high in those bar charts as the older age groups, we’ve made incredible progress over recent weeks. And we’re going to be continuing to get vaccines in arms for all these groups as you move into the summer and into the fall.
[Slide 7 of PDF on screen, displaying a chart showing the efficacy of the various vaccines after the first and second doses with information sourced from https://health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/publichealth/coronavirus/docs/vaccine/COVID-19_vaccine_info_sheet.pdf.]
Fortunately, we’re in a position where we have multiple vaccines. And fortunately, all those vaccines are incredibly effective. Of course, no vaccine is perfect. Nothing is 100%. But the vaccines that we’re relying on right now, the vaccine from Pfizer, the vaccine Moderna, they’re incredibly efficacious. The clinical trials have shown that they have well over 90% efficacy, meaning that in the trials the effectiveness that they found when they compared people who brought the vaccine to people who haven’t gotten the vaccine, we know that the earlier you get the vaccine, the more protection you get, the more time your body has to build up that immunity over time. And we know that getting vaccines into arm sooner helps to reduce the risk of transmission. More people we have in our community with one dose or two doses, the better, we’re able to control the pandemic, less transmission is happening. And then even for those who aren’t vaccinated, yet the lower risk they face.
We think that having the vaccine uptake has been critical to some of those public health indicators heading downward, we want to make sure that we continue to get vaccines into arms so that we can keep those numbers heading down and staying down as we go through the summer and the fall.
[Slide 8 of PDF on screen, displaying graphs showing the efficacy of the vaccines against the Alpha and Delta variants of COVID-19 with information from https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.05.22.21257658v1.]
We also know that these vaccines are safe and effective, not just against the kinds of COVID we’ve been dealing with recently, but the kinds of COVID that are coming up on the horizon, You probably heard a lot about the Delta variant which is a new variant that we’re concerned about that is we think more transmissible than the COVID that we’ve been dealing with to date. What we do know and we have to be quite concerned and take this very seriously, and practice all those other measures we’ve been talking about. But getting the vaccine is still the right choice, even in this new context.
We’re learning a lot about the vaccines in the context of this new variant. But it does look like after you get two doses, this vaccine and these vaccines we’re using are still incredibly effective, even against this new variant. Again, while we still have to be concerned and take it very seriously and practice public health measures, getting a vaccine will still offer you good protection based upon the best data that we have, right now.
[Slide 9 of PDF on screen, displaying statistics on ‘breakthrough cases’ with information from https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-epi-confirmed-cases-post-vaccination.pdf?la=en.]
We also have other data from looking at people who have gotten the vaccine over recent weeks. We know that among people who have become cases of COVID-19, very, very, very few of them are among those who have gotten the full vaccine series.
And these so-called breakthrough cases are incredibly rare. Public Health Ontario, which is our provincial public health expertise body did an analysis they released last month in May, where they looked at people who became cases of COVID-19 in the province. And among those cases, how many of them are unvaccinated? How many them had gotten a partial vaccination series and how many of them had gotten their full two doses? And what they found was that the risk really, really does drop off when you get that first dose, and then again, they get a second dose. And it was less than 100th of 1% of all the cases who got COVID-19 after getting their second dose. So it is an incredibly rare thing. It does happen sometimes. But this is further bolstering our understanding of these vaccines work and they should give us confidence that they’re going to help us end that endemic in our community.
[Slide 10 of PDF on screen, displaying chart on provincial reopening plans based on vaccinate rates and restrictions with information from https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario#section-0.]
You may have also seen that the province has released its provincial reopening framework where they actually tie the reopening of different parts of society and the kinds of things we’re allowed to do to vaccination metrics. We know that as we get more people immunized with first doses, more people immunized a second doses, that’s going to make all of us safer. And it does make sense to relax some of the measures in place across the province as we get those numbers out. So getting your vaccine not only protects you, but it also helps to contribute to this effort, of eventually getting back to a post pandemic normal. And we are looking toward these indicators as we begin relaxing measures, knowing that it’s going to depend both on the vaccine uptake, but also on things like our case count our outbreaks, other public health indicators of concern that we can make sure we’re reopening safely as we do that.
[Slide 11 of PDF on screen, displaying information on how to register for a vaccine through WDG with information from https://wdgpublichealth.ca/register.]
Within WDG, of course, I mentioned we are offering the vaccine to everyone right now aged 12 and above. Like in our community, you can sign up for our registration website, that wdgpublichealth.ca/register. When you go in there, you add your information and we contact you typically within a couple of days, inviting you to sign up for your appointment. We do have multiple large mass vaccination clinics that are offering thousands of appointments per day, every day that they run, and we’re able to get many doses into arms as a consequence of that. And on top of the mass immunization clinics that we are running and the partners are running, you can also access the vaccines to primary care providers like your pharmacies. We are trying to make the vaccine as easy to access as possible. So they can get vaccine doses into arm as quickly as we can, knowing the impact they’re going to have. So please, if you haven’t gotten the vaccine and you haven’t signed up yet, please do so as long as you’re aged 12 and up.
[Slide 12 of PDF on screen, displaying graphics with various reasons people may choose to get vaccines that are part of the #ForYouForMeForWDG campaign.]
Of course, thinking about getting the vaccine, I’m sure we all have our reasons why you want this pandemic to end. We can all think about things that are meaningful to us about how the pandemic’s impacted the way we live our lives. And we in public health and talking to people in our community about the importance of reflecting on what your reasons are, regarding the vaccine, how it will make a difference in your life, how it will allow you to do things that you can’t do right now. The quotes on here are some of the things we’ve heard from members of the community. And some of these things may resonate with you. We are asking you, if you’re thinking about whether or not to get the vaccine to think about the impact it can have to keep yourself safe, your family safe, your friends safe, your community safe, and how it will contribute to us getting back to normal. So we ask you please, please reflect on this and think about what it would mean to you to get the vaccine.
[Slide 13 of PDF on screen, displaying a list of steps that can be taken to control COVID-19.]
Finally, there are a number of things that you can do now and in the coming weeks to make sure that as we go towards the fall, we’re able to enter the beginning of the academic year with as much safety as we can. We know that controlling the COVID-19 risk on campus is largely about controlling the risk in our broader community. A university is not an island because we all are in this together. And getting our numbers down across all of Guelph and the broader area will help make the community safe. Things we can do right now to help reduce that risk for the fall. First of all, getting vaccinated, as I mentioned, it’s critically important. Reduces your risk, reduces risk to those around you.
And we’re also asking everyone to keep following those public health measures we’ve been talking about for ages, wearing a mask, keeping physically distance, staying home and getting tested if not feeling well. And of course, following all the other provincial guidelines as they apply. Until we do get to a better place, I do think we will get to a place where we are able to further relax these things and get back to an even closer sense of normalcy. But until we get there, please, please, please do keep practicing these things. And we will try and get those case counts to stay down as best we can, until we do have vaccines available across all of our community at a level that we feel really good about it. So I’m going to stop there. It’s a really brief overview. But I understand you’re probably have lots of questions. And I hope to be able to answer them all today. So, thank you very much.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks so much, Dr. Tenenbaum. That was a really valuable and highly informative. I’ve already had several texts from people saying how useful it was. So I want to say thank you. And now I know that we’re keen to get to some of the questions. So I just want to explain to everyone we’re going to try and address the pre-submitted questions, we did receive a lot, we’ve grouped some of them together. If we don’t get to all of them, we will provide answers on our COVID-19 website. Similarly, if you have a question that you can put in the Q&A section of the website for the team’s live event, we’ll again try and get to those questions. We won’t get to all of them. So we’ll cover as much ground as we can.
And as I say, we’ll post answers where we’re either unable to answer or we don’t have the time today. And I will be directing the questions whether sometimes to Dr. Tenenbaum, sometimes to the team and to the team of VP. So let’s start with a question that’s come up on many occasions and I will ask our Provost Gwen Chapman to answer this: “how likely is the university to return to in-person classes in the fall? What proportion of classes will be delivered online versus in-person?” So over to you Gwen.
Gwen Chapman: Thanks. Thanks, Charlotte. Thank you. And thank you for that question. So, we are certainly very optimistic at this point, even given what we’ve just heard from Dr. Tenenbaum. What we’re seeing with the numbers is that we do believe that, with the safety measures that we will have in place that it will be safe to be offering a significant number of our courses with face-to-face activities in September. So, at this point, we’re anticipating that at least 60% of our courses will include face-to-face activities, some of those will be fully face-to-face classes, some will be what we might call a kind of a hybrid class, for example, it might be remote lectures, and face-to-face labs, or tutorials, or some kind of alternating between face-to-face and remote.
But we do anticipate that at least 60% of our courses will have those face-to-face experiences, so that students will be on campus and we’ll be taking courses. We are looking at all of the safety measures that we need to put in place to do that safely, and one of the things that we’ve decided is that we are putting a cap of 250 students for face-to-face sections, this will allow us to reduce the density in our classrooms so that they won’t be as crowded.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much, Gwen. And I do know that there is posted on our website, kind of a lot of details about the fall return. And so, you may also want to go back to that because I know a lot of thought and care has gone into addressing this issue, which is of course of absolute critical to our return in the fall. So, the question I’m seeing in the Q&A: “A number of other universities have advised that all students in residence must have had their vaccine. This is a question we’re being posed. I know that to date. You’re strongly encouraged everyone to get a vaccine. But I would like to understand if you plan to mandate it, and if not, why not? Thank you.”
So, this is a live and active issue with the executive team. We, at the moment, are not required that vaccines be required for students entering residents. We have developed a special communication campaign to encourage the students through their peers to get the vaccine. We did have the result of a survey of those students that are planning to come into residents, I believe, and Dr. Chapman can correct me if I’m wrong, about 98% of the students said that they intended to get the vaccine if they were going to live in residence. So, at the moment, we’re using suasion, lots of public communication. But this is a live issue. As you will have noticed in the last week, a couple of additional institutions have required vaccines.
So, I would say, this is an ongoing source of discussion at the moment, we feel fairly confident that a large number of people will have their vaccines. We also have plans for if a student comes here having had one vaccine, we are making provisions on our campus to provide them with that second vaccine, and similarly for international students. But this is an ongoing issue, which we’ll make sure to communicate to the campus. Let me turn to the next question, and this is again to Provost Chapman. “Will the university provide quarantine accommodation for international students coming in the fall? And what are the big kind of requirements for international students coming to Guelph?” And you may also Dr. Chapman want to call on Dr. Tenenbaum on this for the public health regulations?
Gwen Chapman: Yes, thank you. Yes. So, we are offering the mandatory quarantine for our students, our international students who are coming. These students do need to quarantine upon arrival in Canada. We offer transportation, accommodation and food. All of those components are in accordance with the public health guidance or guidelines. And so, all of the students who need support during the summer of this year as well as the fall semester will be provided with that service. We do have a website that has details for international students who are looking for the quarantine program. When they arrived, they do have to stay, currently for the three-day hotel stay mandated by the federal government, they then will get transportation to Guelph and either be staying in our residence for the remainder of their quarantine with their testing, unless they have appropriate other accommodation developed. So, I don’t know if Dr. Tenenbaum wants to add to that.
Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum: Thanks, Gwen. I’ll just say I know that when it comes to the quarantine people entering the country, this is something that there are likely to be changes. There’s the current program, the government already made some changes, and they make other changes, in part reflecting vaccination status or other indicators of risk. And in the previous year and a half we’ve been working together with University of Public Health, we have found the support that the university provided to supply those accommodations for students has been incredibly important to helping to control the pandemic in our community. So, thank you for doing that.
Charlotte Yates: Thank you. So, the next question I’ll direct to Vice President Rasheed: “What steps are being taken to improve the ventilation in buildings on campus?”
Sharmilla Rasheed: Thanks, Charlotte, for that question. I know this is a very hot topic as well and a very live discussion here at all levels of the campus. So, what we’re doing right now, our physical resources are continuing to monitor and maintain the campus indoors environment. We’re bringing in much outdoor air into the ventilation system as much as possible as we can. We’re continue to use the highest rated filter possible for the buildings were also performing the air purging before and after occupancy and increasing the relative humidity in the building to a minimum of 40%. We are working with public health recommendation as well as industry standards for HVAC system in campus. We also brought in an external consultant company to help us to go through all of the classrooms and assess on how the HVAC systems are performing and things that we need to do to look at the airflow measurements.
We’re setting ventilation targets throughout all of the buildings that are in line with the Health Canada, Public Health Ontario as well as HVAC industry’s guidelines. There are lots of details on this on our COVID-19 website as well as Return to Campus. We’ll link to the PR’s site as we continue to make changes and improving things. I will encourage you to look at those and if you have any specific concerns to reach out to us, but it’s an ongoing thing here at the campus that we’re working on daily to ensure, as Dr. Tenenbaum said earlier, that ventilated spaces are key in preventing the virus from spreading through airborne so we’re working on that very diligently and we’re working with all of the experts on this.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much, and I may as well stick with you, Sharmilla, around the question around parking that’s come up. “What can people expect when they come to campus in terms of paying for parking and parking availability?”
Sharmilla Rasheed: Thank you, Charlotte. There is a memo that recently came out for parking and we’re looking at several theories of parking right now where you can buy your monthly passes as usual and based on a coded or system for… Depends on how close you are to certain buildings. So, there is a tier system and that parking ranges from maybe $75 to $155. There’s also cashless payments and parking service accounts payments, virtual permits, daily permits to allow folks who are only going to be here one day a week, two days a week or need a full month parking. So, there’s several options that are available for parking. But what I would say is that we are reinstating parking in September, but we have several options for our staff, faculty and students to look into. Lots of that information again is on Return to Campus link website and very easily to access. If you have any specific question again, I will urge you to look at it and then reach out to physical resources to answer those questions, but we’re looking at several options to assess.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much. So, on this question, I will refer to Dr. Tenenbaum because it really has to do with vaccine supply and a little bit about our own clinic. So, the question is: “Will a second dose be available to the wider community and not just the select groups as is the case right now, well before September so that we can safely teach on campus?”
Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum: So right now, we have been prioritizing second doses within our community. That’s one of the areas in our province that is being expedited for second doses, given some of the emerging concerns about a Delta variant. So, we have that context, as you enter the summer. We know it’s critically important to get second doses into as many arms as quickly as possible. And certainly, get those second doses into arms before weather begins to get cooler again, and spend more time indoors this fall and coming winter. The other piece going to the supply side is recently our supplies of vaccine have been much better than they have been over the winter and early spring, we’re expecting they’ll continue to stay at high levels over the summer.
We don’t know in certainty and of course, unexpected things come out that can challenge that. And if that happens, we’ll make the best use of the doses that we have. But if we are continuing to get good vaccine supply, we will have our clinic operating at high levels and at large scales. And we’ll be getting secondary effects into as many arms as possible. Right now, we are focusing on everyone age 12 and up because we know that’s the age group for whom we have authorized vaccines. We may be able to offer them to younger ages based upon approval that may happen this summer or fall for pediatric vaccine products. But we’re going to be offering first and second doses to absolutely everyone who will accept it to make the best use of our available supply.
Charlotte Yates: So, I will say as well just to be reminded that those who work at the University of Guelph are eligible to be vaccinated in Guelph. So as a result, this is something to be aware of, and that you can in fact use the University of Guelph as your address, in recognition that many of you will be here on a regular basis, this is your primary work area. And so, that is additional information that may be helpful as you try and navigate where and how to get to a second vaccine. So, let me move on to the next question, which has to do with positive case management.
And here I will ask Sharmilla Rasheed, who is the Chair of our Campus Contingency Planning group, but then, I think probably really relying on Dr. Tenenbaum. “What will happen when a student, staff, faculty, or administrator tests positive for or comes down with COVID, who has been interacting widely on campus? What will be the university response to notify exposed people? And what are their responsibilities including with respect to their family?” So, I don’t know whether we should turn first to Dr. Tenenbaum. This may actually be a question he can answer rather than us internally, since we don’t do our own contact tracing. But so maybe start with you, Dr. Tenenbaum.
Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum: Sure, thank you very much. This is of course, a very salient question as we enter the coming academic year ahead, but also something where we have experienced in the pandemic to date. We’ve had experience working with the University on case and contact management when we’ve had to, and that’s worked really well in the past. And whenever someone tests positive or COVID-19, we consider that person to be a case. We consider the time period where that person would have been at risk of amping the infection to others. And we work when we find out about a case to gather information from that individual about where they were, who they interacted with during that time period. And we make sure that we find out who those contacts were, so that we can follow up with them. But that individual who’s a case, we also make sure that they’re isolated, we typically say that for the 10 days following someone’s developing symptoms or 10 days after their test, they should be in isolation. They’re interacting with as few people as possible, ideally, interacting with no one else during that time.
And that helps limit further spread. We have that person isolating. We look for their contacts, the people they interacted with, make sure they’re also isolating, making sure they’re also getting tested, making sure that they are aware of the signs and symptoms they’re there for. Those are kind of our key interventions in public health. When it happens in the context of university, we’ve had experience working with the university to make sure that adequate supports are provided, making sure that someone who’s on campus, if they live on campus, they have somewhere to isolate safely. We have support so that they’re able to stay in isolation and get the thing to need to stay safe during that time.
We work with the university to figure out if there are areas of risk, groups of people who need to make sure we’re reaching out to and doing so. I know earlier in the pandemic we did have an outbreak that happened on campus. Of course, no one wants to ever have to deal with an outbreak on campus. But when it came up, we worked really effectively with the university to figure out who the cases were, who the contacts were, making sure everyone who was a case or a contact was exploiting appropriately and being adequately supported. As a consequence, we were able to effectively control that outbreak. As we enter the coming year, if that happened again, we would operate upon the same principles in strong collaboration with the university.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much Dr. Tenenbaum. Maybe I’ll leave that there. We have so many questions. I’m going to turn back to you Gwen. Here’s the question: “Do you have any idea of what we can expect for clubs and student experiences in terms of in-person events? Will all student run events be virtual?” I don’t know if you can answer that. But it is something important to, of course, student life on campus.
Gwen Chapman: Absolutely. And yes, we’re actively planning a number of student events, certainly starting or including our orientation week, which will have a number of in-person activities for our incoming first year students. Because our second- year students have really not been on campus, we are also having a special orientation week as a second-year experience for those students. So, we will be looking to welcome all of those students back to campus with a number of in-person activities on campus. There will also be some virtual events as part of orientation week. We’ll certainly be following the public health guidelines, adapting as needed to be safe and compliant. And those orientation week schedules will be available in August. First year students should be looking at our startonline.ca website for more information. There are a number of activities that will be available to them in a number of ways to connect.
And second year students there’s a Start Here for Second Year page for them. In terms of student groups, student groups are also hosting a number of activities. At the moment, those will primarily be virtual activities, as long as there are specific public health guidelines in place. We do have a Return to Campuses Student Experience Advisory Committee that includes representatives from the CSA, the GSA, college governments, other student clubs. It’s chaired by our Vice-Provost Student Affairs. So, there is a process for student groups to apply to organize events on campus. It’s managed by Student Experience and the leadership team. And as I say, for the most part, those will be virtual activities for the time being.
Charlotte Yates: I might add to this and bundle one of the questions also into this, Gwen. And this is regards placements. One of the questions is, “My program involves practical placements, will placements go ahead as usual or do I risk losing this experiential component of my time at Guelph?”
Gwen Chapman: I think, it’s difficult to answer that sort of across the board, because it will depend on what kind of placement the student is looking for. But, certainly, even over the last year, we have managed to find other ways of offering experiential learning to our students through virtual means. I expect that a number of our practical experiences will be able to return to face-to-face experiences over the fall. It really will depend on the program, the type of experience it is, but we will be looking to ensure that our students do have the opportunities for experiential learning. We will be having in person labs in the fall, as well as other hands-on experiences for our students.
Charlotte Yates: Thank you very much. So, I’m going to just take the next question, which is: “will we have to wear masks on campus this fall? Will we have to physically distance this fall? If I’m vaccinated, why do I need to wear a mask and keep distant?”
So, I’m going to answer this with, we are guided by public health in this at the moment. We listen, we work very closely with public health and at the moment, yes, we do require masking indoors. And if you’re not able to socially distance outdoors, as well. As those recommendations evolve, the university will be looking at how its own policies and practices will evolve. I should remind people that at the moment, the university does not collect data on whether you were fully vaccinated or not. And so, for us, it is not possible for us to ascertain whether you were fully vaccinated or not. And therefore, we would prefer to say everybody must socially distance and mask in the event that we’re not making that kind of data collection on campus. I don’t know if you have anything to add Dr. Tenenbaum.
Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum: I will just add that I think there will come a point in time where we are able to stop wearing masks. Stop physical distancing. We certainly aren’t there right now. We’re going to be looking at our vaccination coverage, our other public health indicators, looking at emerging evidence to guide us as a system in terms of knowing when to begin rolling back some of those recommendations and requirements. I expect we’ll have more to share over the coming months about exactly that question. And that will inform the planning for the fall.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much. So, it’s evolving, we will keep you posted. We will continue to post any updates. I am going to kind of bundle a couple of questions here to our Vice President of Finance and Operations, Sharmilla Rasheed, and as well as there’s a piece of this for the Provost. “If a student, faculty or staff member are uncomfortable coming to campus, can we proceed to work and study remotely?” Linked to this, “how will the university accommodate students who do not wish to Return to Campus in the fall due to concerns about a potential seasonal outbreak, new variants, loosening restrictions?” So, for the first piece, I will turn to Sharmilla Rasheed about the overall operations of the campus, and then I will turn to our Provost around how the learning environment will respond to this. So over to you, Sharmilla.
Sharmilla Rasheed: Thank you, Charlotte. Thanks for that question. So, we understand, and this is all over the world, that the pandemic did give us a lot of challenges but also give us a lot of opportunities. And one of the opportunities is really how do we envision the post-COVID University to look like? And how do we use our space to learn, work and live. And so, one of the things that we have been working on is looking at what does work life for faculty and staff look like, and the essence is still also meeting the mission of the university in terms of academics, research and the student experience. But also cognizant of envisioning the post-COVID University. So, we understand there is a need to look at flexible work life going forward. And what we embarked on to work on is a flexible work policy. We looked at it for the non-academic staff. I know there was something that went out for faculty from the Provost’s
The policy will be employee driven. There has to be a need for a flexible work-life balance for them and they need to work with their leaders. So, it will give some flexibility in terms of telework, but cognizant of the fact that operations still need to carry out for the university and we need to meet our mission. Employees need to work through that with their managers or leaders. What the policy looks like right now is at most three telework days each week but with at least two days on site. But, of course, those things you will work out with your leaders, it is an employee driven not employer driven. As we move forward into the future, we will be looking at a post-COVID university and how we utilize space and how we envision that to be and whether we have a remote work policy and what that would look like. But for the moment right now, we did come out with a flexible work policy for non-academic staff. And that went out this morning.
Charlotte Yates: Gwen, over to you for both students and faculty.
Gwen Chapman: So certainly, as I said earlier, we’re anticipating that at least 60% of our classes will include face-to-face components. And we do expect that students who are registered for those courses will attend on campus. There will be some courses, we always offer distant education courses, and there will be some fully remote courses. And so those will be available to students who are not planning to come to campus or not wanting to come to campus at this point. However, students may not be able to progress with all of their program requirements, because not all required courses will be available that way.
We will be accommodating students as we always do, students who are registered with the Student Accessibility Services. We will be accommodating those students as per our normal policies and procedures. As well as students who are ill, we will accommodate them through our policy and academic consideration. And so there may be some international students who are expected to be on campus. But if they can’t attend at the beginning of the semester due to visa delays or travel restrictions, we will be looking to facilitate those accommodations. Those students would need to be in touch with us.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much. And just a very quick question for a quick answer to you Gwen Chapman: “is there a chat group for first year students to start networking with one another?”
Gwen Chapman: I’ve just been texting back and forth with our Vice-Provost, Student Affairs to find out. We’re not sure if there’s a specific chat group, but I hear that, yes, new students can access Microsoft Teams using their central login to participate in first year chats and program groups throughout the summer. So, I’ve just learned something new.
Charlotte Yates: Thank you. So over to, I think, it will be Sharmilla Rasheed. “Will all amenities be available to students in residence – laundry, restaurants, etc.?”
Sharmilla Rasheed: Thanks, Charlotte. Yes, all amenities will be available on campus and in residences. However, I will say, however, there will be some capacity and public health guidelines for the operations.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much. So, the next question, I think probably Gwen and or Sharmilla might be able to answer, both in regards to residence. Will residence be open for all students? What safety measures and restrictions will be in place? So, I’m not sure which of the two of you would like to answer that question.
Gwen Chapman: I can start, and if Sharmilla wants to add some things, but certainly our residences will be open for all incoming first year students who put in an application and a deposit before June 1st. We’re guaranteeing residence rooms. We are still accepting some late applications and will continue to make additional offers, as space allows. We will be using single and double rooms for the fall. And so, students who have applied will receive an email if they want to add a roommate to their application. We are in consultation with public health to ensure that we’re in compliance with all of the regulatory requirements and best practices to protect the safety of students. And so, I think, I will leave it at that. We will, of course, be adapting as already has been discussed around things like masking, and so on. Considering what the public health guidelines are at any given time.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks, is there anything to add to that, Sharmilla?
Sharmilla Rasheed: Just one thing is that the spaces are guaranteed for first year students, but we will continue to accept applications throughout the summer, until we’re completely filled. So, if we have second year students, etc., who are interested, they should get their application in as soon as possible.
Charlotte Yates: Thank you. There was another question that. Oh, very quickly, Gwen Chapman: “will the library be available for students to use as a study space?”
Gwen Chapman: Yes, it will be. Absolutely. And, again, following any guidelines that are in place regarding physical distancing, we will also be looking to have study spaces available in places like the University Center, Summerlee Science Complex, and so on over the fall.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much. So, I will say there’s a question on…It repeats one but a little bit of a different version, but I’m just going to provide a quick answer. And over the past year remote working is effectively maintaining operations. Many individuals prefer remote working. Is the university working on a policy for the option of an ongoing working at home scenario to offer faculty and staff? If so, what might this look like? Right now, we are introducing a flex work policy, which is different from a remote work policy. And as we proceed with returning to campus, then we will look at what the options are and where, kind of, we may work on additional policies as well.
Let me see, there is, let me see, I think, Dr. Tenenbaum. I’m going to combine a couple. There is a question around…are there more… And there’s a couple of questions I’ll ask you. Are there more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine coming for second doses? Because, of course, some people have had a first dose. It’s been a little bit more difficult, challenging for people to get their second doses. What studies have been done regarding mixing vaccine types? Are there any long-term concerns about this and how would we even know about the possible long-term issues?
Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum: I’ll take those one at a time. So, the first issue of AstraZeneca supply. We’re continuing to get more supply of that vaccine for those people who’ve already gotten the first dose who want a second dose. We aren’t offering it for first doses anymore, but for those who already had a first dose and want a second dose of that vaccine, you should be able to access it with the provider who gave them their first dose, typically, the pharmacy or primary care provider. In general, our supply of that vaccine is a little bit less certain. So, it may not be as available as other vaccines, but it should be available in the coming weeks and months. We know that people may choose to get a second dose of that vaccine or choose to get a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, which is the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. And that’s typically what we think about when we’re talking about mixing and matching vaccines. There are a number of studies that are going on right now looking at that question.
There are studies in the UK, studies in Spain. There’s a study that’s going to be starting up in Canada as well. We don’t have all the data on that yet. But what data we do have so far suggests that people who get one dose of one, a second dose of another, they generate very good immune responses. Looking at things like their antibody levels, for example, it’s an indirect indicator, but it does suggest that it works quite well. And that’s something people should think about when they’re deciding which option is best for them. I will mention it’s not unheard of for people to have different kinds of vaccines in a series together. We’ve used it for other vaccines. For example, people who get the flu vaccine every year, they sometimes get a different vaccine product every year. And that is totally okay and, in fact, encouraged. And we know that sometimes we get different kinds of vaccines, it can actually help stimulate different parts of the immune system and give you a broader protection. So, it does align with our usual way of doing vaccines. And it is an option out there in this context.
Charlotte Yates: So, I’m going to ask you one final question, then I’m going to make some final remarks. We’ve got three minutes left, and that is, “with more and more people getting vaccinated, will we begin to see less variants?”
Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum: So, I think the answer is both, yes and no. I think that, in general, in order for variants to arise, they arise because people are sick and the more people who are sick and spreading, the more chances COVID has to change. These variants arise because COVID changes through natural processes. And the more common COVID is, the more chances it has to do that. So, if we control COVID, we’re able to reduce that risk. I say yes or no, though, because it isn’t just about what’s happening in our community but what’s happening around the world. And as long as COVID is a problem anywhere, it is a threat everywhere. And that speaks to the importance of vaccination measures not just in our community, or Ontario or Canada, but globally. And we won’t be able to fully exhale or fully feel better about that risk until we know the entire globe is safe.
Charlotte Yates: Thanks very much for that answer. So, we’re at 12:58pm. We’ve had a really great crowd today. It always seems so quiet compared to when we would do it in person. But if we were doing in-person we wouldn’t need to have this question-and-answer session. So, I want to say thank you all for submitting your questions both written and at the moment and for taking the time to attend today. I do hope having our own public health expert, Dr. Tenenbaum, join us today helped answer some of your questions. I know this is an evolving situation. I know that when we can’t give you the final, final word on questions like “will we have to do masking in the fall”, and so on. But we’ve had more and more confidence around the availability of vaccines, your ability to get a first and second vaccine before the fall and our planning, whether it be around ventilation. We didn’t get a question today. But we’re having a plan. We’ll be releasing a plan on ventilation, rapid testing, and so on.
So everything is focused on making sure that we are safe and healthy on campus, but also that we are able to return to campus as the University of Guelph’s signature experience is partly about the community on campus. I do want to say thank you to Dr. Tenenbaum, for coming today. You’ve invested so much time, not just today, but in keeping the university and the entire Guelph community safe. I can say on behalf of all of us with tremendous confidence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I want to say thanks to all of our Vice Presidents. They work hard, as do all of you, every day, to make sure that the campus is safe, but also that we do return to some kind of normal in the near future. In the meantime, let’s continue to work together. I want to wish all students, faculty, staff, and of course our community members, a safe, healthy summer, but also with a little bit of time off. So, thank you very much. And hopefully, we’ll see you all soon on campus or in the community. And thank you again Dr. Tenenbaum. Goodbye, everybody.