One week from today, the University of Guelph will welcome people back to in-person classes. It’s about a week later than originally planned in December, but it’s a return to campus at a time when health authorities are hoping that the worst of the Omicron wave is in the rearview mirror. Still, the senior leaders of the U of G are confident that they’re ready to deal with people on campus again in the safest possible way.
“It is becoming clear that COVID-19, in various forms, will be with us for the foreseeable future,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Charlotte Yates, and Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Gwen Chapman in a joint statement. “Our strategy for navigating the pandemic as it moves toward the endemic phase will remain rooted in evidence-based decision-making that considers the physical and mental well-being of all community members. We will focus on preventing serious illness and hospitalizations, not on counting positive cases.”
As noted above, all in-person classes resume on Monday January 31. There have been some in-person classes since the start of the semester for courses that require hands on learning like labs and studio art, but all lectures and seminars have been remote since the beginning of the semester earlier this month. Some in-person components will be phased in for students starting today depending on the course.
For people who work on campus, at least the ones who work directly with the U of G’s student population, Monday means back to school for them as well. Other staff members at the university who have jobs that don’t exactly need them to interact with students will be brought back to campus gradually as pandemic conditions improve.
One of the biggest changes for everyone returning to campus is a modified mask mandate, anyone coming to campus is asking to trade in their cloth mask for a medical-style mask, pointing to a Health Canada statement that medical masks ensure better protection against spreading and catching COVID than cloth masks. Medical masks will be available for purchase at cost at the University Bookstore.
“As we return to our campuses, we will work together to prioritize the prevention of severe health outcomes by relying on proven public health measures, notably high vaccination rates,” the Yates, Chapman statement added. “Vaccination is one of our most effective tools for managing COVID-19. At U of G, 96 per cent of our community is fully vaccinated, and in the city of Guelph, 85 per cent of the eligible population (age 5 and up) is fully vaccinated, higher than the provincial average. These high vaccination rates help ensure a safe return of in-person work and learning.”
The U of G says it will continue to monitor public health conditions and the COVID-19 case count and respond to new developments in order to keep campus as safe as possible.
An executive team from the University of Guelph will be holding a virtual town hall along side Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer on Thursday January 27 at noon.