Eduvation Blog

No Breakfast, No Fun, and No Break from COVID19

Good morning, and happy Monday!

I can tell from your autoresponses that many of you are enjoying some much-needed summer holidays. Be sure to get some R&R now, because while the coronavirus “doesn’t take a vacation,” we’re almost certainly going to have a tough year ahead of us.

Today I round up some helpful recent perspective on the scope and likely duration of this pandemic, the challenges of containing transmission, and the chaos already happening in American education. Many are anxious, some are resigned to catching the virus on campus, and others can look forward (?) to the option of posthumous degrees.

Meanwhile in Canada… Laurentian has suspended admissions to 17 programs (without consulting its Senate?), StFX is requiring students to sign the waiver and return to campus or be “deregistered,” and Bishop’s is hiring students as part-time “COVID Ambassadors.”

Oh, and apparently early risers are NOT welcome at St Thomas U, where food services have cancelled breakfast this year!

The Endless Pandemic

Canada’s PHOs anticipate a second, larger wave of the pandemic this fall, and ongoing ripples well into 2022 – and possibly forever after…

Global Cases Still Surging

Global COVID19 cases are continuing to rise rapidly, even though testing has slowed in some of the worst-hit regions. The WHO warns that there is “no indication that there is seasonality with this virus.” (Flu surges in winter because the virus prefers cold, dry conditions with low levels of UV light, people spend more time indoors, and our immune systems may be weakened by lower levels of vitamin D.) Huffington Post

Reasonable Worst-Case Scenario

On Friday, Canada’s Chief PHO, Theresa Tam, provided a “reasonable, worst-case scenario” forecasting an even larger second wave this fall, followed by “peaks and valleys continuing into 2022 that would at times exceed the public-health system’s capacity to manage.” The best-case “slow burn” scenario will see “continuous low rates of infection into 2022.” Globe & Mail

Pandemics become Endemic

When the COVID19 pandemic finally does subside, it looks increasingly likely that the virus “is never going away,” but will instead become endemic to humanity. COVID19 is particularly insidious because it is highly transmissible, can jump to animal reservoirs, and up to 40% of infected hosts are asymptomatic. The best-case scenario may be that SARS-CoV-2 becomes a fifth coronavirus, joining the 4 that cause most common colds, circulating annually and occasionally causing serious illness in the elderly. Since live hosts transmit more effectively than dead ones, many viruses evolve to be less deadly over time. Like the flu or the common cold, COVID19 may continue circulating for centuries, but without disrupting our society. The Atlantic

Quarantine Fatigue

Of course, most people can’t take the long view right now. Just 5 months into the pandemic, people of all ages are getting so sick of self-isolating that, as economies reopen, they’re willing to risk getting sick to get back to normal…

Vigilance on Vacation

Ontario’s CMOH, David Williams, is urging continued vigilance during summer vacation and prime beach season: “COVID19 doesn’t take a vacation.” (Although the virus seems to love to travel: announcements are being issued daily of COVID19 exposures on domestic and international flights into Canada.)

Recent Sources of Infection

Originally, travellers from China and New York brought most COVID19 cases to Canada, but the viral hotspots quickly focused on the cramped working conditions in meat-packing plants and migrant worker bunkhouses, and of course the deadliest outbreaks hit seniors’ residences and long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec. Major urban centres were hit first and hardest, while rural regions experienced less spread so long as festivals and campuses were closed. In the 6 weeks since July, though, a Concordia U study has traced 505 Canadian cases to public venues including grocery stores (46), bars and restaurants (30), liquor stores (10), day camps (8), schools and daycares (7). Although they tracked only a single Canadian case transmitted at church, we can expect considerably more from one California megachurch, where 6,000 people have been gathering every Sunday.

A Global War on Fun

Many politicians and PHOs have been blaming more recent COVID19 outbreaks on reckless young people, socializing at private parties, bars and nightclubs. (Canada’s Deputy PHO points to quarantine fatigue, feelings of youthful invincibility, and the shift in social norms because of the reopening of bars and restaurants.) Across Europe, governments are re-imposing restrictions in the face of a second wave, particularly in Spain, France, Greece and Italy. Greece has imposed a curfew on bars and restaurants. UK officials are telling young people, “Don’t Kill Granny,” while police observe that “drunk people can’t socially distance.” The story is similar from South Korea to Spain: shouting to be heard over loud music in crowded indoor spaces creates the perfect venue for airborne transmission. Fraternity parties have been blamed for 47 COVID19 cases at UC Berkeley in July, and many other outbreaks among college football teams across the US.

Partying in Canada

Canada is not immune to the problem. BC has been battling a second wave of COVID19, largely driven by youthaged 20-39, but starting with 2 private Canada Day parties in Kelowna. The PHO has prohibited dancing, but nonetheless mask-less young partiers at a Vancouver nightclub were crowding together last Thursday, dancing and pouring drinks into each others’ mouths. And apparently young people crowded Granville Street and a Vancouver Island neighbourhood on Friday night, shouting and dancing, many not wearing masks. In Ontario, police broke up a Brampton house party attended by 200 people, and at a Toronto strip club last week, 550 people may have been exposed to COVID19 by a single employee who tested positive.

Can Students Contain Themselves?

Faculty, staff, administrators, community members and even some college students have expressed concern or disbelief that undergraduates will respect social distancing guidelines, practice hand hygiene, or wear face masks on campus this fall. “We’re asking leopards to change their spots.” Many expect students to grow more lax about precautions as the term goes on, in off-campus social settings, and of course where alcohol is involved. Institutions are, of course, implementing communication campaigns, distributing hand sanitizer and face masks, demanding behavioural commitments and completion of online training modules. Strategies range from “social norming” in conjunction with student government and peer influencers, to hiring enforcement officers and (in some cases) imposing sanctions on students who violate safety protocols. WONKHE

Queasy and Thrilled at uKentucky

Tens of thousands of students moved back to uKentucky last week, for a term that will (hopefully) run until Nov 24. Within days, police were growing concerned about student gatherings and administrators were reiterating the code of conduct. Many students have apparently already resigned themselves to catching the virus, and expect classes to move online “in the next month or so.” In the meantime, they plan to party while they can. Chronicle

Campus Chaos in the US

CdnPSE can be grateful that, by and large, institutions decided early to deliver the fall term primarily or entirely online. (I know of only 4 exceptions: Bishops, StFX, Redeemer, and Providence.) South of the border, where Republicans have politicized mask policies and pushed for schools to reopen, all levels of education have been playing a game of chicken with the coronavirus…

A Chaotic Start on US Campuses

the school year is beginning amidst astronomical infection rates resulting in last-minute changes of plan. (The Washington Post calls the school year, “chaos coast to coast.”) Public schools in Chicago abandoned their hybrid delivery plans to switch to online. Johns Hopkins reverted to online for the term, as did Columbia,uPenn, DePaul, and many others. Students were left holding the bag for apartment leases, and international students faced new challenges to their study visas.

Many schools that tried to reopen did no better…

Campus Contagion & Quarantine

Public schools in Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and Nebraska are already cancelling in-person classes within days of reopening, due to COVID19 cases among students and staff. (A single school district in Georgia reports>1,600 students and teachers in quarantine, and the state is setting new records for daily deaths.) About one-tenth of the staff and students at Northeast Mississippi CC are already in quarantine, 9 days after classes resumed. At UNC Chapel Hill (where students and faculty staged a “die-in” earlier in the month), 3 outbreaksoccurred in dorms within the first 5 days of the semester, and more than 150 students and 40 employees have tested positive. Within 2 weeks of returning students to campus, Notre Dame found their infection rate rose from less than half a percent to 8%, blamed largely on a single off-campus party.

Posthumous Degrees at Boston U

Just as students began moving back into campus residences, Boston U announced a tone-deaf new policy for the granting of posthumous degrees to students, effective this fall. Officials immediately issued an apology: “This policy is not a result of the pandemic, and we sincerely apologize for the insensitive timing of the announcement.” MassLive

CdnPSE Updates

Controversy at Laurentian over a threat to 17 programs, no change in the waivers at StFX, limited dining options at STU and MtA, part-time “COVID ambassadors” at Bishop’s, and reopening details at uToronto and uWindsor. Plus SaskPoly joins the mandatory masks movement…

Bishop’s U student services and the students’ council are jointly recruiting “COVID Ambassadors,” to work 2 hours per week to support “Protect BU” efforts in social media, events, outreach and community organizing. The job description says it is seeking “difference makers” who “inspire and encourage peers.” BUSRC

Laurentian U has suspended admission to 17 programs this fall because of low enrolment, including Archaeology, Anthropology, Geography, Modern Languages, and Music. The “shocked” faculty association says Senate was not consulted. The university argues that the programs have not been suspended, only admissionsto them. LUFA and CAUT are seeking a judicial review. CBC

Mount Allison U is planning “pop-up barbecues” each week, and a “golf cart food truck” which will also deliver meals to students who are in isolation or quarantine. CBC

St Francis Xavier U is unique in Atlantic Canada for requiring students to return to campus, and requiring them to sign a liability waiver. Legal experts question whether the waiver will be enforceable, because the students are in an unequal bargaining position, but StFX will not be insured against COVID19 losses past December. Residents of the 4 nursing homes in Antigonish are reportedly anxious about the potential for an explosive outbreak. “There is no duty of perfection… it’s always measured on standards of reasonableness.” Chronicle Herald

St Thomas U (NB) will require all students in residence to purchase a $3,995 meal plan this year, with fewer locations, limited hours, and fewer options. “Based on students’ sleep schedules,” STU will not offer breakfast at all this year. CBC

SaskPolytech will require face masks “at all times while on campus” starting Aug 24. Twitter

uToronto’s Athletic Centre will reopen for September with 4m distancing between gym machines, reduced pool occupancy, outdoor fitness classes, and advance bookings required. An eSports league, introduced this summer, will return for fall. Libraries will offer curbside pickup of physical materials (quarantined for 3 days), and physically distanced study areas. Dining services will offer quick service and grab-and-go meals, which can be preordered using a mobile app. Larger seating areas will be reconfigured for “physically distanced eating,” and they are exploring the use of greenspace for outdoor dining (“while the weather is good”). uToronto

uWindsor is preparing for a gradual return to campus. “Classes will be primarily online, and most of our staff and faculty will continue to work remotely — at least for now.” A COVID19 self-assessment will be added to the “SafeLancer” app, a “Zone and Flow” analysis is being done of campus, and students and staff alike will be provided with 3 reusable cloth face masks. uWindsor


As always, thanks for reading!  I hope your week gets off to a great start. Stay safe and be well!


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