Eduvation Blog

Lockdowns, Letdowns & Leashes

Good morning!

After a month-long hiatus, I spent much of yesterday’s issue summing up the COVID19 infection, hospitalization, and death trends from around the world and across Canada.

Today, let’s turn to the myriad ways in which governments are imposing precautions, restrictions, curfews and lockdowns to try to slow down the pandemic’s momentum. And, of course, the implications for higher education campuses.

Plus, I promise to wind up the issue with some downright funny stories about bad behaviour, and an exciting brand campaign from Royal Roads, #ICYMI!

 

COVID on Campus

CdnPSE reported 9 more cases since yesterday. Nova Scotia universities in particular have reported 5 campus-related cases in the past few days…

Acadia U reported Sunday night a student in residence tested positive. “The case is related to travel.” (1 confirmed case since Sept)  Acadia

Dalhousie U reported a student living off-campus has tested positive. (Total 6 since Sept)  Dal

Olds College has had 4 more cases since my last tally. (Total 10 since Sept)  Olds

Red River College reports a new case at its Notre Dame campus. (Total 17 since Sept)  RRC

uWaterloo reported 2 positive cases of COVID19 on campus yesterday. Neither had “any on-campus close contacts.” (Total: 20 since Sept)  UW

 

Global Lockdowns

The real issue, as always, has been that governments have been too slow to impose lockdowns, waiting until the epidemiological trajectory is already past the point of no return.

 

UK: Third Time’s the Charm?

Back in June, the British government urged the public to “eat out to help out,” spending Ł500M to subsidize restaurant bills – and driving one-sixth of new COVID19 outbreaks in the country. The UK finally imposed a month-long national lockdown on Oct 31, and another on Jan 4 – but critics say that repeated “dilly-dallying” by a “laissez-faire” government has made the UK situation the worst in Europe.

The third national lockdown, starting Jan 4, will last for at least 6 weeks, closing all K-12 schools and colleges for in-person learning “except for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils.” Universities students will not return until at least mid-February.

Scotland is moving university and college teaching online until “at least” the end of February. Students should remain where they are during the current lockdown.

“Why is this prime minister [Boris Johnson], with all the scientific expertise at his disposal, all the power to make a difference, always the last to grasp what needs to happen? The prime minister hasn’t been short of data, he has been short of judgment.”Jonathan Ashworth, Labour Party health critic

 

Second Wave with a Vengeance

Many countries that appeared to have the pandemic under control are now being forced to impose strict lockdown measures.

In the face of skyrocketing infections, Israel has imposed a full national lockdown that will close most schools and nonessential workplaces for at least 2 weeks. (Without the lockdown, projections were for 46,000 new cases daily by February!)

Lebanon is tightening their lockdown with an 11-day, 24-hour curfew starting Thursday. They relaxed restrictions prior to Christmas, hoping to boost the economy, and allowed bars and nightclubs to reopen. Daily case counts are expected to rise beyond the current 5,000 record.

Germany remains under a strict lockdown until Jan 31, and has limited nonessential travel to a 9-mile radius. Daycare centres and most schools are closed, while parents are getting an extra 20 days of leave.

After a year resisting it, Sweden’s parliament just passed emergency legislation, effective yesterday, to permit health restrictions and lockdowns.

Norway has suspended university lectures and imposed a 2-week nationwide ban on serving alcohol in restaurants and bars, and on visitors at home.

Indonesia is imposing new restrictions in parts of Java and Bali.

China has imposed travel restrictions and bans on gatherings in rural villages in the outskirts of Beijing. More than half a million people were locked down yesterday “to stamp out a handful of cases.” One asymptomatic case was a driver for a ride-hailing service – so the government has suspended all taxi-hailing services in the district.

 

Japan Pays the Price

Japan has taken baby steps towards imposing restrictions after declaring a limited state of emergency in Tokyo, until at least Feb 7. Some would say they are now paying the price for “complacency,” depending on facemasks instead of restrictions since May, and introducing a subsidy program (like the UK) to encourage tourism and dining out last fall, through December. Live sports, with somewhat reduced crowds of spectators, resumed in Japan in early October. The result has been surging cases of COVID19 since November. And the Olympics are still scheduled to open in Tokyo in <200 days. (I wouldn’t hold my breath…)

 

US Campuses

We heard yesterday just how bleak the pandemic is, south of the border. The CDC lays some of the blame at the feet of campus administrators who insisted on reopening…

 

Measuring Campus Impacts

A new CDC report concludes that county-wide COVID19 cases increased 56% within 3 weeks when large colleges held F2F classes this fall, but they dropped 17.9% when classes were held remotely.

 

Backing Off on January

UNC Chapel Hill, site of a disastrous outbreak in August that canceled F2F classes, has decided that classes will be online for the first 3 weeks of the winter term, until Feb 8. Penn State plans to keep classes online until Feb 12, while numerous other colleges in Pennsylvania and New York and across the US are moving back the start of classes. The start of the winter term has been delayed until Feb 8 at Syracuse U (NY).

In California, Stanford reported 43 new student cases last week, and cancelled its plans to bring first and second year students back to campus for the winter quarter. (It still hopes to bring third and fourth years back in the spring.)

The uCalifornia system, on the other hand, announced yesterday that it plans to bring most students back to campus for in-person classes this fall. The California State U system, the nation’s largest, made a similar announcement back in December.

 

Canadian Lockdowns

Most of Canada is in the grip of tightened restrictions, but not all…

 

Nova Scotia Eases Up

Despite lobbying from the Town of Antigonish and St Francis Xavier U, among others, the Nova Scotia government has relaxed its rules for mandatory testing of students arriving in the province. In September, arriving students were required to take 3 COVID19 tests during their quarantine; now the PHO merely “encourages” students to get one test, if possible. (Even without mandatory testing, NS universities have reported 5 new cases in the past few days. Students arriving from New Brunswick in particular are now subject to quarantine. International students are particularly frustrated by the requirement to quarantine in a hotel for 14 days, at their own expense, in some cases even if they are paying for their own off-campus apartment.

St Francis Xavier U advised their students of the new NB quarantine requirement, and encouraged students “not to rush their return to Antigonish in an effort to avoid the implementation of this new rule.” Classes will begin online Jan 13, and F2F classes have been postponed until Jan 25 to permit time for quarantine. Students coming from NB were required to arrive no later than Jan 10. Students from PEI, NL or other parts of NS are not to return to Antigonish until Jan 24.

 

“Electroshock” in Quebec

Last Wednesday, Quebec Premier François Legault announced an “electroshock” lockdown for 4 weeks, closing nonessential businesses, imposing a curfew from 8pm-5am, and reducing activity in manufacturing and construction. Nonetheless, elementary school classrooms resumed in-person yesterday, despite polls that find 60% of Quebecers consider it “unsafe,” and over objections from the Provincial Association of Teachers. A recent study out of uMontréal found that schools were a strong vector of COVID19 transmission in Quebec, with infections among children preceding adult outbreaks by a few weeks.

“When you have a case in school, you may have one, two, three other cases at home that are not counted as school cases, but of course they are counted as home cases.”Olivier Drouin, Creator, CovidEcolesQuebec

 

“I really believe think that right now limiting in-person schooling as much as possible would actually be the right solution.”Simona Bignami, Professor of Demographics, uMontréal

 

More than 100 physicians, on the other hand, are insisting the province reopen schools “regardless of the epidemiological situation” to preserve student mental health. (School outbreaks have dropped to zero over the holiday, naturally, but in mid-December they accounted for 30% of all outbreaks in Quebec.) Universities and CEGEPs are being encouraged to offer online learning, as much as possible, and will be subject to the curfew. (See “Bad Behaviour” below for some examples of how the curfew is playing out.)

 

Scary Times in Ontario

Ontario imposed a provincewide lockdown on Boxing Day (Dec 26) for at least 28 days, and last week pushed back the start of in-person elementary classes in Southern Ontario 2 more weeks until Jan 25 – just days after the education minister wrote parents to assure them classes would resume Jan 11 as planned. (Elementary classes in most of Northern Ontario resumed in-person yesterday.) The COVID19 positivity rate among elementary-aged children nearly tripled over December, to 15.66%. (And the new UK variant seems considerably more contagious among children.) The Elementary Teachers’ Federation (ETFO) has called for online learning so long as the province is in lockdown. (And I would agree!)

Although epidemiologists tried to explain the pandemic projections to premier Doug Ford on Dec 21, apparently the reality is only sinking in now. Cabinet heard Friday that Ontario will hit 6,000 new cases daily by the end of January, and that the provinces ICUs will be completely full early in February. Doctors will have to make tough decisions about who lives and who dies.

Ford is expected to make announcements about further restrictions today. Many have been speculating that he will impose a curfew like Quebec’s, but sources deny it. Ontario may re-impose a state of emergency, as it did in the spring, and perhaps order businesses to close by 8pm, or ensure people are allowed to WFH.

“We’re in a desperate situation, and when you see the modelling, you’ll fall out of your chair. There will be further measures, because this is getting out of control.”Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Jan 8

 

Ontario has designated PSE as “essential,” and it therefore operates under different rules than K-12 education or other organizations. Most have announced quite similar restrictions, such as the following:

Algonquin College will allow only designated health programs and those with 10 or fewer persons to begin F2F classes this week. Others will be adjusted, with make-up activities or rescheduling. Most apprenticeships will be postponed until Jan 25.

Canadore College has adjusted its academic and service delivery plans to operate under the rules of lockdown. It will deliver as many courses as possible remotely.

Carleton U will keep athletics and library facilities closed, has suspended all in-person events, will operate campus dining as take-out only, and is operating residences “with increased mitigation measures.”

Queen’s U says students should avoid returning to Kingston until after the lockdown ends Jan 23, “unless absolutely necessary.” F2F classes will be delayed except for prioritized health programs.

Western U has announced that in-person classes will be postponed until Feb 21, after reading week, instead of beginning Jan 25 as planned. The return of students to residence will also be staggered through Jan and Feb. “If you can stay where you are for now, we encourage that.”

 

Frustrations in Manitoba

Manitoba imposed remote learning in January, optional for elementary but mandatory for secondary students. Parents and students are of course frustrated, but teachers are particularly challenged by the demands of blending remote and in-person delivery. “That’s doing two different jobs.”

Red River College is operating in “restricted/orange” mode. On-campus activity is permitted only where necessary and essential. The majority of staff will WFH.

 

Online in Saskatchewan

uSaskatchewan president Peter Stoicheff told the CBC that students may be learning online throughout 2021. Plans for the fall term will depend upon vaccine availability, distribution, and efficacy – but he hopes they can be announced by May.

 

Stubborn in Alberta

Alberta, with the highest rate of hospitalization and second-highest rate of COVID19 deaths in the country, is extending health restrictions including restaurant closures and a ban on gatherings until at least Jan 21. Premier Jason Kenney resisted imposing restrictions all last year, instead appealing to Albertan’s “personal responsibility.” Despite the exploding cases and overloaded hospitals, in-person K-12 classes resumed in Alberta yesterday.

Olds College is extending restrictions until Jan 21: no social gatherings or in-person meetings are permitted. Lunchrooms, lounges and fitness facilities are closed. WFH is mandatory where effective. Classes can continue as before.

 

Sitting Tight in BC

Since Nov 19, British Columbia has banned socialization beyond the immediate household, and prohibited all social gatherings including weddings and funerals, religious services, sports and fitness activities, and will extend those restrictions until at least Feb 5.

 

Bad Behaviour

No matter what the restrictions, some people just don’t like to follow the rules…

Quebec Police handed out 750 tickets worth thousands of dollars to people violating the 8pm curfew over the weekend. In Montreal alone, 185 tickets worth at least $1,000 each were issued.  CTV

A Sherbrooke couple were fined $3,000 for walking towards downtown at 9pm on Saturday – despite the creative argument that the woman was out walking her dog, because her husband was, in fact, on a leash! CTV

Fanshawe College’s student news, the Interrobang, reports that London Police have pressed charges against a 20-year-old man who hosted a large indoor gathering on Thurman Circle on Nov 13. The London Free Pressemphasizes that the party was near Fanshawe College.

uVic students apparently haven’t learned their lessons from last year. This weekend, Oak Bay Police assisted campus police in breaking up a party with >100 attendees, and fined a couple who were uncooperative $320 each.  Daily Hive

 

Solid Advice

Quick, Strong Responses Work Best

Recent research from Oxford concluded that the 2 Canadian provinces with the “least-strict approaches” to COVID19 last summer (AB and SK) wound up with the highest rates of infection and hospitalization during the second wave this fall. The provinces in the Atlantic Bubble, on the other hand, intervened quickly and were able to keep COVID19 rates “near-negligible.” Basically, “a stronger, faster response results in a better-controlled epidemic.”

 

The “Canadian Shield” Approach

The COVID Strategic Choices Group warns that our current pandemic trajectory will lead to a third wave around Easter (Apr 4), before vaccinations for the general public are expected to begin. They recommend a “Canadian Shield approach,” including an intense 4-6 week lockdown, aggressive measures to keep the case count dropping thereafter, and providing direct support to individuals and businesses. Modelling suggests the approach would save 5,000 lives by the end of April, and improve the economy by $37B. >360 scientists and health professions have called for more aggressive measures to contain the virus, like the zero COVID policies in New Zealand, Taiwan, or Australia.

“When you concentrate the economic lockdown upfront, it might be harsher in the beginning but it then allows us to fully recover and not face a third wave of lockdown restrictions before vaccines get more widely available.”Christopher Cotton, Economics, Queen’s U

 

 

#ICYMI

RRU is Boldly Different

Royal Roads U has launched a new recruitment campaign, “Boldly Different,” to attract students in the new normal to “learning for life.” With bright colours, bold headlines and dynamic rhythms, the ads and videos emphasize that RRU offers “an education like no other” that has been “online since day one.” Students will have “CEOs for classmates” while “using your career as the curriculum” and recognizing prior learning in the workplace.  YouTube  |  YouTube  |  BeBoldRRU.ca

 

 

Thanks for reading!  Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the impact of holiday celebrations on the pandemic and politics.

Meanwhile, stay safe and keep well!

Ken

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