Eduvation Blog

Out of Control All Over Again?

Good morning!

Hard to believe we have just one more day left in March – as Carleton president Benoit-Antoine Bacon put it yesterday, “arguably the toughest month of the year even under the best of circumstances.”

As we approach our second Easter in pandemic isolation, it’s certainly not the best. In fact, since yesterday there’s been a flurry of negative pandemic news (and some of us also had a flurry of suspiciously white precipitation, just to prove to us who’s boss). Variants are driving new infections “out of control” in Ontario, BC is imposing a strict 3-week lockdown, and – wouldn’t you know it? – just as Canada is expecting a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine, provinces are suspending its use for some or all age groups. What a mess…

I’ve also got 55 more cases to report on CdnPSE campuses, and 6 more announcements about the Fall term. Plus a quick postscript about mandatory vaccines.

But first, our thoughts are with everyone touched by the tragedy at the North Vancouver library this weekend. Capilano U held a moment of silence yesterday for quiet reflection.



Pandemic Précis

Although the US has made amazing progress in vaccinations, the head of the CDC warned yesterday that she has a feeling “of impending doom” as restrictions are lifted “prematurely” and travel resumes. Brisbane, Australia, is now in a 3-day lockdown.

Canada should be even more worried…


Ontario “Completely Out of Control”

In Ontario, as new COVID19 infections reach the same level as at the height of the second wave, the province’s science advisory table scientific director Peter Juni warns that “the pandemic is completely out of control,” and that there is now “no way out” without a widespread lockdown. “There is no such thing as winning this race with just vaccinations. That’s impossible.” Variants of concern (VOCs) are now 67% of all infections in Ontario, and several regions, including Hamilton, London (where I live), and eastern Ontario are moving immediately into stricter zones. Ontario is “repeating the same mistakes over and over and over again.” Ontario postponed K-12 March Break 6 weeks ago, throwing its new timing (2 weeks from now) into doubt.


“The pandemic is completely out of control… There is no such thing as winning this race with just vaccinations. That’s impossible.”Peter Juni, prof of medicine and epidemiology, uToronto



“We should not hope for miracles. They’re not coming… vaccines will work much better when we start to control the growth we have now, otherwise the force of infection will be too high.”Peter Juni, prof of medicine and epidemiology, uToronto



Exponential Growth in BC

BC has seen “exponential growth in new cases” over the past 6 days, thanks to March Break travel and more-contagious variants, and the demand for hospital and ICU beds has begun to rise. Yesterday, PHO Bonnie Henry imposed a 3-week “circuit-breaker” lockdown, banning indoor dining at restaurants and adult indoor group fitness activities, suspending indoor church services, closing a Whistler resort, and making masks mandatory for students in grades 4-12. “Bending the rules gives this virus the edge.”


“The miles are hardest when they’re closest to the finish. But there is a finish in sight.”Bonnie Henry, BC provincial health officer



Middle-Aged at Risk

Canada’s third wave is sending more people in their 40s and 50s to hospitals and ICUs with more serious illness than the first or second wave, just as Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended yesterday that the AstraZeneca vaccine should not be given to anyone under age 55, due to the risk of blood clots. (Geez, the bad news for AZ never stops! If you missed my summary last week, see AstraZeneca’s Unforced Errors.) Following NACI’s recommendation, BC, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador all announced they would follow the guidance. PEI said yesterday it will no longer give the AZ vaccine to anyone.


As our luck would have it, Canada is supposed to receive 1.5M doses of AZ vaccine from the US today. Sigh…




PS:  Mandating Vaccines

US legislation and regulatory frameworks are certainly different than those in other countries, but so far no CdnPSEs have addressed the matter of mandatory immunization for students returning to campus. (I mentioned Rutgers and Trinity at Melbourne last week.)


U Notre Dame (IN) announced yesterday that they will be able to vaccinate “all” students on their campus before the end of May, although they are merely encouraging, not requiring, vaccination. Indiana’s governor announced last week that residents aged 16+ will qualify for the Pfizer vaccine starting Mar 31. (He also plans to lift the statewide mask mandate and all remaining business restrictions on Apr 6.)  US News


More will Follow Rutgers

The president of the AAC&U says the Rutgers announcement last week will put increased pressure on other PSEs to “take a stance and be transparent” about their plans for Fall, and she expects a number of them to follow Rutgers’ example. The federal statute under which the FDA can grant Emergency Use Authorization for new vaccines suggests they cannot be mandated, but legal experts believe US colleges “are on very strong grounds” in mandating vaccines, particularly if they offer an online option for those who refuse.  Higher Ed Dive



COVID on Campus

Since yesterday, there have been 55 more cases of COVID19 reported by CdnPSEs – where else? In Ontario! (See my master spreadsheet for a running tally of ~1950 cases in CdnPSE since Sept 2020.)

Brock U reported yesterday that cases among students in residence have risen from 22 to 31 (up 9 from yesterday).  Brock News

Cambrian College reported yesterday a case on the Barrydowne campus.  Cambrian

Durham College reported yesterday 2 new cases at the Oshawa campus.  DC

George Brown College reported 2 more cases at the Waterfront campus last week, bringing the total since September to 33 cases (32 more than I previously recorded). GBC

uWaterloo reportedly has a cluster of 11 active cases stemming from student gatherings Mar 4-7. (The total of 56 related cases has not changed, so this is just a clearer allocation to UW.)  Global

Western U’s residence outbreaks in Saugeen-Maitland Hall and Ontario Hall have now doubled to 22 cases (up 11 since yesterday). The outbreaks have been associated with “a gathering of business students,” and there is at least one VOC in each outbreak.  CTV



Fall Plans

Higher ed has been continuing to make optimistic announcements about their plans for the Fall 2021 term. (Check out all of them on a single page here.) Some of the latest include…


Carleton U’s scenario planning working group presented draft guidelines for the Fall term at Senate last week, including “a significant proportion” of seminars, labs, and smaller classes delivered F2F, “while also ensuring the availability of online options to provide flexibility.” The university will optimize ventilation, PPE, cleaning, signage, and traffic flow to prioritize health and safety.  Carleton


Centennial College announced yesterday that it is “actively planning for the safe and measured re-opening of our campuses,” and will communicate plans no later than Jun 1. “The vaccine roll-out in Ontario is cause for optimism… We are also mindful that there is considerable uncertainty about the months ahead.”  Centennial


Confederation College president Kathleen Lynch announced yesterday that they “are pleased to announce our intentions to return to an in-person on-campus learning experience in greater numbers across all of our campuses.” Confederation is working towards expansion of F2F learning for all programs “on a phased in or rotational basis (including theory-based learning),” and reintroduction of on-campus student services, food services and recreational activities.  Confed


“We look forward to returning to a more robust campus life for everyone in our College community, while maintaining our rich, interactive and engaging learning experience for students. We also excitedly await the opportunity to make new memories together on campus in the 2021/22 academic year!”Kathleen Lynch, President, Confederation College



McMaster U provost Susan Tighe provided a “mid-planning update” on Friday, explaining that “it is our aim that students will be able to come to campus regularly,” and that “we will be greatly increasing the number of on-campus classes,” PHO restrictions permitting. (This seems somewhat more optimistic than the “blended scenario” described mid-March.) Residences will be open, and more details about capacity will be known in early May. “We are also carefully considering the needs of our international students and are keeping a close eye on visa processing times and other Canadian entry requirements.”  McMaster


Memorial U provost pro tem Mark Abrahams announced Friday that we “expect to be on campus and in-person for university activities in September.” Detailed planning is ongoing, but “new and current students should make plans to be on our campuses for their university experiences this fall, unless all of the courses they are registered for are offered online.” PHO requirements could include masks and physical distancing.  MUN Gazette


Yale U shared yesterday “a preliminary sense of what to expect” this Fall, assuming that “a significant percentage of our faculty, students, and staff will be vaccinated by the end of summer.” Yale is “cautiously optimistic that we will have a full residential program for our undergraduates if public health conditions permit,” with masks and asymptomatic testing required, and some limits on lecture size. Yale “expects” faculty to conduct their classes primarily in person, although “a brief period of remote instruction also may be necessary at the beginning of the semester.” (Yale is also “preparing contingency plans in case of a further wave of COVID19.”)  Yale


York U introduced a new “Transitional Remote Work Policy” yesterday, “with a goal to create more flexibility for staff, stronger engagement, satisfaction and productivity in daily work, both now and into the future.” York will review the policy “over the next year to determine if an ongoing policy is the right approach for York as an employer of choice.” Managers will contact all staff in April and May, consider requests individually, and communicate decisions by Jun 30.  York






Discover Your Career

Greenwich U (London UK) released a slick and surprisingly “bouncy” new 1-min spot yesterday urging prospective students to “discover your Oscar-winning talents, gain life-changing skills, and maximize your potential.” It’s certainly one of the more notable examples of upbeat higher ed recruitment marketing these days!  YouTube




As always, thanks for reading! Please drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or elsewhere in the world!

Stay safe and be well,


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