Monday, August 30, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
With a new week, it’s time for another Pandemic Précis – although most of the developments this week have been about vaccination policies, by provinces and CdnPSEs. I’ve been tracking this trend since March, when it already looked like the writing was on the wall. Now the momentum is unmistakeable.
As provincial PHOs seem to be relenting, backtracking and doubling down to prepare for the worst of the Delta variant this Fall, CdnPSEs are tightening loopholes or belatedly announcing new vax mandates (or testing mandates).
Right now, I’ve identified 91 CdnPSEs with vax mandates, out of 138 in my master spreadsheet, so 66% of institutions overall. We’re at 100% of the institutions I’m tracking in Yukon and PEI, 94% in Ontario, 83% in New Brunswick, 73% in Manitoba, 60% in Nova Scotia, and 54% of BC. Sure, some provinces are lagging behind, either because of politics or favourable epidemiology at the moment: we’re at just 50% in Newfoundland, 43% in Saskatchewan, and 35% in Alberta.
But before long, all of those numbers will rise with the pandemic wave…
Since my last summary a week ago (“Surfing the Delta Wave”) the flow of the pandemic has continued largely unchanged…
Dire Situation in the US
The US has more than 100,000 COVID19 patients in hospital (an 8-month high), is reporting 1,100+ deathsfrom COVID19 each day, and forecasting 100,000 more deaths by December. Kentucky is seeing record-high COVID19 hospitalizations. Arkansas is out of ICU beds. Florida is experiencing a peak of cases 30% higher than the previous peak in January. Of course, South Dakota’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has once again been linked to hundreds of COVID19 cases. The sad reality is that Americans could still “save 50,000 lives simply by wearing masks.” Things look bad enough that the EU looks to be reimposing travel restrictions on Americans, while the UK is lifting them for Canadians starting today.
“Physicians are completely out of empathy. It is not an unlimited resource.” – Yael Moussadji, emergency physician, Calgary
Canadian Cases Rise, Moods Fall
About 66% of the Canadian population is now fully-vaxxed (76% of those eligible), but that hasn’t stopped COVID19 case counts from rising coast-to-coast. (After all, there are still some 10M Canadians unvaxxed and vulnerable.) ICU cases doubled in Alberta this month, and cases could hit 2,400 per day by mid-September. (My thoughts go out to folks in Medicine Hat, near my mom’s hometown, where there are 513 active cases in a population of ~63,000.) Projections are even worse for BC and Ontario. Last year, COVID19 infections waited until schools reopened in September; this year, the viral wave has a one-month head start. Epidemiologists are forecasting another 6-8 months of pandemic waves, and warn that vaccines alone can’t stop the 4th wave – we need to get 90% of the population vaccinated.
“Yes, of course the goal posts are changing, because the virus has changed.” – Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases specialist, University Health Network
Vax the Children
Modelling suggests that herd immunity in the face of the Delta variant will be impossible until we can vaccinate children under 12. We don’t yet know the long-term impacts of the virus on children, so we can’t simply allow rampant spread in elementary schools. Clinical trials are still ongoing with children, but Health Canada has now approved both Pfizer and Moderna for children aged 12-17, and Britain’s NHS is preparing to roll out vaccines to those aged 12+. (FWIW, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates the risk of myocarditis to be 2-10x greater from COVID19 itself, than from the Pfizer vaccine – which I need to start calling “Comirnaty,” I guess.)
Doubling Down on Masks
As provincial PHOs follow the projection modelling, they are reinstating public health restrictions we had hoped to put behind us with widespread vaccination. Ontario has paused in stage 3 of reopening. Quebec has reinstated mask mandates in K-12 schools in 9 regions, and asked companies to delay returning workers to offices. Manitoba has made vaccines or testing mandatory for healthcare workers, and reintroduced indoor mask mandates. British Columbia has reinstated a province-wide mask mandate, including in grade 4+ classrooms. Nova Scotia expects K-12 students to wear masks for the first few weeks of class, but hopes to make them optional by Sep 15.
“We can’t let this wave get out of control because the more cases there are, the more hospitalizations, the more ICU and tragically, the more deaths we will see this fall.” – Craig Jenne, CRC in infectious diseases, uCalgary
Suppressing Bad News?
In the heat of a federal election campaign, of course the leaders of opposing parties are accusing Justin Trudeau’s government of muzzling PHAC since the election was called on Aug 15. And a uToronto epidemiologist, David Fisman, has resigned from Ontario’s COVID19 Science Advisory Table, claiming political interference is preventing it from sharing particularly “grim” projections for the Fall. (The Table, for its part, says it is still working on consensus modelling and will release it when ready.)
After a perhaps overly-optimistic summer, I’m getting a decidedly “déjà vu” vibe as government and CdnPSEs start to backpedal already on plans for a return to some kind of normalcy…
Hybrid Frosh Weeks
As Ontario campuses gear up for residence move-ins and orientation activities, many are including 2nd-year students (who missed out in Fall 2020) and increasingly, some are shifting to hybrid O-weeks in view of the current 4th wave. uToronto, York, McMaster, Laurentian and Lakehead are all offering a blend of F2F and virtual orientation activities, from outdoor movie nights and scavenger hunts to online video tours and health and safety training. (And I’m quite sure there are many more.) National Post
Courses Pivot Online
Over the past month, anxious profs at uCalgary have switched ~10% of F2F courses to online delivery instead, outraging students who feel it’s “completely unacceptable.” Students signed up for in-person courses, and in some cases relocated to Calgary, only to discover at the last minute that many or even all of their courses would now be delivered online. (The deadline for faculty to make the decision was Aug 20.) The administration reports that 80% of students have entirely F2F or blended course schedules. The Student Union reports at least 150 course changes have been confirmed, “but the number keeps going up, and that impacts thousands of students… Students are paying the price, literally.” Calgary Herald | CBC
Back in July, ONpses were told they could safely plan for a return to campus without capacity limits or physical distancing. (BCpses were told something similar.) Many colleges in particular took the guidance gratefully, as an opportunity to resuscitate their enrolments with the promise of a more normal student experience. Quite a few universities, however, hedged their bets and stuck with plans for hybrid delivery that were developed by their senates back in the spring. (Those that didn’t have been among the first to impose vaccine requirements, to protect their plans for a return to F2F classes.) Now, though, TVO’s Steve Paikin reports that a “well-placed source” says Doug Ford’s cabinet will be considering re-imposing 2m distancing in all ONpse classrooms this Wednesday.
While I don’t think faculty or campus staff would be outraged by the decision, it really should have been made months earlier before students made plans for housing and faculty developed their courses. Likewise, reluctant premiers should have been faster to announce…
Public CdnPSE is often beholden to their provincial masters, and with vaccine mandates and passports such politicized concepts (who knows why) most institutions have been waiting for acquiescence from their premiers and ministers before putting perfectly logical policies in place themselves. Provinces are clearly opening the door for campus mandates, in one form or another, across the country…
Resisting Passports in SK and AB
As someone who has held an immunization card since elementary school, and has them for my kids, I can’t quite fathom how COVID19 vaccine passports have become so politically charged. Saskatchewan has been resisting new restrictions, mandating vaccines, or implementing a vax passport. (Premier Scott Moe does however “expect” businesses and organizations to develop their own vax requirements.) Alberta premier Jason Kenney and his government have repeatedly insisted they won’t introduce or even support a vax passport scheme, but are now talking about a “convenient card” indicating vax status.
Mandating Testing in AB
In the most conservative (or Republican) jurisdictions in North America, campuses have been forbidden from mandating vaccination (or sometimes even face masks) but not COVID19 testing. That led to the collective announcement last week in Alberta that its research universities would mandate COVID19 testing for anyone on campus, but the fully-vaccinated would be exempt. (The words are different, but the effect identical to the initial announcements at ONpses that vaccination was mandatory, but that some could opt for rapid testing instead. Of course, now more and more ONpses are closing that loophole.)
Vax Passports in MB, QC and BC
Back in July, Manitoba introduced “immunization cards” to allow residents to travel domestically without quarantine, attend sporting events and more. (MB added an app version in early August.) As the grim forecasts for Fall started to appear inevitable, Quebec instituted a vaccine passport for non-essential activities across the province, and British Columbia announced a vaccine card for access to recreational activities (as well as campus housing and athletics).
Resistance Collapsing in ON?
Here in Ontario, premier Doug Ford has been steadfast in his opposition to vax passports as something that would “split society.” But last week, that inaction prompted PHOs across the province to contemplate (quite publicly) instituting their OWN system of regional passports. Now, 3 “senior government sources” say that Ford’s cabinet is developing a vaccine “certificate system” for access to non-essential services, and will announce it later this week.
The Real Impact of Passports
Those who complain about the feasibility of checking vax passports, controlling campus access, or security and counterfeiting issues are missing the point: the mere announcement of a vaccine passport tends to double demand for vaccine shots immediately. Since BC announced its vaccine card program last week, there was a “significant increase” in bookings for vaccinations, especially among those under age 40. In the first 2 days alone, 12,904 people under 40 registered. Similar responses were reported in France and Quebec, where demand for shots doubled after the announcement. (Threaten young people with taking away restaurants, nightclubs, gyms and concerts, and look what can happen!) Now the federal Liberals have promised $1B in funding to assist provinces with their vaccine passport systems, to try to eliminate one more government excuse for inaction. And of course, a federal vaccine passport for international travel has been in the works for weeks.
Last week Ontario announced that it would require all ONpses to implement some kind of “vaccine policy,” and the COMOH emphasized that rapid testing was NOT an acceptable alternative to vaccination. These announcements gave more eager ONpses permission (and reluctant ONpses a bit of a push) to implement vax mandates by Sep 7. Likewise in BC, the PHO has bowed to pressure from student groups, faculty associations, unions and BCpses…
Mandatory Disclosures in BC
Until now, BC has forbidden its PSEs to impose vaccine requirements or public health measures beyond residences, dining and recreation on campus. (Predictably, faculty and staff at UBC, uVic, and TRU expressed concerns, since they have been advocating a vax mandate for months.) Just last Tuesday, PHO Bonnie Henry reiterated that vax mandates could not be applied to BCpse students. But on Thursday, BC’s major research universities (UBC, uVictoria, Simon Fraser U and Thompson Rivers U) announced an “agreement” with MAEST and the PHO to mandate disclosure of COVID19 vax status for anyone accessing campus, and impose regular rapid testing on the unvaxxed. (This sounds a lot like the mandatory testing requirement at many ABpses.) As UBC put it, they “will provide COVID19 testing… with exemptions provided for those who are vaccinated.” With just 2 weeks until classes begin, some kind of transition is planned since many cannot be fully vaxxed by then. UBC | Global News | The Martlet | Daily Hive
Naturally, once the research universities set a direction, they open the floodgates for others to follow suit…
BCIT president Kathy Kinloch announced Friday that BCIT will be implementing “mandatory confidential vaccine reporting” and “mandatory regular rapid testing” for the unvaxxed. BCIT
Emily Carr U announced Friday that it will soon require “proof of vaccination or a recent negative test” for anyone on campus. ECUAD
Royal Roads U president Philip Steenkamp announced Friday that all students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus will be required “to confidentially self-disclose their vaccination status” and the unvaxxed will participate in “regular rapid COVID testing on campus.” RRU | Twitter
UNBC president Geoff Payne seems to be much more hesitant than his RUBC peers when it comes to announcing mandatory testing. In an announcement Friday, Payne indicates he plans to work with union and student leaders to “investigate the potential for a voluntary disclosure of vaccination status” program, and rapid testing on campus. (That word “voluntary” is unique in BC right now.) UNBC
Vancouver Island U president Deb Saucier announced Friday that the BC Association of Institutes and Universities (BCAIU) has received approval from MAEST and the PHO to implement “a program of vaccine self-declaration” this Fall. BCAIU members also include U Fraser Valley, Kwantlen, Capilano, Yukon U, NVIT and JIBC. VIU | BCAIU media release
If you’re counting at home, that makes at least 14 BCpses that have announced mandatory testing programs now, out of 26 on my list (or 54%). I may have missed a couple, of course – let me know!
Vax Bandwagon in NS
Since my last update (“Getting off the Vaccine Fence”) we’ve gone from 30% of Nova Scotia institutions with vax mandates to 60%…
Cape Breton U announced Thursday that, in addition to the previously-announced vax requirement for students in residence, varsity athletes and staff must be fully vaxxed by Sep 1, and all staff, students and faculty must submit proof of fully vaccination by Oct 15. Those exempted for medical reasons must be tested twice weekly and wear masks. CBU | Globe & Mail | Global News | CBC
St Francis Xavier U (NS) is on record insisting it will not institute a mandatory vaccine policy, but the faculty association has been lobbying nonetheless. On Thursday, StFX announced that it has “begun consultations” for a mandatory COVID19 testing policy for all students, staff and faculty. With proper proof of vaccination, people will be exempt from mandatory testing. (This is pretty much the current model popular in Alberta.) StFX is currently conducting a campus-wide survey of vax status through a third party research company. StFX
Saint Mary’s U (NS) announced Friday that it will require proof of full vaccination from all faculty, staff and students, by Oct 15. (Previously the requirement applied only for students in residence or athletics.) The unvaxxed will under COVID19 rapid testing twice weekly on campus. SMU | Global News | CBC
Some CdnPSE Stragglers
Since my last update, “Getting to Vaccination Higher Ground,” some CdnPSE stragglers have announced vax mandates for the Fall…
Bishop’s U indicated on Friday that, under the Quebec vax passport rules, proof of vaccination will be required to work out in the campus gym, drink in the campus bar, dine in campus food outlets, play on a sports team, or participate in some Orientation Week events. The passport does not apply to employees. (To be fair, Bishop’s is out ahead of other QCpses, to which this interpretation will presumably also apply.) Bishop’s
Brandon U has resisted a vax mandate for some time, opting instead to encourage vaccinations through awareness campaigns and $10,0000 in prize incentives. Days after uManitoba, uWinnipeg, Red River College, UCN, CMU and other MBpses announced vax policies, last Thursday BU finally announced “an interim administrative decision” that it will require full vaccination or proof of a negative COVID19 test to access campus, by Oct 31. BrandonU | Global News | CBC | CTV
Fanshawe College told staff last Thursday (with just 2 weeks to go before classes start) that a vaccine policy is coming for the Fall. Those not fully vaccinated, or with an approved exemption, will be subject to COVID19 testing if they come to campus. (Employees have been offered some WFH options, and 60% of students will be studying remotely.) Fanshawe awaits further direction from the local PHO. Fanshawe | Global News | CTV | CBC
Mount Royal U appears to have announced recently that “a rapid testing program will be required for all students, staff and faculty who come to campus,” with an “opt out” for those who are fully vaxxed. Details are still to come. MRU
Northern College posted a new mandatory vaccine policy to its COVID19 website last Thursday. Anyone accessing campus will be required to provide proof of vaccination with a HC/WHO approved COVID19 shot, with exemptions on medical or religious grounds. “Additional testing will be required for those individuals that are not fully vaccinated.” First doses are required by Oct 1, and 2nd doses by Nov 15. Northern
Sault College announced Friday that HC/WHO vaccination or approved exemptions will be required to access its campus this Fall. A grace period will be announced shortly. Sault
“Rapid testing protocols are not preventive and are not a replacement for immunization and should be used only in instances where vaccination is not possible.” – Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health statement
ON Closing Loopholes
Other ONpses that were previously offering the option of frequent rapid testing to the vaccine hesitant, or required attestation but not proof, have started closing those loopholes. On Thursday we saw the former trend start, with Carleton, Seneca, Ontario Tech, Western, and York. Since then, they have been joined by others…
Brock U announced Thursday the launch of its vaccination declaration tool, and the requirement to upload proof of COVID19 vaccination by Sep 1. Accommodations will be considered on “extremely limited grounds.” Brock announced Friday that all courses will begin online only Sep 7-12. Brock Vax | Brock Online
Cambrian College president Bill Best announced on Friday that rapid tests remain an option for the Fall term, but for Winter term (beginning Jan 3 2022) rapid test results will no longer be acceptable as an alternative to full vaccination, except for those with an approved exemption. Cambrian
“This has been a very eventful ten days for the provincial government, and PSE institutions in Ontario. With the onset of the fourth wave and the emergence of the Delta variant, full vaccination has become the new benchmark.” – Bill Best, President, Cambrian College
Laurentian U president Robert Haché advised the campus community that a full update to the COVID19 vaccination policy is coming early this week, requiring full vaccination to attend campus as of Sep 7, or a permitted exemption on medical or human rights grounds. Because notice is short, until Oct 15 those not fully vaxxed can instead submit proof of a negative COVID19 test. Laurentian
uOttawa announced Friday that rapid testing for COVID19 would no longer be an option, except for those with official exemptions. Anyone accessing campus will need to provide proof of a 1st dose by Sep 7 and a 2nd dose by Oct 15. uOttawa
Queen’s U announced a vax mandate Aug 12 that allowed the campus community to opt for additional testing and health protocols instead of vaccination, but on Thursday closed that loophole. All individuals on Queen’s property must attest to a 1st dose vaccination by Sep 1, and upload proof of full vaccination no later than Oct 15. Formal exemptions will require supporting documentation. Naturally, students have launched petitions both for and against the policy. Queen’s Gazette | Global News | Kingstonist
Sheridan College announced Friday that it will require proof of vaccination to attend campus. Those with an exemption will be required to participate in routine rapid antigen testing. Sheridan
uToronto announced Thursday that faculty, staff and students will in fact be required to upload proof of immunization (1st dose by Sep 13, 2nd dose by Oct 15). Faculty critics were vocal that without demanding proof of vaccination, the former policy was not a “requirement” at all. Those with formal exemptions will be subject to twice-weekly rapid home screening, and potentially “additional safety measures.” UofT News | Toronto Sun
Wilfrid Laurier U announced Thursday that proof of vaccination status will be required by Sep 7. Those not yet fully vaxxed, or with a formal accommodation for exemption, will be required to undergo rapid testing and observe health and safety protocols. 2nd doses are expected by Oct 8. WLU | CTV | Education News Canada
On the Other Hand…
While ONpse tightens vaccine requirements, it appears that ABpse is still navigating a charged political environment…
uAlberta clarified last week that students, faculty and staff will not be required to show proof of vaccination to enter classrooms or labs this Fall, although they need to “confidentially self-declare” their vax status online by Aug 30. The plan depends on the honour system, but “as part of the university’s auditing process,” randomly-selected individuals will be asked for documentary proof of vaccination throughout the term. Those who are not completed vaxxed will need to complete weekly rapid tests. The student union has partnered with the university and alumni association on a “Get Your Shot” contest, running Aug 27 – Sep 10, with prize incentives up to free tuition for the semester. Edmonton Journal | Global News
“The university has developed what seems like a complicated system and because of the late start, it doesn’t have a lot of time to implement it properly before students and staff return next week, and that gives us concern.” – Jillian Pratt, President, uAlberta Non-Academic Staff Association
As always, if you want the details in chronological order since March, see the Insider Recap on Vaccination Policies. You can also see colour-coded updates on the 138 CdnPSEs I’m tracking in my master spreadsheet:
On the CdnPSE branding front, pretty major news on Friday…
The discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves near residential school sites has amplified calls to reconsider monuments, street and institutional names in honour of some historical figures involved in designing the residential school system. After months of protests and debate (including the toppling of Egerton Ryerson’s statue), Ryerson U’s board of governors has voted to accept all 22 recommendations from its “Standing Strong” task force – including renaming the university itself. An action plan will be developed by Jan 2022. (You may recall that Wilfrid Laurier U announced an investigation into the “complex legacy” of its own namesake in July, about 8 months after Ryerson convened its task force.) Ryerson | Global News
As always, thanks for reading. I hope your week is off to a wonderful start!
Personally, I’m going to spend my week immersed in some bigger-picture trends for a report I’m preparing. Whenever the next issue appears, it will likely reflect that shift in perspective too.
Meanwhile, stay safe and be well!
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