Wednesday, September 15, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Good morning, whether you’re celebrating Cheese Toast, Double Cheeseburgers, Butterscotch Cinnamon Pieor Greenpeace!
The UN has also declared today International Day of Democracy – an increasingly endangered species of sorts, as we see populist governments making bad decisions and outspoken protests for “freedom” endangering lives. In the absence of government leadership, employers and higher ed institutions in Alberta are leaping into the breach themselves to impose vaccine mandates.
On both sides of the vaccine divide, we’re all feeling what uManitoba president Michael Benarroch calls a “mix of hope and hesitancy” right now, as we start another academic year in the shadow of the COVID19 pandemic. As he also says, “cautious is the right approach” as we gradually return to campus, and we should all be “led by science and safety, and not by targets or our best-laid plans.”
“Though I see more masks than smiles these days, I am still encouraged by the increase of students on-campus and I know that cautious is the right approach as we resume more in-person activity. I feel the mix of hope and hesitancy as we wait to see what this fourth wave will bring.” – Michael Benarroch, president, uManitoba
Since Monday’s roundup (“Staying the Course on Density”) the fourth wave continues to worsen in North America, epidemiologically and politically…
Southern US Struggles
COVID19 case counts and deaths have surged across the US (but particularly in the vax-rebel South), reaching levels not seen since January and “erasing months of progress.” Daily cases are exceeding 170,000, and hospitals are “on the brink of collapse” across Kentucky, Alabama and Tennesee.
Never mind the deafening American opposition to vaccination, from Florida governor Ron DeSantis to rapper Nicki Minaj. Even here in Canada, we’ve been seeing small but vocal antivax protests at Justin Trudeau’s campaign stops, and even outside hospitals already besieged with unvaxxed patients. (Canada’s answer to DeSantis, Maxime Bernier, is attracting antivaxxers to his “People’s Party of Canada,” and one of his riding presidents threw gravel at Trudeau.) A group called “Canadian Frontline Nurses” has been organizing the protests against the “tyrannical measures and government overreach” of vax mandates and passports, which ironically are taking a mental health toll on real frontline nurses. “We are reducing our nurses to tears.” The federal NDP and Liberals say they will introduce legislation to make it a criminal offense for protestors to obstruct access to healthcare. Alberta premier Jason Kenney is invoking the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act. (Hey, when Ontario premier Doug Ford calls you a “yahoo,” you know you’re a fringe lunatic.) Thankfully, CFN organizers (most of whom have been fired or are not currently working in nursing) announced yesterday that “hate has been pouring in” and the group will therefore be “taking a break” and will no longer target hospitals with their protests. (The CFN leaders were famously speakers at the Jan 6 rally in Washington DC that led to the storming of the Capitol.)
“To see people outside the hospital gates protesting, harassing and intimidating staff is a morale blow, it is reprehensible.” – Raghu Venugopal, Toronto emergency physician
Scattered CdnPSE Cases
I’m not bothering to track the inevitable stray cases of COVID19 on CdnPSE campuses this year, although there will doubtless be plenty. Right now, the stuff of PR nightmares is more about thousands of partying students (from coast to coast), assaults on campus, and bomb threats. (Welcome back?) Still, new cases reported at St Francis Xavier U and NBCC may reflect the current narrative in Atlantic Canada…
In view of rising COVID19 case counts in the region, Nova Scotia health officials have postponed the move into Phase 5 of reopening until at least Oct 4, when they hope to have surpassed their 75% vax target, and have a proof-of-vaccination policy implemented. Saskatchewan has issued a new emergency order to allow it to redeploy healthcare workers in response to a surge in cases in hospital. K-12 schools are already closing due to COVID19 cases, from New Brunswick to the Northwest Territories.
Alberta Boils Over
I described Monday how Alberta was at a “boiling point,” and things have only gotten worse. Alberta reported 4,740 new cases over the weekend, and the province’s ICUs are at 90% of their surge capacity (148% of their normal capacity). I’ve been arguing since June that premier Jason Kenney’s insistence that the province be “open for summer” (and the Calgary Stampede) was a massive mistake, and now Alberta CMOH Deena Hinshaw seems to be admitting publicly that the decision “set the trajectory for the explosive fourth wave that has pushed its healthcare system to the breaking point” (in the words of the CBC). What she said herself was: “we have a crisis, that’s clear.” Inevitably, being the most open province in July has resulted in Alberta being the worst-hit province in September, with more than 3x the active cases of much larger provinces BC, ON and QC.
After months resisting the inevitable (vaccine passports), the government conceded Tuesday that Albertans will be able to download a printable card or smartphone app to provide their vax status. CMOH Deena Hinshaw admitted Monday that vax passports clearly have encouraged young people to get vaccinated in other jurisdictions. And while the province hasn’t imposed any vaccine requirements on non-essential businesses, many are starting to make their own announcements. Yesterday, many Edmonton gyms, theatres, and restaurants announced they will require proof of vaccination from patrons and staff starting as early as today. CBC
In general, the trend toward mandatory vaccinations on campus is continuing (see the Insider Recap on Vaccination Policies), but the mess in Alberta prompted 9 ABpses to issue a joint announcement on Monday…
uAlberta and 8 other ABpses announced Monday that they will soon require proof of full COVID19 vaccination for anyone coming to campus. (The dates of implementation vary by institution, from Oct 1 through Jan 1.) Rapid testing will cease to be provided, except for those with approved medical or human rights exemptions. At uAlberta, the new protocols come into effect Nov 1. uAlberta
uCalgary will require full vaccination of students, faculty and staff by Jan 1 2022, and of visitors to campus by Oct 1 2021. uCalgary
uLethbridge will require full vaccination of all students, faculty and staff coming to campus by Nov 1. uLethbridge
MacEwan U is “continuing to work through a measured, multi-phased approach to protect our community… with the ultimate goal of having a fully vaccinated campus by the beginning of the Winter term.” Beginning in January, all students, staff, faculty and visitors will be required to be fully-vaxxed to attend campus. (Rapid testing will cease.) MacEwan
Medicine Hat College says its goal is “to have our campus vaccination protocol complete in January 2022.”Details are still to come. MHC
Mount Royal U will require full vaccination of everyone coming to campus effective Jan 1, when rapid testing will no longer be accepted as an alternative (except for those with medical or human rights accommodations). MRU
NAIT will require proof of full vaccination from everyone coming to campus effective Nov 8. NAIT
NorQuest College will require proof of full vaccination effective Nov 1. NorQuest
SAIT will require proof of full vaccination from community members on campus by Jan 1 2022. SAIT
“Postsecondary schools were hung out to dry to make these decisions. Their focus should be on the education of our future leaders, and not having to make public health decisions without the evidence that Jason Kenney has at his fingertips, and is refusing to follow.” – David Eggen, Alberta NDP advanced education critic
Although there are plenty of outspoken faculty, staff and students lobbying for more stringent vaccine mandates at campuses coast-to-coast (including UBC and McGill), there are also some dissident voices…
Brock U has seen antivax protestors at the main entrance to its campus, protesting its vax mandate as “segregation,” “racist,” and a violation of bodily autonomy. Niagara Falls Review
Huron UC ethics prof Julie Ponesse compares herself to Socrates, “executed for asking questions,” because she says she faces “imminent dismissal” for refusing what she calls an “experimental vaccine.” (The school denies that anyone has been dismissed.) Naturally, Ponesse has been speaking at PPC campaign events. London Free Press | Toronto Star
UBC medicine prof Steven Pelech claims he is “persona non grata” in his department, because he is concerned about the risks of vaccination and objects to UBC’s stance, “strongly encouraging” students to get vaxxed. (Pelech has tenure and admits his department chair “isn’t giving me any trouble.”) Globe & Mail
Since we’re focusing on Alberta institutions today, here’s a brand new vid from UofA…
What Do You Seek?
This 2-min spot from uAlberta opens on a peaceful outdoor river scene with gentle piano music and a calm voiceover: “We all look for purpose in our lives, and a sense that we are part of something bigger.” People seek knowledge, truth, experience, and to pursue a cause. Several UofA students speak about causes like Indigenous reconciliation, protecting children and immigrants, opioid overdoses, and more. “We are problem-solvers, change-makers, community-builders, world-shapers, and truth-seekers. We believe purpose can be found here. Come find yours.” YouTube
As always, thanks for reading!
Please do drop me a line if you spot something interesting, thought-provoking or cool happening on your campus, or you have a question about trends impacting CdnPSE.
Stay safe and be well,
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