Wednesday, August 5, 2020 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Yesterday I summarized some recent findings that COVID19 may be transmitted more by aerosols, and less by fomites than previously suspected. The science jury is still out, but meanwhile PSE campuses are preparing for reopening in a few weeks, and most CdnPSEs are erring on the side of caution…
I’ve shared many campus reopening plans in the past few months, but here are some released in the past few days…
Mount Allison U has just released a comprehensive 26-page COVID19 response plan, Back on Track, as a resource for students while the campus reopens. It emphasizes the commitment to protect a “MtA Sackville Bubble,” and includes information about self-isolation, updates to the student code of conduct, and changes to residence and dining. MTA
Red River College in Winnipeg is already in phase 2 of its reopening, with some student supports resuming on campus, and is planning to commence Phase 3 on Aug 31, “to safely bring back as many employees and students to campus as public health guidelines allow.” There will be a “staged and deliberate shift from remote to on-campus work.” RRC
Trent U will begin a phased approach to reopening its Athletics Centre, starting Sep 1, including its pool. Staff, faculty, and others will be welcomed back in phase 2, possibly in October. Trent
COVID19 has turned us all into that germophobe Adrian Monk, famous for his incessant refrain, “Wipe!” Apparently there has been a sixfold increase in demand, so we can expect a worldwide shortage of Clorox Wipes until 2021. Although skeptics are increasingly critical of “hygiene theatre” (see yesterday’s Insider), institutions have been significantly ramping up disinfection protocols on campus, from touch-free hand sanitizer stations to electrostatic spray guns. And they are releasing videos and documents to reassure parents, students, faculty and staff. Again, here are some new examples…
Ontario Tech has published a new page of “What to Expect on Campus,” from enhanced cleaning protocols (at least 2-3x daily) to mandatory masks. All staff are responsible to disinfect their own computers and desk items, and shared equipment. Areas that have been left unoccupied for 7+ days do not require enhanced cleaning. OntarioTech
uToronto reports that it is inspecting and upgrading ventilation equipment in its academic and administrative buildings, to “meet or exceed industry and public health standards.” UofT is now using higher-rated MERV-13 filters, and ventilation will run for an extended period before and after building occupancy. uToronto
Trinity Western U has developed building safety plans, revised classroom capacities, planned new outdoor gathering spaces, and implemented new protocols for “daily deep cleaning” and regular sanitization of high-touch surfaces. Profs and TAs will clean classrooms between each use. The campus bookstore will sell facemasks at cost. Touchless sliding doors have been ordered for the main student building. TWU
As I outlined yesterday, the potential for aerosol transmission means that face masks are much more important than surface disinfections. Despite the innumerable, incredibly heated confrontations between violent anti-maskers and the poor retail clerks, waitresses or even police officers who confront them, more and more jurisdictions in North America are announcing mandatory mask policies to stem the tide of COVID19. Alberta announced last night that students in grade 4 and above will be required to wear face masks when they return to school next month, joining Ontario. (Quebec and Saskatchewan, on the other hand, are hold-outs.) The federal government will be issuing guidelines later this week, recommending face coverings for all children aged 10+, which should have implications for K-12 schools across the country.
As I pointed out several weeks ago, mandatory mask policies are proliferating on CdnPSE campuses, often reflecting local or provincial PHO orders. We’re now at 45% of my sample, and another 9% who recommend masks, including these new ones:
uLethbridge is making masks mandatory on campus beginning Aug 10, in “hallways, washrooms, elevators, and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.” Masks have been ordered but will not arrive until late August. uLeth
NAIT now expects everyone coming to campus to wear a mask or face covering in indoor public spaces, including classrooms, labs, study spaces, public meeting rooms, washrooms and underground parking areas. Exceptions will be made for staff working in private offices, for those eating or drinking in designated areas, or engaging in athletic activities. NAIT
Trent U will be releasing a policy this week regarding the use of face coverings while on campus. All staff and students will be issued a reusable mask. Trent
uWaterloo has extended its mandatory face covering policy to include classrooms and teaching labs, not just common areas. uWaterloo
Most institutions have announced protocols that will require staff and students to self-screen each day before coming to campus, typically by answering a checklist of symptoms in the campus safety app, or perhaps taking their own temperature. (Some orientation packages include an inexpensive thermometer.) This summer, some colleges have instituted screening stations for those entering campus:
Centennial College will reportedly be pilot-testing temperature screening upon entry to its Morningside campus, this week.
Fanshawe College welcomed 1,000 “stranded” students from 34 programs back to campus last week, as a “soft launch” for health and safety protocols to be implemented in September, when 8,200 students will be studying in a hybrid format. This month, everyone entering campus must stop at one of 4 screening stations to answer questions and receive a colour-coded wristband. In September that will likely be replaced by an online screening tool. Interrobang
Temperature screening can be done via thermal imaging cameras, or by wearable devices…
Oakland U in Michigan will require faculty, staff and students on campus to wear a BioIntelliSense “BioButton,” a coin-sized wearable that monitors temperature and heart rate in real time. It connects to a mobile device, and its charge lasts up to 90 days. Of course, >2,000 students have already signed a petition opposed to the idea. Click On Detroit
Yet more and more epidemiological models demonstrate that what is really required is frequent COVID19 nasal swab tests, and US colleges are determined to make it work…
Brandeis U, near Boston, plans to provide a residential campus experience for 2,000 undergrads, beginning mid-August, and will be testing them twice per week for COVID19. Brandeis will also be testing about 1,500 grad students, faculty and staff once per week. At $30 each, such “aggressive… universal testing” will be a $3M expense. Like other Massachusetts colleges, Brandeis has contracted Harvard/MIT’s Broad Institute to process the tests within 24 hours. WGBH
College and university students in Alabama must complete a mandatory COVID19 screening test before they head to campus. The state is opening 14 new testing sites to test 200,000 PSE students, and sending home testing kits to out-of-state students. Students must use a daily mobile app to self-assess for symptoms, and may participate in voluntary testing during the academic year. The program is funded by $30 M in federal assistance. US News
A new study from Harvard and Yale researchers has concluded that bringing students back to campus safely would require testing them for COVID19 every 2 days, coupled with strict behavioural strategies like hand hygiene, masks, and social distancing. “This sets a very high bar — logistically, financially, and behaviorally — that may be beyond the reach of many university administrators and the students in their care.” Testing kits can cost between $10 and $50 each, and false positives would create considerable demand for quarantine facilities. There were no circumstances in which symptom-based screening alone would be sufficient to contain an outbreak. JAMA
“Testing and Tracing” is the PHO refrain, so that once a new COVID19 case is identified, everyone who came into close contact with them can also be put into self-isolation. The process demands a sharp memory from the patient, and hours of time for trained health professionals to make the calls, but some technologies may accelerate the process…
The Canadian government released its COVID Alert app for iOS and Android last Friday, and within 3 days more than 1.1 million had downloaded it (including me). The app does not track location or personally identifying information, but keeps a log of Bluetooth “handshakes” with other devices also running the app. (You need to spend 15 minutes within 2 metres to be considered a “handshake.”) If one of those people tells the app they have tested positive for COVID19, your app will notify you of potential exposure. Initially pilot testing in Ontario, the app will roll out to Atlantic Canada next. (Obviously, to be truly effective everyone would need to have a capable smartphone, install the app, and carry it on their person.) iPhoneinCanada
Video surveillance cameras, coupled with AI-driven video content analytics software like BriefCam, can assess behaviours, movement, interactions and dwell times. Besides campus security, they can be useful for maintenance, planning, and retail operations – but now they can also be repurposed to monitor compliance with social distancing and mask policies, and can even assist with contact tracing. Dashboards can identify non-compliance hotspots and pedestrian bottlenecks, and even send real-time alerts. University Business
The ultimate form of social distancing is of course studying online and working from home, but on-campus learning is essential to a broad range of technical and medical programs. As a result, campuses are being plastered with social distancing signage, furniture is being removed or taped off, and codes of conduct are being revised…
Campus dining halls are being reconfigured to eliminate all-you-can-eat buffets, self-service options, and seating areas and shifting to reservations, takeout and delivery orders, via kiosks or sometimes using apps like OpenTable or Grubhub. Students will need to get used to prepackaged meal options, waiting lists and social distancing. Delivery robots, like the fleet of Starship robots operated by Sodexo at George Mason U, can deliver food orders to students with zero contact. Some institutions, like MIT and uChicago, will be deploying robots to work in their kitchens too. Business Insider
A survey of 800 US college students (Jul 13-14) found that 79% claimed they would not attend parties the way they did pre-COVID, and 71% said they would not attend games even if athletics resumed. But students themselves are skeptical: “I don’t think a lot of students will stick to their word and stay away from parties or social events, including me… I think the temptation will be too much for a lot of students.” MarketWatch
The real wild card for campuses this fall will be to what extent students can strictly adhere to social distancing, screening, contact tracing and disinfecting protocols. (There has been widespread skepticism, which I share.) Even enforcing curfews and isolation orders on mature adults can be remarkably challenging…
In Australia, the state of Victoria has implemented curfews and a strict lockdown, and instituted fines from $5,000 up to $20,000 for anyone breaking COVID19 isolation orders, and is deploying 2,000 military personnel to assist police with quarantine enforcement. Reuters
Ultimately, no matter how thorough the precautions on campus, the risk of COVID19 infection, and potentially serious disability or even death, can never be brought down to zero. Risk management types, and lawyers on governing boards, know that means institutions either need indemnity from government, liability waivers from staff and students, or insurance.
I mentioned last week that StFX is persisting with its student liability waiver as a “necessity” for the return to campus next month. While they are unique in CdnPSE, some US colleges are following suit…
Although students are opposed, some US colleges are demanding students sign liability waivers before they can return to class. uNew Hampshire has a 4-page “Informed Consent” agreement. Bates College (Maine) has a 1,400-word Public Health Agreement and Acknowledgement of Shared Responsibility and Risk document, which students are required to sign. As one student put it, “On the one hand, I guess they’re not sugar-coating it. But on the other hand, if you’re signing that to go back, it’s not safe.” Student organizations and legal experts are advising students not to sign the waivers. IHE
Most insurance companies are protecting themselves from further exposure to the pandemic, but 3 years ago it was still possible to purchase protection…
As performing arts organizations around the world struggle with layoffs and insolvency, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival looks downright prescient for taking out “pandemic insurance” more than 3 years ago. As a result, the Festival has been able to keep more than 500 full-time employees on the payroll, while the theatres are dark. It even hired contractors as employees, to leverage the CEWS wage subsidy. National Post
Phew! My apologies for the length of this issue – thanks to those of you who made it this far.
Stay safe and stay well!
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