This message was originally sent to the UWaterloo community by Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor, James W.E. Rush, Vice-President, Academic and Provost, and Kate Windsor, Director of Safety.
As you know, we extended our proof of vaccination and face covering requirements until the end of the winter term. We have previously announced that public health conditions permitting, we are preparing to relax some of our requirements at the start of the spring term on May 1.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the evolution of the virus and the course of disease activity are difficult to predict.
Monitoring changes in public health
It is our hope that we will be able to avoid a full return to remote learning and working
Thus, we continue to monitor a variety of indicators - including campus data, case counts and test positivity rates, local hospitalization and wastewater data, and others – and consulting public health guidance. If the public health situation warrants, it may become necessary to bring back requirements for mask wearing or proof of vaccination at short notice.
If we do identify a need to return to these requirements, we expect that we will do this in stages. We will consider a return to mandatory face coverings first and the requirement to be fully vaccinated in order to come to our campuses as a next step.
Messaging to the public from health authorities throughout the pandemic has been consistent: vaccination offers the best protection against the worst effects of COVID-19 and its variants and is the most important way to protect public health. For this reason, we continue to strongly recommend that you have a full course of vaccination, including third or fourth doses when you are eligible. You should also ensure that you have access to your proof of vaccination and QR code if you have been vaccinated in a region that provides one.
We will provide information on how to keep your vaccination records up to date with the University before May 1 to help minimize any disruption to work and learning if we need to bring back a proof of vaccination requirement.
Continuing health and safety measures
Uncertainty around the pandemic also means we will continue to maintain a range of infection prevention and control measures for the safety of employees, students and visitors from May 1 onwards. More information is available online on the COVID-19 Information website. Some important highlights of these measures include:
Face coverings and vaccination requirements in classrooms and offices
While we currently will not require you to wear face coverings while on our campuses after May 1, 2022, we encourage employees, students and visitors to wear a face covering in congested areas, at large events and anywhere and at any time they choose for their own personal reasons. Please also be respectful of the choices of others under these circumstances.
If you have health and safety concerns specifically about your workspace, instructional space, or class/colleague behaviour, your first step should be to discuss them with your department head or chair, who may consult teams that have influence over operations or the conduct that is causing concern. Supervisors and instructors are not able to independently set “local” mask or vaccination proof requirements for their lab, class or other activities.
More information for instructors is available on the COVID-19 information website and through faculty associate deans.
Self-assessment, illness and absence reporting
You must not attend campus if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or you are required to isolate. To help you decide if you should isolate, you can use the provincial self-assessment tool. Protocols for employees and students are available online.
Physical distancing or capacity limits are not required under current public health guidance. However, physical distancing continues to be an effective method of reducing risk of transmission and we recommend you continue to maintain a physical distance from others when and where possible.
Cleaning and Disinfection
We will continue with enhanced cleaning protocols for high contact touch points. Environmental Services staff will clean these common high touch contact points in line with the current recommendations of public health authorities. Employees are responsible for cleaning personal equipment including workstations, keyboards or phones – your unit can order appropriate supplies to help you with this. Supervisors must implement protocols for the cleaning of shared tools, office or lab equipment, and vehicles.
Throughout the pandemic, we have utilized safety plans for various scenarios including event planning. Safety plans are no longer required, however if an event or activity is planned that may result in a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, additional precautions such as reduced capacities may be considered to reduce risk.
Thank you again for everything you are all doing to keep one another safe. Please follow the links embedded above for more information, and send any questions you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org.