This message was originally sent to employees and graduate students by Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor, and James W.E. Rush, Vice-President, Academic and Provost.
Before the start of this term, we wrote to you to confirm the University’s COVID-19 health measures for the Fall term. Since then we have continued to monitor the latest data from Public Health Ontario and the Region of Waterloo and remain in communication with colleagues in public health to inform our plans for the health and safety of our campuses.
Recently, we have seen increases in COVID-19 hospitalization locally, and there are emerging trends from test positivity and wastewater that suggest increasing levels of COVID in the community now and in the near future. Taken together with higher rates of seasonal flu and other viruses, these trends mean we need to act now to protect our the most vulnerable in our community and to minimize disruptions to the end of term exam season.
Masks are now required for all indoor academic activity
Starting November 9, this means that wearing a mask will now be a requirement for any indoor activity that is part of academic activity. This includes, but is not limited to lectures, seminars, tutorial, teaching labs, tests, exams and all other forms of academic instruction wherever it happens indoors. In certain other academic settings, such as office hours meetings, you may also be asked to wear a mask or ask other participants to wear a mask.
Instructors who are teaching as well as students who are presenting may temporarily remove masks when speaking if they are physically distanced from others.
We’re asking leaders in research labs where instruction happens to consider their circumstances and make their own decision about whether masks are required in the lab. Graduate students and other research staff can talk to their supervisor or the lab manager about the arrangements in their specific lab.
While masks are only required for indoor academic activity, researchers undertaking research with human participants are encouraged to continue to wear tight-fitting, well-constructed masks for studies particularly those involving vulnerable populations, healthcare settings, or extended periods of close contact between researchers and/or participants.
Wearing a mask is strongly encouraged for everyone at the University in all indoor spaces, though this will remain optional in non-academic settings and activities. When you are in close contact with others, please consider wearing a tight-fitting, multi-layer mask. A medical-style mask is best. We all have a role to play to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Masks continue to be available for pick up on campus in the Student Life Centre and through department heads for anyone who wants one. We are confident that everyone in the Waterloo community will continue to do what is necessary to stay safe and to protect each other.
Students with a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask can contact AccessAbility Services to discuss their needs and apply for an accommodation from this requirement.
This requirement will continue to be reviewed, but it will remain in place for the remainder of the Fall term. You can expect to hear more information about the Winter term before the break in December.
Get boosted as soon as you are eligible
Experts agree a that getting booster doses of a COVID-19 vaccination as you are eligible is important because vaccination continues to offer the best protection against the severe illness, hospitalization and death. Up to date vaccinations also reduce your risk of infection. You can book your booster dose on the provincial vaccination portal or by booking with Campus Wellness. We are no longer collecting information on vaccination status. The School of Pharmacy provides clear advice and FAQs on boosters.
If you are sick, stay away
As always, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or think you were exposed to the virus you should complete the Ontario self-assessment to get advice on what to do and whether you should stay home.
If you’re an undergraduate or graduate student who needs to miss classes you can self-declare your absence in Quest to let your instructors know what is going on. Please check the detailed guidance for declaring your absence. If you’re an employee, talk to your supervisor about arrangements for work if you need to isolate, and remember to log sick time in WorkDay.
We know that more pandemic-driven change is unsettling and can be stressful. If you need any help coping, please know there is help available for you. Please reach out to one of the many resources for mental health on the Campus Wellness website.
The COVID-19 information website continues to provide access to information and the University’s COVID-19 health and safety measures.