Looking beyond Step 3 to the fall term

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

On July 21 the following email was shared with graduate students


To: All employees and graduate students

From: Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor Kate Windsor, Director of Safety 

Date: Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Subject: Looking beyond Step 3 to the fall term


  • Ontario entered Step 3 of its reopening plan and is seeing positive trends in vaccinations and low numbers of COVID-19 cases
  • While we may be able to significantly expand in-person experiences this fall, our current academic approach will remain largely as planned: a mix of online and in-person courses
  • Register for the President’s Forum on July 27 to learn more

Last week, Waterloo Region, along with the rest of Ontario, entered the third step of the province’s reopening plan, further reducing the public health restrictions that have defined so much of the last 18 months.

As the government made clear, the relaxation of public health measures is made possible by the positive trends in vaccinations across the province and the country. Rates of transmission have also continued to drop. As of Monday:

  • more than 79 per cent of people aged over 12 in Ontario have had one dose of a vaccine,
  • more than 61 per cent have had two doses, and
  • Ontario has seen fewer than 200 new cases per day for 11 consecutive days.
  • These are positive data points that are giving us confidence that further steps to relax restrictions can happen in the coming weeks provided the data continues to trend in the right direction. The province has already indicated our plans for the fall term can happen without physical distancing and that we can plan to lift capacity limits in our buildings.

    At Waterloo, we are working with our local public health team to make sure our plans for the fall continue to protect your physical and mental health, while ensuring that we can expand in-person experiences for everyone.

    These positive trends do not mean an end to all restrictions. We must remain vigilant, particularly since our region has experienced a series of outbreaks driven by the Delta variant. While local case levels are being controlled, they currently remain above the provincial average. We can plan to continue to wear masks indoors and maintain elevated health and safety protocols to keep our campuses safe. We also need to remain flexible to deal with a fourth wave of the pandemic if it emerges.

    I also want to be clear that while the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has signalled that we can expand in-person experiences this fall, they also indicate that local circumstances should guide decision-making. Our current academic approach will remain largely as planned. Our students and instructors have already made plans for the fall; changing those plans at this late stage would create new uncertainty and disruption for the community. We will preserve our overall plan to deliver a mix of online and in-person courses for the fall. However, with physical distancing and gathering limit requirements to be lifted, we can look now at potential changes to in-person experiences such as in labs, libraries, student clubs and services and more.

    For employees, we will continue to work on departmental plans to guide the return to our campuses. As we start more on-campus activities, we must also be prepared in some cases to return to working in person sooner than might have anticipated before now. Whatever the plan in your unit, we expect leaders to be mindful of your personal circumstances and to remain flexible during this new period of change.

    Learn more at the President’s Forum

    To help you make sense of these latest changes, I’m inviting you to attend a President’s Forum on Tuesday, July 27, 2021, at 1 p.m. I’ll be joined by a panel of experts from across the University to explore the public health factors that will shape our experiences this fall. I’ll also be joined by James Rush and Charmaine Dean to provide operational updates.

    When: Tuesday, July 27, 2021, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

    Where: Hopin

    Everyone is welcome to join online. All faculty, staff, and students are invited to participate. I look forward to answering your questions at the forum event. You can ask a question as part of registration or send your questions to coronavirus@uwaterloo.ca.

    It’s clear that the change and uncertainty that has defined life during the pandemic is set to continue. I’m hopeful, now, that changes are more positive than we have been used to. As I know has been said so many times, Waterloo was built for change. I’m confident that we’re about to prove that point again.

    Change is difficult and can create stresses on individuals. If you are suffering or need to talk, you can contact the Employee and Family Assistance Program provided by Homewood Health at 1-800-663-1142.

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