As a follow up to my previous update, I want to inform you about additional guidelines we are implementing to protect our campus community and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The federal government continues to describe the COVID-19 risk as low for Canadians. However, the situation is developing quickly and new information is arriving by the minute, so the information provided here may change. As a reminder, continue to visit usask.ca/updates for the most up-to-date information on this rapidly changing situation.
In consultation with our colleagues across campus, our partners in the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Government of Saskatchewan, and other post-secondary institutions in Saskatchewan and beyond, USask is implementing further preventative measures to protect members of the campus and broader community and limit the disruption to academic programming, where possible.
The following measures, restrictions, and recommendations are in effect immediately and until further notice:
Impact on On-Campus Classes
The Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer has indicated that gatherings of more than 250 people pose a potential health risk at this time. In line with this provincial government order, we are implementing the following measures:
- We are not closing the University. However, we are suspending all classes on our Saskatoon campus on Monday March 16 through Wednesday March 18. Although many of our classes are below 250 students, students congregate in much larger numbers in our buildings in getting to and from classes. For this reason, and also because we do have some classes that exceed 250 students, we are taking this measure.
- For these reasons, beginning on Thursday March 19, we are moving to remote delivery of our classes for the remainder of the winter term. If there are alternative circumstances for your program with regard to such activities as clinical placements and rotations, you will receive a message directly from your college.
- Communication regarding nursing in Regina, course delivery in Prince Albert, and course delivery at regional colleges will be forthcoming as soon as possible; we do know that USask in-person course delivery at regional colleges will not be cancelled for the March 16-18 period; they will continue as usual.
- Information for instructors in making this transition is available at teaching.usask.ca/remote-teaching. Support for instructors in making this transition is also available – contacts for this support can be found at the remote teaching website.
- Suspending classes for these three days will allow time for instructors and academic support staff to prepare for the remote delivery of course content. In making this decision, we recognize some classes are already being offered in an online/remote format, while others will require additional consultation to accommodate alternative delivery options. Exams scheduled during this time period will be rescheduled.
- Additional information on operational details will be provided to our teaching cohort across campus.
- We are currently reviewing options for how we conduct final exams.
- While classes are suspended, we plan to keep campus facilities such as the libraries, residences, food services and health services open at the present time. Research operations will continue.
- For the time being, staff and faculty members should continue to report to work as usual. However, we encourage you to have conversations with your supervisor if there are circumstances that prevent you from coming to work.
Cancelling Non-Essential Events
- Immediately, we are mandating the cancellation or postponement of all non-essential events hosted on campus that are not core to our teaching and learning mission, and our governance. We are taking this extra precautionary measure to further protect our campus community.
Social Distancing Protocols
- In addition to suspending on-campus classes and canceling or postponing non-essential events and gatherings until further notice, the university recommends the following community-based safety measures:
- When possible, keep 2m (6ft) of distance between you and other people, and avoid shaking hands and hugging.
- Minimize in-person meetings and group activities; use phone, teleconference and other technologies for meetings.
- Evaluate the need for bringing in outside people to campus; cancel, reschedule or using other methods for the meeting or activity.
- Avoid crowded places if possible.
International Travel Cancellations/Domestic Travel Considerations
- We are amending our revised Authority to Travel Requirements & Guidelines (posted March 11, 2020) as follows:
- We have suspended all international travel for our students, faculty and staff until further notice.
- We are continuing to evaluate our protocols for the arrival of international students to USask campus.
- Please reconsider all domestic travel plans, and consider canceling or postponing if not deemed critical.
Sickness/Possible Exposure to COVID-19
- If you are sick, it is imperative that you stay home and do not spread your illness. Even if it is not COVID-19, please stay home and monitor your symptoms.
- If you have received notification that you may have been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 by laboratory testing, please self-isolate for 14 days and monitor yourself daily for symptoms (fever, cough and difficulty breathing).
- In accordance with Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer's directive of March 13, if you recently returned to Canada from a Level 3 or 4 region, you must self-isolate for 14 days. If you have returned from any other international region, please monitor yourself for symptoms (fever, cough and difficulty breathing) for 14 days.
- We continue to monitor the status of our recreational facilities, gymnasiums, exercise rooms, and pools, and will advise immediately of any restrictions or changes in operations.
I can’t stress enough that if you are sick, please stay home and help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
The steps outlined above are important measures that are based on the best advice and information available, and are subject to change. Should additional preventative measures be required, we will provide that information in a timely manner.
As a member of the USask community, the best measure you can take is prevention and protection, including:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Sneeze into your sleeve or elbow and throw away soiled tissues as soon as possible, followed by hand washing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Practice social distancing by not shaking hands, hugging, keeping 2m of distance between yourself and others, etc.
- Stay home if you are sick
- Make sure that your vaccinations are up-to-date
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
We understand that there is uncertainty and concern at this time, but be assured that our preparations and planning processes are in place to protect the health and safety of our campus community. That is our top priority.
I thank our USask researchers who are making significant contributions to national and international efforts to find a solution to this global health threat. You make us proud.
President and Vice-chancellor
University of Saskatchewan