Coronavirus Update – December 17, 2021

News

Published: 15Dec2021

To all Members of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences,

As you are no doubt aware, the number of COVID-19 cases has been rising over the past week, and the Omicron variant is dramatically replicating. Given these developments, together with our social responsibility as a Faculty community to help protect the McGill health care network and the Faculty’s concern for your own health and safety, please heed the following:

1- All Faculty holiday parties/gatherings, etc. are cancelled; please hold these events and all other Faculty-related activities virtually.

2- If necessary to work onsite to support our education and research priorities (e.g., exams, provide support to students, etc.), please continue to do so; otherwise, please work virtually from home.

3- Immediately reconsider any planned in-person holiday gatherings, as well as travel; this is critical for those who have family members and/or close friends in our hospitals and clinics. We must do all we can to help protect them and our health care system, and by extension, the population. At minimum, please heed the government’s directives with respect to capacity and other measures to keep all safe.

As members of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences – whether you are a student or trainee, health care professional, scientist or part of our outstanding administrative and operations team – we all have a special responsibility that comes with the privilege of serving society in our roles.

I am acutely aware that the emergence of Omicron and the measures we need to take are the last things we had hoped for heading into the holidays. Clearly, we are not past this virus yet. I count on your good judgement and commitment to lead by example, so we can mitigate the damage to the people in our community and beyond, and overcome this latest variant because of our collective efforts.

Please refer to the most recent MRO message sent Friday, Dec. 17, early evening. We will hold a special Faculty Town Hall in early January to take stock of the situation post-holidays, in the hope our decisions will have had the desired effect.

These are difficult times. In the event you have feelings of being overwhelmed, isolated or distressed, please remember that there are McGill resources available to you:

  • McGill Employees should visit this site.
  • Faculty students and trainees in health professions schools can contact the WELL Office.
  • All students have access to Keep.meSAFE, a mental health counselling service offered to students in partnership with SSMU and PGSS, which provides 24/7 access to licensed counsellors through telephone and mobile chat in more than 60 languages. To access this service, download the MySSP app in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Thank you for all you are doing and for taking this message to heart.

Wishing you, your family and close ones health over the holidays and well into the new year.

David Eidelman, MDCM
Vice-Principal (Health Affairs)
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences


December 15, 2021

Dear members of the McGill community,

COVID cases in Canada are again rising, partly driven by the new Omicron variant. There is much that is still unknown about this new strain. In this context, it is more important than ever that we follow safety protocols. In particular, students should not come to our campuses, including to in-person exams, if they have COVID symptoms. Accommodations for students, if needed, are requested by completing a form in Minerva (personal menu).

In this update:

  • Revised safety protocols
  • Reminder about other safety protocols
  • Telework
  • Outbreak in Athletics
  • Cases on campus
  • Holiday gatherings

 

Tightened COVID protocols effective immediately

Due to the uncertain epidemiological situation, we are implementing some new measures, which will be in effect until at least the start of the Winter Term:

  • Procedural masks have been required at McGill this term, with few exceptions. With the rise in cases generally, the guidelines for mask wearing are being tightened:
    • Staff and students must wear a procedural mask at all times, unless they are alone in a closed space. You must wear a mask even when seated at a distance of two or more metres.
    • Masks can be removed briefly while actively eating and drinking but should be put on again immediately. For example, if you are eating and pause to have a conversation, put on your mask.
    • If you cannot maintain physical distancing of at least one metre when outdoors, please wear a procedural mask.
    • Exceptions still remain for those unable to wear a mask for health reasons, for singing or woodwind lessons, and some other limited circumstances, Please consult the mask guidelines for further information.
  • Varsity practices are suspended until the New Year.

 

Follow all COVID health and safety protocols

With cases rising, it is extremely important that you follow all health and safety guidelines, including:

  • Not coming to campus if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Please complete the self-evaluation form each day before you come to campus and follow the instructions that apply to your situation.
  • Reporting positive tests or COVID-19 symptoms immediately to McGill’s Case Management Group by calling 514-398-3000.
  • Properly wearing a procedural mask that covers your nose and mouth at all times.
  • Changing your mask after four hours of wear, or sooner if it becomes wet or soiled.
  • Coughing or sneezing into your arm or elbow.
  • Washing your hands with soap and water or sanitizer frequently.

 

Telework

At a press conference this afternoon, Christian Dubé, Quebec’s Minister of Health, asked employers to prioritize telework. This recommendation had been in effect for much of 2021 and was removed only recently, in mid-Fall. As a result of Minister Dubé’s announcement, McGill will return to the same level of in-person presence that was put in place in the summer:

  • Administrative and support staff who can perform their job functions at home should work approximately 30% of their time in the office.
  • Supervisors are asked to continue to prioritize the presence of staff in support of our teaching and research mission

We will re-evaluate the situation as it evolves and communicate early in the New Year.

 

Outbreak in Athletics

Yesterday, December 13, 2021, McGill’s Case Management Group (CMG) confirmed an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among members of some of our McGill sports teams and associated Athletics and Recreation staff. Three individuals have been confirmed to have tested positive and we believe that transmission occurred on campus during a team practice. The investigation is still ongoing and the total number of cases may be adjusted later.

 

Cases on campus

  • Last week, from December 5 to 11, there were 12 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 who were on campus during their contagion period.
  • This number includes those from the cluster of cases in a Macdonald campus laboratory. In the Macdonald cluster, it is possible that on-campus transmission was at play but shared social activities in the group are a more likely explanation.
  • A further 17 members of the McGill community reported positive tests but were not on campus while contagious.
  • Please note that incorrect information about last week’s totals, which appeared briefly on McGill’s Case Tracker this morning, has since been corrected.
  • We have seen a few individuals test positive after writing exams. You can find information about these cases here.
  • However, as was the case in our classrooms during the semester, our different layers of protection are still effective. We have not seen any evidence to date of people transmitting the virus in an exam room or classroom.

We are monitoring cases at McGill and potential community transmission extremely closely and are prepared to act quickly to again tighten COVID protocols.

 

Holiday Gatherings

Many teams and groups at McGill have planned holiday gatherings, which people have been anticipating eagerly. In this context, virtual gatherings are safer and many employees will not be comfortable gathering in person. If you decide to have an in-person event we ask that you make it clear to employees that attendance is optional. As well, you must pay particular attention to McGill’s health and safety guidelines for events on campus:

  • Wear a mask at all times. If you are eating or drinking, please remain at least two metres apart and lower your mask only briefly.
  • Do not serve food buffet style. Food should be provided in individual servings (e.g. boxed lunches).
  • Alcohol is allowed only at strictly sit-down events (note that a permit is required if such event happens on campus, and you must fill out the Events Central Coordination Form).

 

It is discouraging for everyone to see COVID cases rising across Canada again, just before the holidays. Please follow COVID guidelines especially carefully, to ensure that you will be able to see those you care about over the break.

On behalf of the Recovery and Operation Resumption Committee, we would like to offer our best wishes for a safe holiday break,

 

Fabrice Labeau
Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning)

Chris Buddle
Associate Provost (Teaching and Academic Programs)


November 4, 2021

Dear members of the McGill community,

Since the start of the Fall semester, our COVID-19 case rate on campus has remained very low. We are proud to announce this trend has continued.

Over the past week, we have reported zero positive COVID-19 cases on our campuses.

This is outstanding news that shows our community continues to take the pandemic seriously, and act responsibly to protect our collective health and safety. Our already high vaccination rate continues to improve as last week’s vaccination clinics at our Downtown and Macdonald campuses administered a total of 88 new vaccinations and registered 166 out-of-province vaccinations.

However, we must remain vigilant. Following the Halloween weekend, when many attended large gatherings, social events, and visited bars and restaurants, we remind you that it is your duty to report any COVID-19 symptoms if you have been on campus in the preceding 48 hours. This is critical to continuing our trend of low COVID-19 case counts and ensuring the disease does not spread on our campuses.

Minerva daily self-assessment replaced

  • Anyone visiting our campuses is required to complete a daily health and safety check. For faculty, staff, and student employees, this has included filling out the self-assessment form on Minerva on a daily basis – an important step in ensuring our campus remains safe and anyone experiencing symptoms stays home.
  • With more and more staff and students returning to campus, we have listened to the feedback about the daily reporting and have changed our process. As of Wednesday, November 3, McGill faculty, staff, and student employees will no longer be required to fill out the Minerva self-assessment form before visiting campus. However, you are still expected to do a self-evaluation.
  • Prior to coming to campus each day, all students, faculty, and staff are to review the new Self-Evaluation webform on the Coronavirus site, which will assess whether individuals should be coming to campus or not. This form does not collect data but directs anyone experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms to the necessary follow-up steps.
  • If individuals answer “yes” to any of the questions, they will be given follow-up actions which may include reporting symptoms to the Case Management Group, filling out a Minerva self-assessment form, or filling out the Academic Accommodations Request form.
  • Supervisors will, therefore, no longer receive daily emails from all staff who are coming to campus and will only receive such notifications if necessary.
  • The Minerva self-assessment form will remain active and used to provide information to the Disability Management team to efficiently manage any cases that appear on campus.
  • We ask for your help in communicating the news of this change! Many people are very accustomed to the Minerva form, so it will take some time to fully transition to this new process.

Voluntary rapid COVID-19 testing pilot project for asymptomatic people coming to campus

  • We are pleased to announce a new pilot project to further enhance the health and safety of our campuses. As of November 8, any asymptomatic student, faculty, or staff member will be able to receive a rapid COVID-19 antigen detection test on campus.
  • Results from the test, which should be available within a 20-minute period, cannot be used as proof of a negative test. Anyone receiving a positive result will be required to visit a COVID-19 testing centre for a confirmatory PCR test and follow the standard reporting process. Results will remain confidential.
  • Please note: this initiative is only available to asymptomatic individuals. Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should not be visiting campus. More information on the initiative and the testing schedule are available here.

New guidelines for travel are now available

  • Following the October 22 announcement from the Government of Canada that the global travel advisory had been lifted, we have published our new travel guidelines, available on the Coronavirus site here.

Finally, many of you may have questions related to the Government’s announcement earlier this week, especially as it might relate to staff presence on campus. We ask for your patience and will communicate relevant details in due course.

Sincerely,

Chris Buddle and Fabrice Labeau

Co-Chairs, Recovery and Operations Resumption Committee (ROR)

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