COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have received a positive test, report your symptoms or diagnosis here.

Current as of August 31, 2021

General FAQ

Safety on campus

Is the decision to have in-person activities for Fall 2021 aligned with public health experts?

Yes. We continue to work closely with provincial and federal governments, as well as public health experts and officials, to offer a safe on-campus environment for all. All necessary health and safety measures will continue to be implemented and only eased once government directives allow.

I’m nervous about coming back to campus. Is it safe?

McGill has an excellent track record in keeping our community safe. Although there have been outbreaks in residence caused by a few people breaking the rules, safety measures have worked. Since September 2020, an average of 3,000 people per day have been in person on campus without a single report of a staff member or student catching COVID while studying or working on McGill’s campuses. As more and more people come to campus and circumstances evolve, we will continue to do everything we can to maintain this track record.

What physical distancing is in effect?

Please see the Preventing tranmission section of the Health guidelines for information on physical distancing.

When are we moving to no physical distancing everywhere?

Physical distancing is not currently required in classrooms, as long as students wear masks, but some distancing is required elsewhere. We will move to no physical distancing throughout the university when government directives allow.

What happens if cases rise or there is a new variant, and we have already moved to no physical distancing?

We have two backup plans. We can quickly move back to our One-Metre Distancing phase. If the situation worsens, we can implement the health and safety measures applied during the Winter 2021 term, while we were operating in a red alert zone.

Vaccinations

Why isn’t McGill imposing mandatory vaccination for the University community?

It is clear that vaccination is the best way to protect you and those close to you, and a high rate of vaccination is the best way to protect our society and prevent new variants from developing. These are scientific facts. That is why we are actively encouraging every member of the community to get vaccinated.

Vaccination is a medical procedure. Under Quebec law, people have the right to refuse to undergo a recommended medical procedure, unless otherwise provided for in law. In the absence of specific legal authorization, mandatory vaccination can be justified legally only if other reasonable means combined are insufficiently effective to ensure the health and safety of the community. While views may vary, we do not think that we meet that test, given the current situation in Quebec.

At the moment, these measures at McGill include encouraging voluntary vaccination, mandatory wearing of procedural masks, distancing and reduced occupancy in buildings, exclusion of symptomatic individuals from campus, thorough contact tracing as per public health guidelines, enhanced cleaning, handwashing and cough etiquette.

Crucially, Quebec is implementing a vaccine passport as of September 1, which provides considerable incentives to get vaccinated and to register vaccinations received outside Quebec. Members of the McGill community thus have an extra incentive to get vaccinated, in order to return to a more normal way of living, including going to restaurants, cafés, bars and gyms. This incentive does not yet exist in most other Canadian jurisdictions. We are also examining the circumstances under which the vaccine passport could be used to control access to certain activities and spaces on our campuses, consistent with general provincial directives on its use.

As a result, the risk of transmission and the risks of developing severe forms of the illness are significantly reduced.

But other Universities are implementing mandatory vaccination, so why not McGill?

Some peer institutions in other jurisdictions have recently announced some form of vaccine mandate. We encourage you to look beyond the headlines into the details of these announcements. These mandates have various forms: for example, requiring people to attest to their vaccination status without requiring proof of vaccination, or requiring proof of vaccination or testing several times a week. To our knowledge, no plan announced in Canada includes a means to prevent unvaccinated people from coming on campus.

Assessing the overall situation, including the risk of infection, requires setting McGill’s policies within its specific context, including provincial policy. Crucially, Quebec is implementing a vaccine passport as of September 1, which provides considerable incentives to get vaccinated and to register vaccinations received outside Quebec. This incentive does not yet exist in most other Canadian jurisdictions.

Isn't vaccination the best tool to limit the spread of the virus and to prevent against severe illness. So why not make it mandatory?

Vaccination is the best way to protect you and those close to you, and a high rate of vaccination is the best way to protect our society and prevent new variants from developing. Vaccination is a medical procedure. Under Quebec law, people have the right to refuse to undergo a recommended medical procedure, unless otherwise provided for in law. In the absence of specific legal authorization, mandatory vaccination can be justified legally only if other reasonable means combined are insufficiently effective to ensure the health and safety of the community.

The measures the University is implementing are effective at this time, and have been effective throughout the pandemic. As circumstances change, we will adjust our measures as required, aligned with government directives, to keep our University community safe.

We encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible.

What do you say to individuals who are particularly at risk because of a medical condition and would be better protected if everyone is vaccinated?

The pandemic has been particularly difficult for those with a medical condition that puts them at higher risk. Anyone who suffers from a documented medical condition that puts them at particular risk can request an accommodation. There are processes in place for that purpose for staff members and for students.

The government says that it will require proof of vaccination for some activities, including activities taking place at universities. Why can't the University do the same thing?

We know that the government will require a proof of vaccination for certain activities they have designated as non-essential. Some of those may take place on campus and the University will apply governmental regulations. At this time, the Government of Quebec is saying that “A vaccine passport will not be required for access to essential services like education (primary, secondary, post-secondary).”

Masks

Will masks be required at McGill?

Currently, all individuals on our campuses are required to wear a procedural mask when entering or circulating in indoor shared spaces. There are a few exceptions allowing for the safe removal of masks while indoors on campus - learn more and view a list of procedural mask distribution locations here.

Will McGill continue to provide procedural masks?

Yes, McGill will provide procedural masks.

Can I wear a mask even if they are not required?

Yes, you can continue to wear a mask if it makes you feel more comfortable.

Will there be mask exemptions for students who cannot wear masks?

Requests for mask exemptions for students on campus (including in classrooms and/or research laboratories) will only be considered based on documented health conditions, as outlined by the Government of Quebec. The health and safety of the campus community will be considered when deciding on feasible accommodations.

Any students who would like to request a mask exemption must contact the disabilities.students [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Mask%20exemption%20request) (Office for Students with Disabilities), and provide third-party documentation from a licensed health care provider attesting to a diagnosis and the barriers you are facing.

Students with an approved exemption will receive a letter from McGill clearly identifying their status. They must carry this letter with them at all times when on campus.

Ventilation

Has ventilation been increased to help protect against the spread of COVID-19?

McGill has implemented measures regarding the operation of its ventilation systems to align with guidance from public health agencies and industry. These measures focus on maximizing fresh air intake and extending the operating hours of the systems.

• All spaces with mechanical ventilation have already been optimized to align with guidance from public health agencies

• You can find recommendations for spaces with natural ventilation (e.g., windows that open) on McGill’s COVID-19 Ventilation page

• If a room has no mechanical ventilation, and has no windows, or windows that do not open, supervisors can contact emergency.mgmt [at] mcgill.ca to request an assessment by Facilities Management

Students

All students

What will happen if I am unable to attend class in-person until after the start of the fall semester due to circumstances beyond my control? (I.e. study permit processing delays, travel restrictions, quarantine requirements?)

In Fall 2021, we will return as many learning activities to in-person as possible. We expect students to be in Montreal and able to come to campus for in-person classes and assessments.

Some students have been experiencing delays in travel due to circumstances beyond their control – due to study permit processing delays, travel restrictions, and quarantine requirements.

We want to assure students who experience these unavoidable delays that they will not be de-registered from their courses simply because they are unable to attend in-person courses for the first two weeks of September. Students will also not be penalized for missed quizzes or exams held before the add/drop course period ends on September 14, 2021.

For guidance on the format of your course, please contact the appropriate faculty advising office for your program. For undergraduate contact info visit the Academic Advising: Advisor Directory. For graduate contact info visit the Graduate Program Contacts Directory.

Students who are concerned about missing content in the first two weeks of their in-person classes can request short-term academic accommodations by submitting a form that is available on Minerva under the "Personal" tab. Academic accommodations will be considered on a case-by-case basis and are not guaranteed for all courses.

Please visit our updated Academic Considerations Framework for Students to learn more.

What happens if someone in my class tests positive for COVID?

Positive cases among our community (including in classrooms) are managed and handled by a Case Management Group, which has direct contact with Public Health authorities, and will do contact tracing in the event it is necessary. Because of our responsibilities to uphold the privacy of health status of students, instructors cannot announce positive cases to their students, unless such communications are required by the Case Management group. However, contexts will vary, and the case management group (together with the Dean of Students, as appropriate) will advise on next steps for instructors in these kinds of scenarios, and will be sure to provide support around appropriate communication.

Will I need to be in Montreal, even if my classes are online?

Students are expected to be in Montreal for the start of the Fall term. Although classes may be scheduled online, they may include an in-person component requiring students to come to campus (in person exams, labs, conferences, etc.)

The course schedule currently posted will change based on the government’s announcement of August 6 that classrooms will not require physical distancing for the Fall 2021 term. We will update the schedule before classes start and then email students so they can check their schedules for revisions. The expected changes are:

  • Some courses currently scheduled to be online will switch to in-person.(Approximately 85% of teaching activities will now be in-person.
  • Most classes already scheduled in-person will change rooms.

How will I know if my course is online or in person?

If your academic activity currently has a room allocated, then it is in person and it will stay in person. The room assignment could change, however.

If your academic activity currently has no room assigned, then it is currently scheduled to be online. This could change as we move to no physical distancing.

Will exams or other assessments be in person?

We anticipate the Fall 2021 exam period (both mid-terms and finals) to be a combination of in-person and remote assessments to accommodate a range of class sizes. The planning will build in contingencies in the event that high-density gatherings are not permitted.

How will students manage a class schedule that combines in-person and remote activities in the same day?

In addition to on-campus quiet study space in the libraries, flex spaces will be available where students can watch and participate in remote learning activities.

Will there be in-person lectures in high-capacity classrooms?

Higher capacity classrooms will be used for some lectures, but most courses with 150+ students will remain online. These higher enrolment courses may have in-person components requiring attendance on campus, including labs, examinations, and tutorials.

Will lectures be recorded?

While some lectures may be recorded, students cannot depend on having lectures being recorded. Instructors in larger classrooms equipped with lecture recording systems are encouraged to record lectures, but not all classrooms are equipped with those systems. Instructors delivering larger lectures online will also be encouraged to record their online lectures.

Why can’t all courses be offered both online and in-person?

Some courses in the Fall will offer blended learning opportunities, where some parts of the course might be online, and some in person. However, offering courses online and in-person to students at the same time (“Hybrid”) is not occurring for the Fall. We do not have the technology in our classrooms that allow for students to either attend in person or remotely at the same time. “Hybrid” teaching can also create different experiences for students, and teaching in this way is pedagogically difficult. It is also not feasible for instructors to prepare two versions of their courses, one for students attending in person and one online version. Creating and delivering two versions of classes is simply not feasible.

Will classes still be in-person if there is another wave of the pandemic?

Our approach to the Fall 2021 semester allows for flexibility if the COVID situation improves or worsens, and we can adapt if needed. As the past year has proven, we are able to transition in-person classes to a remote environment if the situation warrants it. If strict health restrictions remain in place, we will offer some in-person activities in a manner that adheres to necessary precautions.

Will students be required to wear masks in the classroom?

Yes. McGill will provide procedural masks. Learn more about where you need to wear masks and view a list of procedural mask distribution locations.

Will students be able to go abroad on exchange or independent study?

Can I get vaccinated, either for my first or second dose, once I arrive in Quebec?

Yes. As soon as you arrive in Quebec, you will be eligible for vaccination. The process for people who have not been vaccinated is still being worked out, but we will let you know as soon as possible.

If you have had one dose of a two-dose vaccination, you will need to declare your first vaccination using Quebec’s Vaccination Registry, then you will be able to book your second dose.

What if I have long-term illness or disabilities related to COVID-19?

Students requiring long-term accommodations related to COVID should connect with the Office of Student with Disabilities to seek potential accommodations. An inability to come to campus this Fall may require students to adjust their registration, defer, or take a leave of absence, which may require consultation with an Associate Dean.

Will instructors offer online options for in-person classes if students need COVID-19 accommodations?

While some courses may have some online materials, instructors are not expected to prepare an online version of their course in addition to an in-person version. Requests for both remote and in-person versions of a course will not be considered. If short-term online accommodations related to COVID-19 are required by students, instructors will work with their Faculty and the Office of the Dean of Students to consider available options – although there are no guarantees that accommodations will be available.

Will student residences be open in the Fall?

Most student residences will be open in August with the usual guarantee of accommodation to all eligible first-year students who request it. Hotel-style accommodations will be fully open, but dorm-style residences will have reduced occupancy.

What will the Winter 2022 term look like?

It is impossible to say for certain, but we expect that we will return to regular patterns of all academic activities.

International students

International students have had the ability to enter Canada throughout the pandemic, and that is expected to continue. We will continue to work closely with provincial and federal governments, especially in the context of quarantine requirements, and continue to inform our international students of any developments in the weeks and months to come.

Please continue to check the following resources for the latest information:

Will I have to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Canada – even if I am fully vaccinated?

The Government of Canada announced that, starting July 5 at 12:01 a.m. EDT, fully vaccinated travelers entering Canada who meet certain conditions are exempt from the 14-day quarantine period. International students are eligible for this exemption.

·Please consult the Government of Canada site to determine the exact conditions and the process you must undergo to be eligible for the exemption. For example, only certain vaccines are eligible and you must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arrival.

· The Government still requires fully vaccinated travelers to make arrangements for a potential 14-day quarantine, in case, for example, you have COVID symptoms or the Government determines that you do not meet the requirements.

· Therefore, you should prepare to arrive in Canada a minimum of two weeks before the start of the semester and should have arranged a place where you can quarantine, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Can I quarantine in McGill Residences?

If you are planning to live in student housing and residence, you will be able to complete your 14-day quarantine here, but you must arrive between August 1 and 6, 2021. Unfortunately, we cannot offer residence quarantine after August 6 as students start to move in on August 20. We will need time to disinfect and prepare residences after they have been used for the 14-day quarantine period.

The move-in period for students living in downtown residences is August 20 to 29 and for students living in Macdonald campus residences is August 23 to 28.

Where else can I quarantine, if I cannot quarantine in McGill Residences?

If you are in this situation, please consult the FAQ section of the Student Housing and Hospitality Services page to learn more about quarantine options available in Montreal.

Will there be help for international students who need to pay for a quarantine hotel?

Students facing financial barriers when returning to campus may apply for financial aid. For more information and how to apply, please visit the Quarantine Bursary Program page.

Will international students be able to get vaccinated once they arrive in Canada?

Yes. Anyone who is legally in Canada is entitled to a vaccine.

When will I need to arrive in Canada?

The Government still requires fully vaccinated travelers to make arrangements for a potential 14-day quarantine, in case, for example, you have COVID symptoms or the Government determines that you do not meet the requirements. Therefore, you should prepare to arrive in Canada a minimum of two weeks before the start of the semester and should have arranged a place where you can quarantine, even if you are fully vaccinated.

Given that the situation is evolving rapidly, we strongly suggest that you book a flight or other transport or a hotel that allows you to reschedule the date if necessary.

I was fully vaccinated in my home country. Will I be counted in Quebec’s totals?

To be included in the total, you will need to declare your vaccination status using Quebec’s Vaccination Registry.

When will I receive my study permit?

If you have submitted your study permit application by May 15, the Government of Canada has guaranteed a response by August 6, although you may receive it earlier. If you have not started the process of applying for your study permit yet, we recommend starting as soon as possible.

Graduate students

Will graduate and oral defenses be in person? What about comprehensive examinations?

Oral defenses and comprehensive examinations will likely be in person in the Fall, but a mixed model is also possible. For example, during the past year, web conferencing tools have been very effective in allowing external members to attend defenses. Given this success, a hybrid model may be possible to explore for the Fall semester.

Will graduate-level classes be in-person or online?

Scheduled graduate classes for the Fall will follow the same patterns as undergraduate classes, in that they will be offered in-person if possible, and some that are currently scheduled online may switch to in-person.

Faculty and Staff

Instructor FAQs

When will I know if my class will be online or in person?

On August 6, the government announced that no physical distancing will be required in classrooms for Fall 2021 courses. Therefore, we know now that McGill will be switching from the one-metre schedule to the no-distancing schedule before classes start.

  • The course schedule currently posted is based on one-metre distancing. We will update the schedule in the next week or two, so that the schedule reflects no physical distancing. This will mean that more classes (approximately 85% of the total) will be in-person.
  • As we communicated earlier in the summer, courses currently scheduled to be online may switch to in-person. Most classes already scheduled in-person will change rooms.
  • Instructors whose classes will switch from online to in-person have been notified that the switch to in-person was likely.
  • We will email instructors and students once the new course schedule is online.

Will instructors be required to wear masks in the classroom?

Currently, all individuals on our campuses are required to wear a procedural mask when entering or circulating in indoor shared spaces. Instructors can remove their masks while teaching as long as they remain at least two metres away from students. Students are required to keep their masks on in classrooms. Learn more about teaching and masks.

Will I be able to ensure that my classroom has proper ventilation?

McGill has implemented measures regarding the operation of its HVAC systems to align with guidance from public health agencies and industry.

Ventilation in classrooms and rental buildings that will have classes this fall either has been reviewed or (for some classrooms that have not been in use recently) will be reviewed to ensure that safety standards in the COVID context are met. Find out more about ventilation and classrooms.

Will there be in-person lectures in high-capacity classrooms?

Higher capacity classrooms will be used for some lectures, but mostly at lower densities because most courses with 150+ students will remain online. These higher enrolment courses may have in-person components requiring attendance on campus, including labs, examinations, and tutorials.

What do I do if a student in my classroom isn’t following the University’s protocols related to COVID-19?

The University establishes the parameters around health and safety for its activities, including teaching, and in the context of the pandemic, these parameters are established by public health authorities and the Ministry of Education, and are overseen at McGill by the Emergency Operations Centre. An instructor has a responsibility to follow the protocols, and intervene if someone is acting in contradiction to the protocols in a classroom setting. Their responsibility is described as part of McGill’s Internal Responsibility System for Health and Safety. Students have a responsibility to behave according to McGill’s Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, and Article 10 (c) specifically speaks to ensuring students do not “…threaten or undermine the health, safety, well-being ….” of others. Instructors can connect with the Office of the Dean of Students to discuss any possible situations related to student discipline, or if there is urgency, they can call security services.

Do I have to provide academic accommodations for students if they claim they have tested positive for COVID-19 or need to self-isolate?

Instructors need to ensure that students request short-term academic considerations related to COVID-19 (e.g. self-isolation, illness, symptoms or other pandemic-related circumstances). Students will be required to submit an online declaration form, and medical documentation is not required. The Office of the Dean of Students will coordinate with the student’s Faculty for their needs for academic considerations, and instructors will be subsequently notified. Instructors and Faculties will work to consider appropriate accommodations based on the local context, and based on a set of possible options. If accommodations are not possible, the Faculty administration can work with the Office of the Dean of Students to consider alternative options. This accommodation process will be in place for the Fall 2021 term.

Will I need to offer online class options for students needing COVID-19 related accommodations?

Instructors will not be asked to prepare an online version of their course, although they are encouraged to record materials if they are teaching in a classroom equipped with a Lecture Recording System. If a student needs short-term online academic accommodations related to COVID-19, instructors will work with their Faculty and the Office of the Dean of Students to consider different accommodation options. No guarantees of accommodation options will be available.

I'm teaching in the Fall, will I have a Zoom licence?

Although McGill will return to primarily in-person teaching beginning in Fall 2021, Zoom will remain available for faculty and instructors who have teaching and learning activities during the 2021-2022 academic year. For other remote activities, please continue to use the other platforms available to the McGill community (e.g., MS Teams, WebEx).

Can I ask students in my class if they have been vaccinated?

No. Vaccination status is a confidential medical matter. In Quebec, except in very limited circumstances that do not apply to instructors, it is illegal for an individual to ask students to disclose their vaccination status. This situation applies to professors and students. Please be reminded that vaccination is not mandatory in the Province of Quebec.

In some cases where the institution is allowed by law, it may inquire into the vaccination status of students. For example, Quebec government directives require student trainees in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences who are working in the clinical environment to either be vaccinated or to undergo regular testing for COVID-19. In this instance, the University is maintaining an inventory of the vaccination status of student trainees. The Faculty is working with the Student Wellness Hub to collect this information with informed consent, and individual instructors are not allowed to ask students to disclose this information to them.

Can I engage students in a conversation about vaccination, its advantages and downsides?

Because it is illegal for an instructor to ask students to disclose their vaccination status, instructors should avoid engaging in conversations with students if the purpose is to elicit information about the vaccination status of students. Surveys which do not guarantee the anonymity for all purposes are comparable to asking.

Can I ban students from the classroom if they have not been vaccinated?

No. This would be discrimination on the basis of a health matter.

What should an instructor do if they have symptoms on a day they are to teach? Can they just teach online?

Instructors would need to stay home because their Daily Health Check would make it clear they are not to come to campus. Instructors should also inform their Chair or Director immediately to determine a short-term plan for their course that day, which may include different options such as a guest lecture, or perhaps offering something (short-term) online, or perhaps cancelling one lecture. The instructor should also follow up with the Case Management Group (514-398-3000). Students should not be notified of the instructor's health status from the instructor or Department/Unit; the Case Management Group will provide support if there are additional needs for communication or contact tracing among individuals in the class.

Administrative and support staff FAQs

Will I be notified if one of my coworkers tests positive?

Positive cases among our community are managed and handled by a Case Management Group, which has direct contact with Public Health authorities, and will do contact tracing in the event it is necessary. Because of our responsibilities to uphold the privacy of health status information, you will not, therefore, be notified if a coworker or other community member tests positive unless you are identified during contact tracing and must take specific actions.

Will administrative and support (A&S) staff still be allowed to work from home?

A&S staff who have been working from home need to be on campus approximately 30% of the time, on average, by mid-August. Once government restrictions are eased to allow for full occupancy of buildings, all A&S staff will return to work in person full time. The Interim Flexible Work Arrangements program, allowing eligible staff to work from home up to 40% of their time with their supervisor’s permission, will be available. Until then, most eligible employees will be working 70% of their time from home, so there is no need for the IFWA.

Will McGill accommodate staff who don’t feel safe coming back to campus in Fall 2021?

Staff who have concerns about safety should talk to their supervisors. Accommodations will continue to be available for documented medical conditions, where appropriate.

Is the 30% occupancy level a minimum or a target?

In most cases, it is a minimum. Depending on the building context and operational needs, some staff may be asked to come in for a larger or smaller percentage of time. The percentage of onsite time may increase or decrease in the coming weeks, as building usage is evaluated. For example, buildings that have a large number of classes will have a greater volume of students, and staff may need to come in less to maintain distancing in common areas. In buildings that are home to administrative and support staff only, with no classes, staff could be onsite up to 60% of their time.

Your supervisor will let you know if you need to exceed the 30% or reduce your time on campus.

Will I have to wear a mask in my office?

Currently, all individuals on our campuses are required to wear a procedural mask when entering or circulating in indoor shared spaces. You can remove your mask if you are alone in a closed room or if you are seated at least two metres apart - learn more and view a list of procedural mask distribution locations.

If I travel out of country, will I have to quarantine when I get back?

When staff members are thinking about vacations, please remember that the Government of Canada still advises against non-essential travel. If you do decide to travel internationally despite government advice, consult the Government’s information about returning to Canada. As of July 5, fully vaccinated travelers who meet certain conditions may be exempt from the 14-day quarantine. However, they must still have a 14-day quarantine plan in the event of complications.

Prior to departure, employees who wish to travel internationally must agree on a potential quarantine plan with their supervisors. Supervisors are asked to be flexible, while meeting operational requirements.

Please consult the updated travel guidelines available on the HR site.

Supervisor FAQs

Can I ask staff reporting to me if they have been vaccinated?

No. In Quebec, except in very limited circumstances that do not apply to supervisors, it is illegal for someone in a position of authority over individuals to ask those individuals to disclose their vaccination status. Please be reminded that vaccination is not mandatory in the Province of Quebec.

FAQs for faculties, units and services

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