Directives: Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 on campus

Updated: July 8, 2020

These directives are for the progressive and gradual ramp up of on-campus activities at McGill University. Based on federal and provincial public health directives as well as recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), this guidance aims to ensure the health of our community members and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Our Collective Commitment: While common symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, fever and/or difficulty breathing, the onset of illness can be very subtle with slight breathing difficulties or occasional cough without fever. In some cases, individuals temporarily lose their sense of taste or smell. Members of the McGill community need to commit to self-isolate at home upon the slightest appearance of such symptoms. It is much less detrimental to lose a few days of work or experiments out of an excess of caution than to cause numerous people to fall sick or have to self-isolate for two weeks.

As areas are gradually allowed to ramp-up certain on-campus activities, the following must be taken into consideration:

  • Work from home must be prioritized for all work / activities that can be carried out remotely.
  • On-campus activities can be authorized if the 2-meter physical distance requirement can be respected. Strategies for maintaining the distance requirement include re-arranging workspaces, staggering shifts, etc.
  • On-campus activities where the 2-meter physical distance cannot be respected must undergo a review to identify alternatives or added requirements that must be implemented to ensure health and safety of staff and students.
  • Given the situation in the Quebec CHSLD network, students or staff who are working part-time in a CHSLD are not allowed to also work part-time on campus or come to classes.

This document will be updated as new guidance or directives become available.


Guiding principles


  • Health and safety of community members is the priority.
  • Any work on campus, whatever its nature, will be carried out while strictly respecting the constraints of public health authorities and in accordance with government directives.
  • Work from home is to be maintained as much as possible.
  • Ramp-up of on-campus activities will be gradual.
  • The University will continue to take into consideration and accommodate special circumstances for staff and students, including health conditions.




McGill via its supervisors and managers:

  • Take the necessary measures to protect the health and ensure the safety and physical well-being of the employee.
  • Ensure that the organization of the work and working procedures and techniques do not adversely affect the safety or health of the employee.
  • Give the employee adequate information as to the risks connected with their work and provide them with the appropriate training.


  • Become familiar with relevant safety guidelines.
  • Take the necessary measures to ensure their health, safety or physical well-being.
  • See that they do not endanger the health, safety or physical well-being of other persons at or near their workplace.


Virus transmission


Human coronaviruses cause infections of the nose, throat and lungs. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:

  • respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
  • close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands

Current evidence suggests person-to-person spread of COVID-19 is efficient when there is close contact which makes physical distancing an important prevention measure. Respiratory droplets of relevant size can travel a few feet before falling to the ground or evaporating so the 2 metre (6 feet) physical distancing rule is based on this. Proper handwashing, cough hygiene and cleaning with an appropriate disinfectant are also key to limiting virus transmission.

Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms include:

  • cough
  • fever
  • difficulty breathing

Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. Recent evidence indicates that the virus can be transmitted to others from someone who is infected but not showing symptoms. This includes people who:

  • have not yet developed symptoms (pre-symptomatic)
  • never develop symptoms (asymptomatic)


Prevention measures


  • Do not come to campus if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands frequently and practice good cough etiquette.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 2 meters at all times when other physical barriers are not present.
  • Maintain a density of 1 person per 16m2 (2 meters around a person) or lower for enclosed workspaces (such as labs) where multiple individuals need to work for extended hours.
  • Wear a mask or other appropriate face covering (“masque barrière”) if you are unable to maintain the 2-meter distance.
  • Ensure frequent cleaning especially of high-touch surfaces and objects.
  • Failure to comply with these guidelines could result in reduced access, exclusion from the building, and/or disciplinary measures.


Hand hygiene

Hand washing: Handwashing posters have been placed by sinks in most bathrooms on-campus. All McGill members should review proper handwashing technique:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds including palms, backs of each hand, between fingers, thumbs and under nails. Rinse and dry hands well. (see reference 4)
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

A printable PDF of the handwashing poster is available here:
PDF icon Washing hands - Simple and effective! (EN)
PDF icon Lavage des mains - Simple et efficace (FR)

Hands should be washed in the following situations (see references 1,2,3):

  • Upon arrival in the workplace
  • After work in close contact with another employee (less than 2 meters)
  • If hands before soiled/dirty
  • After using the bathroom
  • At the end of the day
  • Upon arrival at home

In washrooms, the following items shall be available:

  • soap or another cleaning product;
  • paper towels or hand dryers;
  • where paper towels are used, waste paper baskets for disposal of such towels.

Hand sanitizer stations have been made available at the entrance of all campus buildings.


Cough etiquette

When coughing or sneezing:

  • cough or sneeze into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand
  • dispose of any tissues you have used as soon as possible in a waste basket and wash your hands afterwards


Physical distancing

  • Avoid direct contact with individuals
  • Rearrange workspaces or adjust work times to ensure physical distancing (2 meters or 1 person per 16m2) can be respected. For example:
    • Re-arrange workspaces
    • Stagger work shifts including break times
    • Extend core work hours if possible
    • Assign employees to small work teams and arrange on-campus rotations to reduce the number of interactions
  • Where physical distancing is not possible, other measures are required such as work from home arrangements, physical barriers (i.e. Plexiglas), or the use of personal protective equipment.
  • Office work on campus should be minimized. While one worker per office would be compatible with current distancing practices, work from home is to be prioritized even for those with closed office spaces.
  • Meetings and other encounters that would require people to be in an enclosed space should be organized online for the time being.
  • Limit the number of visitors, clients, and others coming to the office.
  • Remove items like magazines or reading material from common areas.
  • Avoid sharing supplies and equipment if possible.
  • Lunch / break rooms can be used, but physical distancing guidelines (2 meters) must be followed, and surfaces must be wiped down after use.



  • A variety of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – i.e. masks, gloves, etc. – is required for a range of regular activities that occur on McGill’s campuses including certain research activities, cleaning, construction and so on. With the current COVID-19 situation there are additional circumstances where public health authorities recommend PPE use, namely the wearing of masks if 2-meter physical distancing cannot be achieved.
  • Given the current global supply shortages of various PPE materials, Procurement (within Financial Services) will be acquiring materials centrally for the time being.

Environmental cleaning

Public Areas

Building Services will be completing increased environmental cleaning and disinfection of public spaces and high touch areas including washrooms, doors and entranceways (door handles, plates and push bars), elevators, drinking fountains, kitchenettes, handrails, and other high touch horizontal and vertical surfaces.

Building Services does not clean any tools or equipment in labs or offices.

Work areas / workspaces

Building occupants must also implement an enhanced cleaning and disinfection process for their workspaces as Building Services may only clean the floor and empty regular waste and recycling bins depending on the space. This must include:

  • Cleaning of workspace at the beginning and end of each shift.
  • Disinfecting high touch areas in the immediate workspace using a disinfectant wipe, such as a Lysol wipe, or other cleaning product. This includes administrative as
  • well as research and teaching equipment - tables / desks, keyboards, telephones, interior door handles, faucets, etc.
  • Any equipment (i.e. computers, microwaves, lab equipment) used by multiple users must be disinfected using a Lysol wipe or similar cleaning product in between each user.
  • For additional guidance see Public Health Agency of Canada: Coronavirus disease (COVID 19) cleaning and disinfecting public spaces (PDF)



All McGill-owned vehicles must be disinfected at the beginning of a shift and between drivers. High touch surfaces in vehicles that must be regularly cleaned include but are not limited to:

  • Keys or FOBs, Starter button on vehicles with FOBs
  • Inside and outside door handles, Inside door grab handles, pads and armrests; (all doors including rear hatches)
  • Steering wheel, Shift lever and console;
  • Dashboard;
  • Door locks and window controls
  • Radio and climate control buttons;
  • Turn signal and wiper stalks;
  • Seat and Seat adjuster;
  • Touch screen;
  • Rear view mirrors
  • Gas cap
  • Any other parts that are commonly used and that may have been touched (glove compartment, hood, trunk, van panel door handles, pick-up tailgate handle, sleeping areas, for example).



Medical masks

Medical masks such as N-95 respirators block microscopic particles and they protect the wearer from exposure to airborne liquid droplets. These along with other medical masks like surgical masks should be reserved for health workers and for certain lab or research activities.

Non-medical masks

Wearing a face covering, also called a handcrafted mask, in public is strongly recommended especially when physical distancing (2 metres) is not possible, such as when you go to the grocery store or take public transit. When you wear a mask or a face covering in public, you must also follow other safety measures, such as hygiene and physical distancing measures (2 metres). It is important to realize that these masks typically do not prevent the individual wearing them from being infected, the mask is meant to protect others from the wearer’s respiratory droplets.

Reminders for the use of non-medical masks:

  • Learn about the proper use of these masks. See the following videos:

  • Hands should be washed before and after removing the mask. Remove mask by the ear straps and avoid touching the front of the mask
  • Mask must be worn covering the mouth and nose
  • Replace the mask if it becomes damp or soiled

Note: Specifically, for N-95 respirators, proper training and respirator fit-testing is required. Please see Environmental Health and Safety’s website for more information: Respiratory Protection & Fit Testing


"Exclusion” from university activities

  • Supervisors and managers must inquire daily about the health of each of their authorized staff and students coming to campus, upon arrival onsite, by having them answer the following questions:
    • Do you have any of these symptoms: cough, fever, difficulty breathing, sudden loss of smell?
    • Have you been out of the country in the last 2 weeks?
    • Are you in contact with someone who has COVID-19?
  • If staff or students answer yes to any of these questions, they must stay home.
  • If a worker begins to experience symptoms in the workplace, they should be isolated in a room and, if available, should wear a procedural (or surgical) mask, or cover their mouth and nose with a clean cloth (e.g. scarf). Call 1-877-644-4545 for instructions.
  • As per CNESST directives, the employer must disinfect the workplace when a person has had flu-like symptoms. The individual's supervisor or person in charge of the area shall:
    • Request that people vacate the work areas in which the individual has worked in the last 3 days;
    • Call McGill Security (514-398-3000 Downtown campus/514-398-7777 Macdonald campus) to initiate the cleaning and disinfection procedure)
  • Other workers involved in the same area can return to work as soon as the cleaning and disinfection process is complete. No specific follow up is needed for these workers beyond watching for symptoms as usual.
  • Please follow these directions if you are an employee who is in self-isolation.


Building access and egress

The following is applied to research being phased in, in these buildings:

  • Strathcona Anatomy & Dentistry Building
  • Wong Building
  • Maass Chemistry Building
  • Pulp & Paper Building
  • The Macdonald-Stewart Raymond Complex, including the Barton Building
  • Parasitology Institute
  • Faculties and administrative units are responsible for determining which activities can ramp-up and when.
  • Everyone needing access to a building and areas within the building will be assigned the access by the faculty/department/unit (AAM, BD).
  • Security Services will work with Facilities to identify access and egress points for each building.
  • If it is not possible to egress from a second point, the entrance / exit will be demarcated to ensure people respect the 2-meter physical distancing.
  • All other entrances to the building will be on “lock mode” (i.e. no entry but egress maintained at all times) with visible signage redirecting individuals to the entry.

Security agents / Personnel assigned to security will:

  • Be present at the entrance of buildings
  • Ensure every individual scans their access card at the building entrance door and there is no piggybacking
  • Ensure individuals respect the 2-meter rule outside the building before entering
  • Ensure individuals respect the 2-meter rule inside the building while walking to the stairs, elevator or workspace
  • Ensure elevators are occupied by one person at a time if size of elevator does not permit more than one person
  • Ensure that signage on the floor in elevators are respected if more than person is allowed in
    Elevator diagram showing spacing requirements
  • Ensure that individuals wash or disinfect their hands once inside the building
  • Ensure that individuals entering building are reminded that the 2-meter rule should be respected at all times

    Floor signage
  • Ensure that individuals entering buildings are reminded to respect the arrows on the floor showing direction of flow

    Floor decals in an office


Circulation in buildings

The following is applied to research being phased in, in these buildings:

  • Strathcona Anatomy & Dentistry Building
  • Wong Building
  • Maass Chemistry Building
  • Pulp & Paper Building
  • The Macdonald-Stewart Raymond Complex, including the Barton Building
  • Parasitology Institute
  • Signage is being placed at access and egress points as well as by elevator banks, in stairwells and other common spaces as reminders about new prevention measures in effect.

    For further details, see: Re-occupancy Guide

    Prevention measures signage

  • Deliveries: Measures must be put in place to reduce the number of non-McGill people circulating in buildings, including for deliveries.

High-risk individuals, including immuno- compromised


  • Employees with a weakened immune system or chronic condition
    Employees who are at risks of developing complications to COVID-19 should follow the recommendation of the government and work from home. If working from home is not possible and/or the employee provides necessary activities and functions, a case-by-case evaluation must be carried out and the medical condition must be documented by providing information to [at]

    An employee retains his right to remain at work insofar as he has been adequately informed about the risks related to his work and that the employer has taken all necessary measures to protect the health of the employee.
  • Employees over 70 years of age
    “A case-by-case evaluation must be carried out. Workers who do not provide essential services should stay home and, if possible, engage in teleworking. If this is impossible and the workers offer an essential services, they can continue to work if they are in good health and protective measures are adopted for them. The workers must apply such measures.” Gouvernement du Québec: Questions and answers pertaining to employers and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic


Refusal to work


Employees should contact their manager to discuss their specific situation and concerns. Please keep in mind that our workplace is still a safe environment. The measures that have been put in place are meant to limit the propagation for the virus. Therefore, we ask all our employees who are coming into work to apply the basic hygiene precautions, such as hand washing and physical distancing, as recommended by the authorities.

If employees have reasonable grounds to believe the workplace presents unsafe working conditions, they may initiate a work refusal process in accordance with the Act Respecting Occupational Health and Safety. The law provides that an employee has a right to refuse to perform particular work if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the performance of that work would expose them to danger to their health, safety or physical well-being, or would expose another person to a similar danger.

This process must be documented by the immediate supervisor. Without reasonable grounds, a work refusal may be considered an unjustified absence. Supervisors and managers facing such a situation must consult with Human Resources.


What to do if a McGill member receives a COVID-19 diagnosis?



If you have been diagnosed with Coronavirus (COVID-19) please use the self-reporting form for students found in Minerva.

  1. Log-in to Minerva
  2. Select the Student menu
  3. Select “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self Reporting”

Information collected will be kept safely and confidentially: any personal information will not be disclosed unless as requir ed by law or with the student’s express consent.


Any employee who has received a clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 must complete the confirmation of illness form and send it by email to [at] The Disability Management unit (HR) will contact them to document their condition. This process applies to any employee who receives a clinical diagnosis of COVID-19, whether or not they are required to be on campus.

Return to campus

While you are required to inform the university about your diagnosis if this will result in an absence, you can choose to tell your colleagues about your diagnosis but you are not obliged to so, unless directed by a health professional.
If the employee had symptoms but was not hospitalized, the requirement for self- isolation ends when they meet the following three conditions:

  1. At least 14 days have passed since symptoms appeared (i.e. since the first day of the symptoms)
  2. They have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours
  3. They have not had a fever for at least 48 hours

Important: If the employee has symptoms or a fever on day 14, they must remain in isolation until they have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours and without fever for at least 48 hours.




  • Global Affairs Canada’s global Level 4 Avoid all travel advisory is still in effect. As a result, all university travel remains suspended until further notice.
  • Reminder that any travellers coming into Canada must self-isolate for 14 days.


Emergency Response Protocols


Security Services

Security Services is available 24/7 even during the COVID-19 situation.

Downtown Campus: 514 398 3000
Mac Campus: 514 398 7777

Emergency Call Procedure

  • For an emergency requiring ambulance, fire or police, call 911
  • Then, call Security Services who will coordinate with emergency responders
  • If only internal help is required – i.e. for water leaks, suspicious persons, strange odours, etc. call Security Services.

Fire Prevention

Fire evacuation procedures remain the same.
Occupants can don a mask if one is readily available as maintaining the 2-meter distance in stairwells may be difficult. Once exiting the building, evacuees must disperse in order the respect the physical distancing requirement.

Hazardous Waste Management

There are no changes to the emergency response protocol for hazardous material spills.

Minor spills (4L or less) can be dealt with by the laboratory if they feel safe doing so and have the proper equipment.

If they do not or the spill is larger than 4L, they must call Security Services at 514-398-3000 (Downtown campus) and 514-398-7777 (Macdonald campus) to report the incident. Security will contact Hazardous Waste Management and the unit will act immediately.

In either situation a spill report must be filled and sent back to hwm [at]


Area-specific guidance


The Research Planning Committee has developed specific directives for on-campus research, which are available on the COVID-19 website.


Training / information

Most EHS trainings will be delivered online.


Preventing transmission

Physical Distancing

Environmental cleaning

Back to top