Directives: Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 on campus

Updated: April 9, 2021

These directives outline safety and prevention measures to support the ongoing 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.

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



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. All members of the McGill community must commit to self-isolate at home upon the slightest appearance of such symptoms. It is much less detrimental to lose a few days of class, work or experiments out of an excess of caution than to cause others to fall sick.


Guiding principles

As on-campus activities ramp up, the following basic principles must be considered:

  • Health and safety of community members is the priority.
  • Ramp-up of on-campus activities will be carried out while respecting the constraints of public health authorities and in accordance with government directives.

In application of these guiding principles, the following directives must be adhered to:

  • Maintain a low density in all areas. It is estimated that an average density of 30% (1 person in 3) of the normal building density generally allows 2-metre physical distancing to be respected.
  • If physical distancing cannot be respected, other measures such as physical barriers or the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) must be implemented.
  • Each unit is responsible for completing a plan outlining measures for the safe resumption of on-campus activities prior to returning to campus.
  • We are all agents of public health and share the responsibility for maintaining a safe and healthy campus community. As per McGill’s Internal Responsibility System everyone at McGill University, no matter their title, is expected to take initiatives on health and safety issues and to work to solve problems and make continuous improvements.


Resumption planning

  • Faculties and administrative units are responsible for determining which activities can ramp up and when, within the framework of the present directives. These activities must be accompanied with a resumption plan outlining measures to ensure health and safety. See Directives: Resumption of on-campus activities for more information.
  • The resumption of all activities must be coordinated with the Building Director if activities are occurring in university buildings.


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. The 2 metre (6 feet) physical distancing rule is based on the fact that respiratory droplets of relevant size can travel a few feet before falling to the ground or evaporating. 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
  • sudden loss of smell

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)


General measures

  • Do not come to campus if you experience any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19 during the last 14 days.
  • Wash your hands frequently 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.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer stations have been made available at the entrance of all campus buildings.
  • Practice good cough etiquette by coughing or sneezing 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.
  • Wear a procedural mask.
  • Avoid direct contact with individuals.
  • Maintain a physical distance of 2 metres at all times when other physical barriers are not present.
  • Wear a procedural mask and other appropriate PPE for activities where the 2-metre distance cannot be maintained and physical barriers are not present.
  • Maintain a low density in all areas. It is estimated that an average density of 30% of the normal building density allows in general to respect the normal 2-metre distancing. 
  • Rearrange workspaces or adjust processes to ensure physical distancing. See the Toolkit: Resumption planning for on-campus activities for additional planning considerations.
  • Lunch / break rooms can be used, but physical distancing guidelines (2 metres) must be followed, and surfaces must be wiped down after use.
  • Ensure frequent cleaning, especially of high-touch surfaces and objects.
  • Avoid sharing supplies and equipment if possible or if not, apply appropriate cleaning measures.
  • All buildings remain on “Card Only” access and access must be assigned before entry.
  • 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.
  • Deliveries: Measures must be put in place to reduce the number of non-McGill people circulating in buildings, including for deliveries.

Failure to comply with these guidelines could result in reduced access, exclusion from the building, and/or disciplinary measures.

Masks or face coverings

All individuals on our campuses are now required to wear a procedural mask at all times when in any indoor shared space. There are a few exceptions to this rule - learn more here.

Personal protective equipment

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.

COVID-19 specific personal protective equipment, such as medical masks and protective eyewear, are required for work activities where 2m physical distancing cannot be maintained and other mitigation measures, like a preventive barrier, are not in place.

COVID-19 specific PPE if required will be determined as part of the resumption planning process by the supervisor/manager and will be provided by the university.

Note: Face coverings are not personal protective equipment. If a mask is required as PPE this means a medical mask or ASTM Level 1 mask.

Environmental cleaning

Increased environmental cleaning is required under these directives, including of high-touch surfaces.

A more detailed description of building cleaning is available under the Directives: Resumption of on-campus activities. Planning considerations for increased cleaning in workspaces is available in the Toolkit: Resumption planning for on-campus activities.

"Exclusion” from university activities

Disclosure of exposure or illness is required in order to safeguard the health and safety, and limit transmission in the McGill community.  A McGill community member or visitor answering yes to ANY of the following questions must stay home and not come to campus:

1. Are you experiencing ANY of the following symptoms?

  • Fever (oral temperature 38.1°C (100.6°F) or higher)
  • Sudden loss of sense of smell (anosmia) without nasal congestion, with or without loss of taste
  • Recent cough or worsening of a chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose or congestion (of unknown cause)

2. Are you experiencing at least TWO of the following symptoms?

  • Stomach ache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Major fatigue
  • Significant loss of appetite
  • Generalized muscle pain (not related to physical exertion)
  • Headaches

3. Have you been out of the country in the last two weeks?

4. Are you in contact with someone who has COVID-19?
* This question does not apply if you have been in contact with a COVID positive patient in your capacity as a healthcare worker wearing appropriate PPE.

5. Do you live with a symptomatic individual awaiting a test result for COVID-19?

Employees, including student employees, must fill out the Daily Self-Assessment Form in the Personal tab on Minerva before coming to campus, to ensure they meet the conditions above to prevent the spread of the virus.

High-risk individuals, including immuno- compromised

Employees with a weakened immune system or chronic condition and/or aged 70 or over

Employees who are at risk of developing complications to COVID-19 will be asked to work from home where their work responsibilities can be fully conducted remotely in accordance with government recommendations.

If the University determines that:

  1. Working from home is not possible and/or;
  1. The employee is required to provide necessary activities and functions on campus,

then a case-by-case evaluation must be carried out and the medical condition must be documented by providing information to [at]

If it is determined that:

  1. the medical condition does not put the employee at risk of complications, the employee will be asked to return to work on campus.
  1. the medical condition puts the employee at risk of complications, should the employee be diagnosed with COVID-19, the following can take place:
  • The University will have the responsibility to put in place the recommendations of the Direction de la santé publique (DSP) in the workplace, and the employee will have to apply them. Should the employee have reasonable motives to believe that the work environment puts their health at risk, they can exercise their right to refuse work as per section 12 of the Loi sur la santé et la sécurité du travail (LSST). See Refusal to work.
  • The University may decide to reassign the employee to other tasks. This must be done in consultation with Human Resources (HR) and/or Labour & Employee Relations (LER).
  • The employee retains the right to remain at work insofar as the employee has been adequately informed about the risks related to the work and that the University has taken all necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • If the University determines that it is not possible to make the necessary accommodations to safely return the employee to the workplace, the employee will be invited to take vacation days, banked overtime, floating days or an unpaid leave of absence subject to University policies.

Students with a weakened immune system or chronic condition

Individuals who are at risks of developing complications to COVID-19 should follow the recommendation of the government and work/study from home if it is possible to carry out all of their tasks from home.

For students in such situation, if some activities require their presence on campus, they should contact their Faculty Students Affairs Office to access appropriate academic accommodations.


Employee refusal to work for health and safety reasons

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 refusal to work 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. Employees are invited to contact their manager to discuss their specific situation and concerns before or as they initiate a refusal to work process in order to explore if additional safety measures could be implemented to make the working environment safer.

The refusal to work 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.


Visitors are allowed to come to campus provided the visit is planned and provided the individual has a McGill sponsor. For more information, visit the Sponsoring a Visitor webpage.


  • Global Affairs Canada’s global Level 3 advisory to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada is still in effect. As a result, all international university travel remains suspended until further notice.
  • University-sponsored travel within Canada remains suspended until further notice. Exceptions can be applied for through the Dean or unit head (AVP level or higher) for mission critical and time sensitive travel.
  • As of 24 July 2020, any travellers coming into Canada must still self-isolate for 14 days.
  • If you are an international student wondering if you can enter Canada for the fall semester, please consult the International Student Services website to learn more about cross-border travel restrictions.


Emergency response protocols

Emergency protocols are essentially unchanged during the COVID-19 period.

As usual, Security Services is available 24/7.

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

In case of a fire evacuation, occupants must wear a procedural mask or face covering if one is readily available as maintaining the 2-metre distance in stairwells may be difficult. Once exiting the building, evacuees must disperse in order to respect the physical distancing requirement.


What to do if a McGill member develops COVID-19 symptoms?

  • If an individual begins to experience symptoms while on campus, they should be isolated in a room and, if available, given a procedural (or surgical) mask to wear, or directed to put on their own face covering, or to cover their mouth and nose with a clean cloth (e.g. scarf). Then, call 1-877-644-4545 for instructions.
    • The individual must then call McGill Security (514-398-3000) to report symptoms.
  • Based on the instructions received from Info-Santé, the individual may be required to self isolate for a certain period and/or get tested.
  • As per government directives, the university will disinfect the space when a person has had flu-like symptoms. Upon receiving a report of COVID-19 symptoms an individual's supervisor or person in charge of the area (i.e. PI, instructor, etc.) shall:
    • Request that people vacate the areas in which the individual has been immediately present;
    • Call McGill Security (514-398-3000) to initiate the cleaning and disinfection procedure.
  • If an individual begins to experience symptoms while off-campus,
    • If the symptomatic individual has not been on-campus in the last seven days, they do not need to report their symptoms unless they need an accommodation.
    • For work accommodations, staff members should contact HR disability management at [at] to report this situation
    • For academic accommodations, students should use the Minerva online self-reporting form in order to access appropriate academic accommodations for any absence and/or inability to carry out academic work.
  • Reintegration: Others working or studying in the same area can return to the areas 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.

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

All students and staff who have received a positive test result for COVID-19 should use the interactive COVID-19 Reporting Process Questionnaire to determine their next steps. 

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 do 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.

Other important documents

Preventing transmission

Physical distancing

Environmental cleaning

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