In recent days, the ever-evolving COVID-19 situation has seen McGill adopt a series of measures to ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty, while continuing the operations of the University.
“The measures we are taking to fight the spread of the COVID-19 virus are having an impact on virtually all our activities across McGill. I feel that we are making good progress, though I know many questions and issues remain,” said Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), in a message to the University community on March 19. “We are doing our best to resolve outstanding problems, and I ask for your patience and understanding given the complexity of the challenge.”
Labeau has been keeping people abreast of ongoing adaptations of daily operations, ranging from mail services and waste management to outside deliveries and building access. In his most recent communiqué, the Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) covered the following issues:
“We are seeing increasing limitations being placed on non-essential travel. We cannot predict what restrictions may arise in the future and how long they may last, even within Canada. Therefore, we strongly encourage students, even those who live within Canada, to seriously consider returning home if you are able to do so and if you feel it is safe,” said Labeau.
He reiterated that students will not be required to be physically on campus for the rest of the Winter 2020 term, as McGill has already announced there will be no in-person classes and no in-person sit-down examinations for this term, and that the term will not be extended.
Labeau also reminded staff to cancel all University-related travel.
Summer and Fall semesters
Labeau confirmed that the summer semester will go ahead through remote instruction, as the University adapts to “the new reality.”
He also stated that McGill is still actively recruiting students from across the world for the Fall semester. “We are confident that we can deliver high-quality learning, whether remotely or in person,” said Labeau.
The University will waive interest and late payment fines on outstanding student accounts until further notice, to “lessen the stress and anxiety as a result of the unfolding challenges of COVID-19,” announced Labeau. Similarly, the fee assessment for the Summer term will be deferred until further notice.
Health and social distancing
Labeau reiterated the University’s continued support of the federal and provincial governments’ emphasis on social distancing. “I know that at a time like this we all want to be close to our friends and loved ones,” he said. “However, I would ask you to connect with and support each other while at the same time practicing social distancing. This means limiting close contact with people and especially avoiding crowds. This practice helps reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading within the community, thereby protecting our most vulnerable members.”
He also reminded people to continue to practice proper health precautions, including washing their hands often and covering their mouth and nose with their arm when coughing or sneezing. People who develop a fever, cough or begin to have difficulty breathing, should isolate themselves from others as quickly as possible and immediately call the Quebec Government’s Coronavirus line at 1-877-644-4545
Reporting possible exposure to COVID-19 and self-isolation
The Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) reminded members of the McGill community of the importance of reporting possible exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Addressing supervisors directly, Labeau said “If one of your team members reports to you that they are required to self-isolate, are awaiting test results, or have tested positive, please ensure they fill out the self-declaration form for staff available on the COVID-19 website.”
He noted that one of the keys to minimizing the spread of COVID-19 is documenting and tracking people who become ill or who have come into contact with the virus.
Labeau also encouraged people who are ill, have been exposed to COVID-19 or are awaiting test results self-isolate immediately as per the government of Quebec’s guidelines for home isolation.
Call for personal protective equipment
On March 18, the Quebec government asked local universities for spare personal protective equipment – including masks, gloves and visors – to help protect health workers on the COVID-19 frontlines. Labeau directed PIs looking to contribute unused protective equipment to follow the instructions found on the government website.