Universities of Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge to require unvaccinated students, staff to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing

While COVID-19 vaccines will not be mandatory for students and staff attending Alberta’s three major research-based universities this upcoming school year, the institutions will require rapid testing for those who are not fully vaccinated.

The universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge released their joint back-to-campus strategy on Tuesday morning. It focuses on welcoming back to campus as many students, faculty and staff and possible, while offering a safe on-site experience.

Rapid testing and vaccination

Effective Sept. 1, all three universities will require students, faculty and staff coming to campus to undergo rapid COVID-19 testing if they are not fully vaccinated. In addition, those who choose not to disclose their vaccination status will also been to regularly complete a rapid screening test and receive a negative result before they participate in activities in-person.

Those who are fully vaccinated will be exempt from the rapid testing protocol.

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Read more: Alberta’s post secondary schools saying no to mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations

The universities said people who cannot be vaccinated “based on medical or other protested grounds recognized by the Alberta Human Rights Act can request an accommodation.”

The schools are strongly encouraging everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Immunization clinics are being planned for campuses.

Mask policy

Non-medical face masks are mandatory on all three campuses in all public indoor areas where physical distancing is not possible, the university policy outlines.

Masks are not mandatory on campus under the following circumstances:

  • Working alone in private offices
  • Working outdoors and there is a minimum of two metres between people
  • Meeting indoors and there is a minimum of two metres between people
  • Working alone in a shared space
  • Working in a cubicle with plexiglass, wall, or other approved barrier between people and when not providing services to anyone
  • In a classroom where there is a minimum of two metres between instructor or among students

Read more: Ontario government mandating COVID-19 vaccine policies for high-risk settings

Staying home when sick

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, or those who test positive for the disease will be required to stay home and self-isolate. The symptoms include:

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  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Sore throat (adults only)
  • Runny nose (adults only)
Click to play video: 'Edmonton public and Catholic school divisions release return-to-school plans' Edmonton public and Catholic school divisions release return-to-school plans

Edmonton public and Catholic school divisions release return-to-school plans

The joint statement on the policy issued Tuesday stated more information on campus-specific protocols will be released in the coming days.

“A safe return to campus in the fall remains our top priority, and in a rapidly changing situation, we recognize the urgent need for additional measures within our campus communities,” U of A president and vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan said in a statement.

“I am pleased to cooperate with the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge on these policies — our shared commitment is to our students, faculty and staff and to put in place the precautions necessary to ensure a safe environment for in-person teaching and learning.”

Read more: What can be done about Alberta’s sluggish COVID-19 vaccination rate? Experts weigh in

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Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor of the U of C, said these expanded measures are a direct response to shifting COVID-19 conditions.

“Our health, law and public policy experts have been tracking the rise of cases and emergence of the Delta variant, providing us with data-driven approaches. By working together with Alberta’s other research-intensive universities, we will continue to monitor and take the measures necessary to keep our community safe.”

U of L president and vice-chancellor stressed the health and safety of the campus communities is a top priority.

“Implementing these measures at Alberta’s research universities allows us to collectively return to in-person formats that minimizes the risk for our students, faculty, staff and external partners as well as the risk of having to pivot away from the face-to-face environment we have been waiting for,” Mike Mahon said in a statement.

Read more: What will Canada’s 4th COVID-19 wave look like? Here’s what the experts, data say

The schools said the policy will be continually monitored as the pandemic evolves.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 5,354 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, with the vast majority of those — 4,354 — variant cases.

Hospitalizations and ICU admissions from the disease also continue to climb, with 161 people in hospital and 43 in the ICU Monday.

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All Albertans 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Currently, 76.8 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of vaccine and 67.9 per per cent are fully immunized.

Vaccination appointments can be booked online or by calling Health Link at 811.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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