Dear King’s community,
I hope everyone is well and enjoying the summer weather and activities.
This summer, we are in a transition process in our Covid-19 policies for the campus. I want to provide you with an overview of the changes that are happening.
At the beginning of the academic year, a new safety plan will take effect for our return to in-person learning and college life. As emphasized in a June 24 email (below) to the King’s community, the foundation of that plan is confidence in the protection provided by a very high rate of full vaccination among students, faculty, staff and throughout Halifax. Further protection will be provided by our collective commitment to self-assessment for symptoms and to self-isolation until the results of a negative test are received. To facilitate testing, a testing facility is now in place on the campus we share with Dalhousie. When determined prudent, specific spaces, activities and events will have ancillary safety plans.
In the meantime, our existing policies, largely in place since the beginning of the pandemic, are being adjusted in parallel with the reopening phases by which the province is relaxing the measures contained in the emergency order made under the Public Health Protection Act. For those in Nova Scotia, you will know that phase 4 of this process of relaxation began today, July 14. Dr. Robert Strang has made clear that getting to phase 5, the final phase, will depend on satisfactory progress in reaching the target of having 75% of eligible Nova Scotians fully vaccinated.
This email has two purposes. First, to once again encourage everyone who can get vaccinated to get fully vaccinated without delay: we should aim to have an even higher level of vaccination among our community than the one set for Nova Scotia. Second, to summarize where we are in the process of relaxing our existing on-campus Covid-19 safety policies as we move towards the new academic year.
With thanks to Ian Wagschal, and to the OH&S committee for its diligence in sorting through all the details, what follows is a summary of: changes to existing policies we have already made; changes occurring today (July 14); and changes from existing policies that will take effect in September when our new Central Safety Plan takes full effect.
Previously changed as we moved through the Province’s Phase 2, 3:
Changes taking effect today (July 14):
September Changes (in brief):
In addition to full in-person classes, Athletics, Chapel, Library, Residence, Wardroom & Galley will be open to in-person activity while considering the following recommendations:
It is also anticipated that the following measures will be discontinued in September:
Some final notes:
In the absence of restrictions on in-person meetings, people may still have questions about whether or not their meetings should be in-person or virtual. To help with decision-making, Ian Wagschal will be developing some guidelines and considerations that those organizing meetings can use in making their decisions. This will be ready in the near future.
For those of us who may be required to develop an ancillary safety plan, I remind you that Ian has also developed guidance for the development of these plans that has been reviewed and recommended by the OH&S Committee.
Finally, as we prepare to benefit as a community from the collective protection provided by individual vaccination, we have to be conscious of the unavailability of vaccines to the majority of the world’s countries and people, and the consequences of this for students, faculty and staff in universities around the globe. We can each do a little to contribute to the necessary solution to this problem and great injustice by donating to one of the many organizations that are working to address this inequality. I have donated to the “Give a Vax” campaign of UNICEF Canada at Unicef.ca, where all donations are being matched by the federal government up to a total of $10,000,000. I encourage all of us to consider donating as we can to this effort, through this campaign or one of the others now underway.
Best regards and as always, thank you for all your individual and collective efforts to contribute to public health and our mission and responsibilities in still challenging but increasingly hopeful times.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Attached you will find our Covid-19 safety plan [PDF] for the coming year that has been recommended to me by the Occupational Health and Safety Committee and that I have approved. This plan also addresses how we will transition over the next two months from our existing safety plans, i.e. the ones we have had in effect since last summer, in alignment with Nova Scotia’s phased reopening plan. Our existing plans will remain in effect until modified under and then replaced by this new safety plan at the beginning of the academic year.
This plan has been developed under the guidance of the province-wide safe reopening plan for universities that was approved earlier this month by Dr. Strang, which I shared with you in an earlier email.
The core idea of this new plan is that our primary protection against COVID infections in the coming year will be a very high level of vaccination in our community, supported by the high levels of vaccination in the community around us. We will also rely on frequent and regular voluntary testing and everyone continuing with the practice of self-assessing themselves for symptoms on a daily basis and staying home or in their rooms whenever symptoms are experienced until a test confirms they are negative for the virus. Among other additional measures, there will also be a continued use of physical plexiglass barriers where called for, continued efforts to direct foot traffic to minimize close face-to-face interactions, and continued encouragement to maintain personal COVID hygiene measures and to wear masks, particularly indoors when there is an elevated risk of transmission in the community. This plan will also be complemented by adjunct safety plans for particular offices, spaces, activities and events.
One of the most important safeguards we can have for the coming year is for everyone to be fully informed on our plans to make our return to in-person teaching, learning and campus life safe for everyone. Director of Facilities, Ian Wagschal, will be organizing two educational sessions about this plan for all employees in the near future. Please participate in the one that is most convenient for you and keep an eye out for the email from Ian on when these educational sessions will happen.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Dear faculty and staff,
This morning Dr. Strang met with all university presidents about the plan of all Nova Scotia universities to return to in-person education in the fall. He approved the common safety framework the universities have together developed to make this possible. This framework will now guide our development of more detailed plans for how we will ensure we safely return to in-person teaching and learning and campus life at King’s.
Here are some highlights shared with presidents by Dr. Strang:
As this makes clear, the # 1 thing we can all do to ensure we are safely in person in the fall is to become fully vaccinated as the opportunity presents itself.
Dr. Strang pointed out the development of a variant of the virus that eludes double dose vaccination is possible. He assured presidents that Nova Scotia will be vigilant for this possibility and will act quickly if it materializes. He also said that double dose vaccine is effective against all known variants.
There will be more details about our fall plans in the days to come. Using the framework now approved by Dr. Strang, the university will now develop a draft framework plan for King’s. Each unit, department and program is asked to develop its own plan for operating in the fall, guided by both the plan developed by Dr. Strang and the draft plan developed for the university. These plans will then be consolidated centrally. As previously indicated in the ‘reopening’ memo of April 13, there will be an analysis of them to ensure their overall cohesiveness and to identify central issues and questions that may have to be decided on a college-wide basis. This includes the continuing role that will be played by working from home, the approach we will take to meetings and gatherings outside of classes and our expectations around masking and distancing, etc. This analysis of unit, department and program plans may require adjustments in those plans as well as in the framework for the university. It will unavoidably be an iterative process, informed by the many ongoing discussions we will have including with our Dalhousie colleagues and the occupational health and safety division of the Department of Labour and Advanced Education.
The Covid Response Coordinating Committee (CRCC) will be part of this iterative process.
Once an overall plan and plans for units, departments and programs are ready in draft, they will be submitted to the Occupational Health and safety Committee for its analysis and advice.
As was the case in the summer of 2020, Ian Wagschal will be available to work with units, departments and programs in the development of their draft plans.
In the meantime, as the public health measures that were put in place by Dr. Strang in April to address the third wave are eased, we will be adjusting our existing safety measures accordingly. As a reminder, these were the additional measures we adopted in April, in conformance with the requirements of Public Health, to address the increased risks associated with the third wave:
These measures, still in effect, will be adjusted as the Provincial Reopening Plan advances through its phases, on the basis of the ongoing advice of the occupational health and safety committee.
The COVID safety measures that were in place before the changes made in April will then remain in effect until they are replaced by the plans we create for the fall. You can reacquaint yourself with the totality of these measures in the COVID Central Coordination Plan and, in the specific plan for your unit, department or program. But in a nutshell, these are the highlights:
In addition, I want to assure you that contact tracing measures remain in place–that is why doors will remain locked–and that all protocols regarding response to and communication about positive cases, should we have any, will also remain in effect as previously communicated in the Health and Safety update for faculty and staff on April 28.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Dear King’s students,
As of today, the Nova Scotia Safe Check-In process has changed for entry into the province. Travellers (including students) now need to wait for their Safe Check-In application to be reviewed and approved before being allowed to enter Nova Scotia.
This process applies to all travellers allowed to enter Nova Scotia under current restrictions, including students entering the province to attend a post-secondary institution and Nova Scotia residents returning to the province.
Required documentation at the border
If you are unable to produce the required documentation, you will be turned away at the border or will have to isolate at an approved accommodation, at your own expense, until you can make arrangements to return to your home province or point of entry into Canada.
For more information on travelling into the province, visit the Government of Nova Scotia website. We will share more information with you as we receive it.
Dean of Students
Dear King’s faculty and staff and students,
Please read this letter just received from Public Health [PDF].
Although the salutation reads ‘students and staff’, this letter concerns everyone, and in particular anyone on campus April 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, May 1st and/or May 2nd.
Public Health is following up directly with those who had close contact. However, out of an abundance of caution, we have confirmed with Public Health that they request anyone who was on campus on these days be tested for COVID-19, whether or not you have symptoms.
Please visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en to book a COVID-19 test or call 811 and identify yourself as someone Public Health asked to be tested from University of King’s College.
As this is a precautionary measure, you are not required to self-isolate while waiting for your test result, unless you have any symptoms. Again, please read the attached.
And, as always, please remain vigilant with your personal health and safety protocols.
Following the message we sent to you on May 5, the Nova Scotia government announced new COVID-19 restrictions today, including tighter border controls that effect student drop off and pick up.
As part of the new restrictions, parents from outside Nova Scotia are no longer allowed to pick up or drop off students.
New border measures will take effect on Monday, May 10 at 8 a.m. and will be in place until at least the end of May. Please note:
Nova Scotia does allow post-secondary students returning home or enrolled to study (for summer courses) to enter the province during this time, following all self-isolation protocols required.
For those of you in Halifax, please stay close to home, order groceries and essentials online and limit shopping in retail stores to emergency supplies only.
We know these restrictions are disruptive, but they are needed to help lower the number of daily cases in Nova Scotia, especially within HRM.
Please stay safe and take care,
President and Vice-Chancellor
Dear King’s students,
There have been many COVID-19 updates since cases began to rise in Nova Scotia last week. I know this is a lot to absorb. To help you keep up to date, please read the points below and be sure to follow the guidelines if you’re planning to travel.
The Province has informed us that students cannot travel to Nova Scotia in the spring if not attending classes until the fall semester. If you are not a permanent resident of Nova Scotia or you are not enrolled in summer classes, you can be refused entry at the border.
Please note, this information below relates to current semester pick-up or drop offs:
More information will be shared over the summer in anticipation of welcoming you back to campus in the fall. If you have questions about COVID restrictions, visit the NS COVID website, including the page for post-secondary students, or email email@example.com.
There is community spread in the Halifax area. It’s important to get tested and diligently follow the current Public Health restrictions.
This is a challenging time. Please take care of yourselves—there are supports and services available year-round—and be kind to those around you.
Dean of Students
University of King’s College
Dear King’s community,
I write to inform you that we have received notification of a confirmed case of COVID-19 involving a person who had been on campus in recent days. All of the person’s contacts have been informed and are now self-isolating for 14 days. If you have not been contacted, you do not have to self isolate or be tested, however, we are asking you to continue to follow all applicable public health orders and university policies as overviewed in recent emails, which you can read on the COVID-19 resource centre pages of the website.
We are thinking of the person who has tested positive, that person’s family and close contacts and all those in isolation. We wish for everyone’s health and well-being.
Please remain vigilant with your personal health and safety protocols.
King’s is committed to helping in the fight against COVID-19 and to supporting members of the College as they make their contributions and manage the issues the current surge in cases creates for them. I would like to reiterate Dolly’s message from yesterday that time off with pay will be accommodated for anyone:
Please reach out to your supervisor or program director to discuss a date and time that is best for you and your department or program.
As stated in my Friday message, we recognize that with the temporary closure of schools, the parents among us will be giving priority to ensuring their children are taken care of. The necessary flexibility in work hours will be provided. Please contact your supervisor or program director to discuss options.
I would also like to reiterate that we would like everyone who can work from home to do so in accordance with our own safety plans and the guidance that has been provided by Dr. Strang for all of us to stay home as much as possible during this state of emergency.
We thought it would be useful to share again the following information, with some modifications to reflect the current situation, on how we will respond if we have positive cases in our community, which we previously shared with you on September 25, 2020:
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, call 811 and follow all instructions from Public Health exactly, including self-isolation if so directed.
If you are on campus when you are directed to self-isolate or have been on campus in the days before you have been directed to self-isolate, we encourage you to inform HR (Dolly McIntyre) that you have been directed to self-isolate. This will allow us to ensure any areas where you were present on campus are properly cleaned and placed off-limits until they can be cleaned. It will also allow us to ensure we have gathered all contact tracing information so that it is ready to be provided to Public Health if it is required.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, we encourage you to inform HR (Dolly McIntyre), although you are under no obligation to do so. As stated above, this will help the university to ensure any areas where you were present on campus are properly cleaned and put off-limits until they can be cleaned. We will also use this information to assist Public Health if requested. Under some circumstances, Public Health may inform the university of a COVID-19 diagnosis without the permission of the employee.
As with any employee who has been directed to self-isolate for testing, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 should follow the direction they receive from Public Health, which will include self-isolation. If your job and your condition allow you to work from home, do so in coordination with your supervisor or program director. If you cannot perform your job from home or your condition means you cannot work, you should inform your supervisor that you are ill and cannot work, as per any other illness that keeps you away from work. Standard HR practices for medical documentation will not apply.
The university will fully cooperate with Public Health when we have a case of COVID-19, including by providing all contact tracing information in its possession, whether collected through the routine operation of our COVID-19 safety plans or gathered from after the fact information gathering. Departments and programs will be asked to provide the contract tracing information in their possession. You may be individually asked to assist by providing any other contract tracing information you may have. Please cooperate and follow all instructions, including to self-isolate if directed to do so.
In following up on a case of COVID-19, Public Health will:
If you are not contacted by Public Health, you are NOT considered to have been exposed.
In some situations, Public Health may make a general announcement where the potential exposure is of a wider scope, or by directing the university to do so. This is discussed further below.
If you feel that your workplace is unsafe due to a COVID-19 related concern, or for any reason, please inform your supervisor and cooperate with them to resolve the matter. Depending on the circumstances, assistance in resolving the situation should be sought from whoever is in a position to help, including from whoever has responsibility for any part of the situation that goes beyond the supervisor’s responsibility. This may include the Director of Facilities, the Human Resources and Compensation Officer, or the Dean of Students for issues involving students, among others. In addition, please note:
In all instances, the university will follow the directive of Public Health in its COVID-19 related communications.
In its communications with the university, Public Health has privacy protocols to protect those concerned. Most importantly, Public Health does not identify the person or persons who have tested positive unless it has to in order to ensure the safety of others.
Our default approach is that we will not be making general announcements when employees (or students) have symptoms, test positive or are told by Public Health to stay home or to self-isolate. This may differ from the approach in other organizations, particularly larger organizations such as Dalhousie, where there is less risk of disclosing a person’s identity by announcing someone has, for example, tested positive. In a smaller university such as King’s, it can be easier to connect a general announcement that there is a positive case – or other event – to specific circumstances and to particular people.
In place of general announcements, we will typically rely on direct conversations with the people who are possibly affected and who have a right to be informed. I reiterate: If you are not contacted by Public Health, you are NOT considered to have been exposed.
The exception to direct person-to-person communications will be where a general announcement, or other kind of wider communication, is required to ensure the health and safety and/or the peace of mind of members of our community, or of the wider community. An example could be a situation of a larger outbreak of COVID-19. If there is a need to communicate in this way, our communications will follow Public Health directives and guidance and will guard the privacy of all involved to the maximum extent possible.
Because of our association with Dalhousie University, in most cases we will continue to share Dalhousie University’s communications about COVID-19, including its communications on specific cases. These communications are otherwise seen by some but not all of our community.
If you are on campus for any reason, please remember these important safety measures:
If you have questions, please follow up with your direct supervisor or program director or, in the case of matters within her responsibilities, with Dolly McIntyre.
Once again, thank you for your continued cooperation as we all work to keep each other and our families and students safe while we pursue our mission of being a community of care and concern for each other and our wider community.
President and Vice-Chancellor
Dear King’s students,
Throughout this pandemic, we have seen how responsible you are, following public health directives on campus and within our community. We are very proud of you and what you have contributed to helping keep Halifax, a place many of you call home, safe.
You may have seen the unsafe behaviour by some in our city, including young people identified as Dalhousie students, in the news and on social media over the weekend, who chose to gather in a large group for a party. Last week, the government imposed a four-week lockdown across HRM after COVID-19 cases grew to double digit daily increases. Active cases are now higher than at the beginning of the pandemic in Nova Scotia and indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to five people. Gathering in large numbers not only increases your risk – it also increases the risk of those you care about.
I know you understand how serious this behavior is, especially when there is confirmed community spread and increasing numbers of variant strains in Halifax. But I must nevertheless emphasize that disrespecting gathering limits or any of the important public health measures is unsafe and irresponsible, as well as illegal under the current orders of the Nova Scotia Health Protection Act. Violations of such laws, or any federal, provincial, or municipal statutes, are also contraventions of the University’s Code of Conduct and can result in further disciplinary action.
If you have been to an exposure site, follow Public Health direction to self-isolate until you test negative. If you have many contacts through work or socializing, recently gathered in a group larger than five, or just want peace of mind knowing your health status, get tested. Nova Scotians came out in droves over the weekend to get tested. You can join this movement by getting tested to help turn the tide of Nova Scotia’s third wave, or to help wherever else you may be calling home right now.
President and Vice-Chancellor