COVID update: Online start to winter term

COVID update: Online start to winter term

Despite a remarkably successful and safe fall term, the COVID-19 situation has changed significantly over the past two weeks.  At last count, we have had 38 confirmed cases in the Dal community in the past week, including 23 in residence. Although the immunity from a two-dose vaccination appears to be holding strong against the Omicron variant in preventing serious illness, out of an abundance of caution and given the current epidemiology Dalhousie and the University of King’s College are modifying our approach to the start of the winter term.  

The safety measures we have in place — our collective commitment to our vaccination mandate, to masking, to testing, to looking after our personal health — are more important than ever. But additional measures are necessary at this time, given both the uncertainty of this current moment and the fact that our community is about to disperse for the December break.

Please review the following instructions carefully as they apply to the start of winter term. 

Winter term to begin online 

The winter term will begin on schedule, but nearly all course delivery will move online for the first two weeks of January. The only exceptions to this will be in select courses (or course components) where in-person learning is required (for example, accredited programming in our three health Faculties), and those exceptions will be communicated to those students by their Faculties. If you have questions as to whether this applies to you, please contact your Faculty’s Associate Dean Academic.

We will continue to evaluate the situation on a daily basis, in consultation with Public Health and the provincial government, and determine whether in-person learning will be able to resume on Monday, January 17 or if online learning will need to continue. It is our intention to provide updates as soon and as often as possible to ensure faculty, staff and students (including residence staff and students) can make informed decisions.

We know this situation is challenging for all involved, and how important it is for both our instructors and our learners to get back into the classroom as soon as possible. However, our decisions with respect to academic delivery must continue to be driven by our collective health and safety, with full consideration of the best available Public Health guidance.

On-campus work, research and campus operations

While campus will open on January 4, faculty and staff who are able to work remotely should do so for at least the first two weeks of January. Meetings and non-essential activities should happen virtually wherever possible within the discretion of the unit leader. Individuals who are providing front-line support who have questions about how this applies to them should speak to their unit leader or supervisor.

Research spaces will remain open. As per the guidance above, however, any activities that can take place remotely should do so. All safety precautions such as masking, hand-washing and social distancing (where possible) should be followed.

In-person campus services that are essential to supporting our students, faculty, staff and general operations will remain open, but we expect many services will transition to virtual or mixed mode of delivery during this period if they can. Most Dalhousie Libraries will be open on January 4, with some changes to regular operating hours — please see posted hours for each location on the Libraries website (“Locations” section under the search box) and additional updates here. For other services, please make sure to consult with individual service providers on specific details. We will also keep updating the Campus Services page on our COVID-19 website as specifics are available.

King’s College individuals should check the COVID-19 section of the King’s website for community updates.      


Dalhousie residences in Truro are already closed and Halifax residences will close at noon on Monday, December 20 for all students not staying through the break or who are not in accredited programs with in-person classes. All Dalhousie residences (including dining halls) will remain closed until at least Friday, January 14. Please make sure to monitor your Dalhousie email for the latest information before making any travel plans. All residence students should complete a COVID rapid test prior to departing residence and prior to moving back in to their rooms. Tests will be available at building entrances.

Given the extended holiday closure, refunds will be issued for room and board for all Dalhousie residence students for the period between January 4 and 14.

At the moment, we expect approximately 15 residence students in Halifax will be required to spend the December break with us, unplanned, as a result of self-isolation requirements. They will join the 130 or so students we would typically have staying in residence over the break. We understand this is going to be a challenging time for those students (and their families) required to self-isolate during the holidays. Some of the ways we’re working to make their experience as comfortable and supportive as possible include:

  • 24/7 access to support staff and with in-person daily check-ins
  • Outdoor time for asymptomatic individuals, as authorized by Public Health.
  • Customized meal delivery three times a day and support for other deliveries as required.
  • Access to same-day counselling if required.
  • Online events and programming throughout the isolation timeframe, particularly as we near the holiday period.
  • Delivery of care packages and holiday treats.

If you are still in Halifax until the 23rd and want to assist these place-bound students, there are opportunities available to help support outdoor time for non-symptomatic students. Learn how to sign up here.

King’s College residences will reopen on January 4 as planned. Residence students will soon receive direct communication from the King’s residence office.

Travel and health guidance 

For the many members of our community required or expecting to travel this December break, please follow all restrictions and guidance (including gathering limits) and make rapid testing a regular part of your plans.  

  • We are updating our COVID cases and exposures page as information is provided by Public Health. Visit it regularly for the latest instructions, along with Nova Scotia’s community exposures page.
  • Be prepared for things to change rapidly, as the current situation is incredibly volatile. On Wednesday, the Government of Canada advised against non-essential travel outside of Canada.
  • If you have to travel outside of Nova Scotia, plan to complete a rapid test before you leave and to test again when you return. (Get tested while you’re away, too, if you can.) Rapid tests can be picked up on campus or at community libraries.
  • If you are eligible for a booster shot of vaccine, please get your booster as soon as possible.
  • Stay vigilant when it comes to masks, limiting unnecessary social engagements, and all other precautions designed to keep yourself and your family and friends safe over the break. 

Having spent nearly two years living and working through uncertainty, to be here at another moment of significant uncertainty — especially after all the gains this past year — will be incredibly frustrating for everyone. But we have learned over the past two years to work through these moments by relying on our compassion, our understanding and our patience. This is what unites us as a university community — that we are in this together, and we will get through this together.

We want to offer our thanks and appreciation for the extraordinary efforts so many are putting in at this time, including but not limited to the staff (including student staff) going above-and-beyond to support our residence community; our faculty, instructors, advisors and support staff managing major academic transitions with short notice; and the continuing efforts of our collective community to continue our work while keeping one another safe. Thank you.

Please continue to watch your dal.ca email for any further updates or visit dal.ca/coronavirus for the latest. King’s, please keep watch your university email account and ukings.ca/coronavirus

Stay well and stay safe,

Frank Harvey
Provost and Vice-President Academic, Dalhousie University

Bill Lahey
President, University of King’s College

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