August 31, 2021
Throughout the pandemic, Acadia has taken a strong leadership role in implementing comprehensive COVID-19 safety protocols that have successfully allowed us to operate in-person classes and residences throughout the 2020-21 academic year. We continue to take this approach as we prepare for the upcoming academic year during what we hope will be the final stage of the pandemic and eventually moving into a post-pandemic environment. The plan is both comprehensive and precautionary, relying on a number of important measures to provide the safest possible community for working and learning.
Our comprehensive plan includes having a very high rate of vaccination in our campus community, through educating and communicating the benefits of this strategy, and providing the convenience of on-campus vaccination clinics, along with the opportunities to access our local vaccination clinics within the community. Recent COVID-19 surveys of our campus community have indicated that over 95% of Acadia campus will be fully vaccinated by September 1st, with numerous individuals having identified having appointments booked later in September for their second dose. Along with promoting vaccinations, Acadia will also be encouraging and implementing twice weekly voluntary Rapid Test Clinics on campus to identify positive cases immediately, with a solid procedure in place if any cases are identified. We will also be enforcing and monitoring provincial self-isolation and quarantine guidelines as appropriate, continuing mask use and physical distancing, encouraging daily self-assessments, continuing increased cleaning in high touch spaces, encouraging routine hand washing, proper sneeze and cough etiquette, and continuing to ensure increased outside airflow into each building on campus.
Currently, Nova Scotia is in Phase 4 of the provincial reopening plan, and a post-secondary education sectoral framework has been approved by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) and Nova Scotia Public Health (NSPH) for campus operations during the fall term. Nova Scotia plans to move into Phase 5 on September 15, but the full details of what that will entail have not yet been finalized by the provincial government. Universities are permitted to operate under the sectoral framework even when the province moves to Phase 5. Acadia is taking a precautionary approach in order to ensure that we safely manage the start of term and the transition to the final phase of reopening as the pandemic nears its end in our region.
On August 23, Nova Scotia announced that the target date for moving to Phase 5 is now September 15. Even in Phase 5, institutions will be permitted to maintain public health measures that are more restrictive than those in place provincially. It was also announced that border restrictions would be reintroduced at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border effective at 8 a.m. on August 25.
Acadia announced its vaccination policy in July, which strives to achieve the highest levels of vaccination amongst the campus community through a variety of methods. Acadia expects everyone who is able to get fully vaccinated and is adopting a comprehensive package of measures to encourage vaccination and ensure that the campus community exceeds public health vaccination targets for achieving population immunity and protection from catching and spreading the COVID-19 virus.
The situation across Canada and within our region is changing rapidly, especially as many institutions are adopting some form of mandatory approach to vaccination and testing. As part of our policy, Acadia reserves the right to introduce a mandatory approach if we determine that it is necessary to more effectively protect the health and safety of our campus community. We continue to monitor the situation both nationally and regionally, seeking the advice of the Nova Scotia Public Health authority and the Chief Medical Officer of Health. As an indication of the fluidity of the current situation, Nova Scotia has reintroduced restrictions at the New Brunswick border, which mean that effective on August 25, our students coming from that province will be required to self-isolate if they are not fully vaccinated.
All residence students will be either fully vaccinated or will be directed to get regular rapid testing on campus until they receive their full vaccination status. We are also considering a mandatory vaccination requirement for varsity athletes and team staff who travel to different campuses around the Atlantic region. This consideration is being done in consultation with other institutions within the Atlantic University Sport conference. Further updates will be provided in due course.
Our provincial situation remains very good both in terms of the numbers of COVID-19 cases and the rates of vaccination. As of August 23, the vaccination rates in Nova Scotia are encouragingly high - 70% fully vaccinated and 80% partially vaccinated (which accounts for 90% of those eligible) and moving steadily towards the desired target of 75% fully vaccinated in order to reach population immunity.
Our surveys of students and employees indicate that we are on our way to achieving very high rates of vaccination in our community and that we will be well beyond the 75% full-vaccination level that the NSPH has set as the target for population immunity and the move to Phase 5 of the reopening plan.
Formal Survey of Residence Students:
1290 out of a total of 1395 (92.5%) residence students have responded to the survey as of Aug 25:
|Unvaccinated or Declined to answer||5.1%|
Of residence students responding to the survey, the regional breakdown of those who state they will be fully or partially vaccinated before arriving are:
Those not fully vaccinated will be provided access to vaccinations upon arrival, with both on and off-campus vaccination clinics being made available to all students free of charge and regardless of health insurance status. Residence staff are following up with all incoming residence students to ensure that those who are not fully vaccinated have immediate access to vaccinations, be directed to get tested regularly until they have received their full vaccination, and comply with quarantine requirements and other public health measures to keep themselves and others safe. To date, about 47 students have been identified for quarantine, most being international students.
Informal Survey of Employees and Students (as of August 25):
Employees: 366 (faculty and staff) responded:
|Unvaccinated or Declined to answer||0.8%|
Students: 876 responded:
|Unvaccinated or Declined to answer||3.0%|
As these results indicate, we expect to have a very high rate of vaccination in the campus community. Responses are still coming in, but while the overall percentages have not changed much in recent weeks, the percentage of fully vaccinated responses has continued to edge upwards since the start of the surveys.
Acadia will support students who want to get vaccinated after arrival, and we will be hosting an on-campus vaccination clinic as well as providing information on local sites where students can access vaccinations, including pharmacies in Wolfville and New Minas. Currently, the on-campus clinic will operate on September 14th and 16th 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Other dates will be determined in collaboration with Nova Scotia Public Health depending upon the demand.
Daily self-assessment for symptoms and regular testing are important measures to reduce the potential of the spread of COVID-19. This is the case for vaccinated as well as unvaccinated individuals, but is especially important for those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.
Acadia will continue to encourage and support continuous self-assessment for any sign of COVID-19 related symptoms, as well as regular asymptomatic testing for COVID-19 using the on-campus rapid testing clinics and full symptomatic testing for anyone with symptoms. The on-campus Nova Scotia Health symptomatic testing centre will continue to operate until at least the end of September, when the lease agreement will be reviewed on a monthly basis.
All members of the Acadia community are strongly encouraged to undertake regular rapid testing to ensure early detection of any positive case in our community. If you are vaccinated, getting tested once a week would be prudent.
Those who are unvaccinated will be expected to get tested twice a week. Acadia is providing access to rapid testing clinics twice a week at two locations on campus. Currently, the days and times of the clinics are:
Members of the campus community that test positive at our rapid test clinics are required to quarantine and obtain a PCR test. They will immediately be contacted by our Occupational Health Nurse to ensure they have all the necessary information and resources to safely quarantine. Their PCR test sample will be expedited to ensure a timely accurate diagnosis. If their PCR test results come back positive, they will be contacted by Public Health for follow-up.
Acadia will provide, at a reasonable cost, facilities for residence students who are required to quarantine or self-isolate on campus prior to the start of term and will continue to provide facilities for residence students who need to be quarantined or isolated during the term. One residence building has been set aside as a quarantine and self-isolation facility.
Acadia’s Mask Policy will continue to require all employees, students, and visitors to wear masks in all common spaces with appropriate exceptions for employees in their office spaces and during lectures, and students in their residence. There will also be some mask-free areas designated in some buildings; these will be clearly marked, and physical distancing of two (2) metres will be required in those areas. Students will be required to wear masks in classrooms and labs at all times, including when they are seated. Eating and drinking in class will not be permitted unless individual exemptions have been approved for medical reasons.
All members of the campus community will be encouraged to wear masks outdoors as appropriate, especially in crowded areas where physical distancing is not possible.
Those who are not fully vaccinated or are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19 are strongly encouraged to continue to wear masks to provide additional protection from contracting and spreading the virus.
This part of the plan will be reviewed at the end of September in the context of whether or not we have moved to Phase 5 of the provincial reopening plan. Currently, the province is targeting September 15 as the date to move to Phase 5, but institutions will be permitted to maintain restrictions above those required provincially.
Physical distancing of 1 metre, as per the sectoral framework, will be required on campus whenever possible, including both indoors and outdoors. Masks must be worn whenever a distance of 1 metre cannot be maintained. All members of the community will be required to respect physical distancing at all times.
As stated above, in mask-free designated areas, physical distancing of 2 metres will be enforced.
Acadia will follow provincial guidelines on contact tracing but will no longer be requiring community members to tap their ID cards upon entering buildings. This will be revisited if increasing cases of the virus necessitate the return of electronic contact tracing.
Professors have been mandated by the Government of Nova Scotia to take attendance in classes and will continue to do so in order to assist contact tracing should it be necessary.
Acadia will continue to provide increased cleaning of facilities, although the level and frequency of disinfecting will not be as high as during the earlier periods of the pandemic.
Acadia will continue to provide access to hand sanitizer through dispensers and will continue to promote routine hand washing, proper cough and sneeze etiquette, and increased cleaning of high touch surfaces.
Appropriate measures have been taken to ensure maximum fresh air exchange is maintained in all campus buildings and teaching spaces.
As was the case last year, all members of the Acadia student community will be required to sign and abide by a pledge to follow the public health rules, procedures and directives at all times, including following community public health policies when they are off campus. Acadia’s revised student code of conduct provides for potential disciplinary action for inappropriate off-campus behaviour. This includes abiding by any changes in policies and practices that may be announced at any time.
Currently, access to campus for the general public is restricted to a small number of areas (such as the Athletics Complex, the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens, the Woodland Trails, and controlled events in the Manning Memorial Chapel). Public access will continue to be limited until we enter into Phase 5 of the provincial reopening plan, when we will review the issue.
As with last year, individual cases of COVID-19 on campus will be dealt with by NSPH in accordance with the established procedures of isolation, treatment and contact tracing. While the likelihood of a significant outbreak is low due to high levels of vaccination amongst the campus community, if a situation develops where there is community spread on campus, the University will work with NSPH to implement measures to contain the spread, including the possible lockdown of certain parts of campus and, if necessary, a possible lockdown of the entire campus and moving all classes to online delivery for a period of time.
As stated above, we continue to review and monitor the evolving situation on a daily basis, and any changes to the current policy or plan (especially regarding vaccinations and testing) will be immediately communicated to the campus community.
Acadia reserves the right to make changes to COVID-19 policies and practices at any time, and all members of the Acadia community will be required to comply with those changes as soon as they are effective.
This comprehensive plan as a whole will also be reviewed in mid- to late-September once the first few weeks of term have been completed and we have seen how the pandemic reopening plan has progressed provincially and on campus. If the province moves to Phase 5 on September 15 as currently projected, that will be a very important step as we work our way out of this pandemic. Again, any updates or changes to the policy or plan will be clearly communicated to the campus community.
The precautionary approach being taken will be continued as long as is deemed necessary to protect the health of our community. Acadia University reserves the right to maintain restrictions on campus that may exceed general community and provincial restrictions.