YUFA Statement on mandatory vaccine policy and York University's removal of 2-metre physical distancing and indoor capacity limits

YUFA Executive supports York University’s decision to institute a mandatory vaccination policy for return to in-person work and study this September.

Research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Health Canada confirms that vaccination is a necessary measure for reducing covid-related health risks associated with congregate gatherings, including the phased-in return to campus.

We recognize that not everyone will support this vaccination policy. We will continue to work with the employer, and in consultation with other campus unions and groups, to address the many operationalization issues and workplace accommodation needs of our members that are based on medical, religious, family status and other protected code-based grounds. YUFA is committed to ensuring that the implementation of this vaccination policy is both fair and safe.

A mandatory vaccination policy alone, however, will not provide a guarantee of safety.

YUFA strongly disagrees with York University’s decision to remove physical distancing and capacity limits as communicated in their August 11th “Wellness Wednesdays – Return to Campus Special Issue.”

Many YUFA members contacted us, prior to and after York University’s August 11th Townhall. They are deeply concerned, even distressed, that as of September 1st, there will be no social distancing requirements if the province moves into Stage 4 and lifts further restrictions. This is not a sound strategy, especially since we are, according to Dr. Peter Juni of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, “absolutely” in the fourth wave of the pandemic

Variants of concern, including the Delta variant, are considerably more contagious than earlier variants and can be spread by vaccinated individuals, and those vaccinated individuals with weaker immune systems are at risk of breakthrough infections. As reported on August 11, 2021, by the CBC, the CDC recommend that Americans wear masks in areas with substantial transmission "regardless of vaccination status."

If all measures are being taken to protect the safety of all members of the York community, then masks and 2-metre social distancing must remain key components, regardless of which other measures (including mandatory vaccinations) are in place.

YUFA will continue to pressure the administration to ramp up all other measures to protect members from the airborne spread of COVID-19, including, but not limited to, upgrading facilities, particularly ventilation, filtration and water systems, sanitation schedules, and monitoring and distancing protocols.

Our duty is to defend the safety of our members and our students, following the advice of public health experts. Members wishing to learn more about the public health advisory circulated by four GTA university sector associations and unions (including YUFA) can access the Health & Safety Checklist for University Re-opening here.

The Delta variant may not be the last COVID-19 variant, and due to changing environmental conditions, COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic that will confront and challenge this university.

YUFA will continue to seek health and safety measures for our members that are effective now and sustainable into the future.

More information on COVID-19:

To consult the World Health Organization “Transmission Package” bulletin on protection against COVID-19, go to this link.

To access a formidable directory of COVID links and updates compiled by York University science librarian John Dupuis, click on this link here.

To access COVID-19 updates for Canada’s Universities, go to the August 11th issue of University Affairs here.

To consult the Government of Canada guidance for post-secondary institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, click on this link here.

To read the OCUFA statement calling on the province to implement mandatory vaccination policy as part of a safe return to campus, click on this link here.