After the Ford government lifted the province’s vaccination and mask mandates in March 2021, a sixth and seventh wave of the pandemic surged in April and July respectively, putting strain on an already overburdened healthcare system in crisis. With students returning to school from the summer break, people returning to the physical workplace and spending much more time indoors as the weather cools, and as drier air can lead to increased risks of infection, public health experts are predicting a spike in COVID-19 cases and potentially new variants this Fall.
In Ontario, masks are required to be worn in instructional spaces at post-secondary education institutions such as Laurier, Western (and Huron University College), OCADU, Ontario Tech, Guelph, Windsor, and Seneca (including its Keele campus at York University). Western University and Seneca College are maintaining their vaccination mandate, while the University of Toronto requires students living in its residences be vaccinated.
In YUFA’s view, these universities have adopted a more prudent and responsible position and the Association calls on the employer to follow suit.
YUFA additionally urges the employer to adopt the following measures to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, and other seasonal viruses, such as colds and flu:
● Ensuring the availability and accessibility of a wide range of well-fitting, high-quality masks
● Providing additional HEPA air purifiers in all instructional spaces to ensure between 6-12 air changes per hour (ACH)
● Ensuring MERV-13 filters are fully installed in the Air Handling Units (AHU) across all buildings and regular maintenance of these units
● Providing Air Quality sensors in York libraries for the community to access, similar to other library programs throughout Ontario
● Installing humidifiers in instructional spaces to ensure relative humidity between 40-60%, which adds another layer of defence against airborne transmission of the coronavirus
YUFA will be hosting a workshop for its Joint Health and Safety Committee representatives on September 20th and continues to advocate for measures that protect the health and safety of the entire York University community.
As the employer advised it will take a flexible approach to the evolving COVID-19 situation, YUFA’s guidance to members regarding administrative and service related meetings is that Faculty Councils and units should decide for themselves whether to hold remote, in-person, or hybrid meetings. In making these decisions, consideration should be given to the accessibility needs of all colleagues, including those who may require accommodation due to medical issues and/or family status. Members with questions and/or concerns should contact YUFA at [email protected].