COVID-19 Update to U of G Community Re: Winter Semester

Dear University of Guelph community,

In recent days, we have seen significant changes in Ontario due to the ongoing global pandemic, from the cancellation of major league sports to the closure of secondary schools. There is still much we do not know about the Omicron variant, but it is clear that the pandemic continues to evolve, and at an accelerated pace.

Since the start of the pandemic, the University of Guelph has endeavoured to follow the science and guidance from public health experts and to do all we can to protect the U of G community. Our aim is to balance our commitment to the health and safety of our faculty, staff and students with our commitment to academic and research excellence.

We also strive to provide as much certainty and information as we can during uncertain times. This is difficult to do, as information, guidelines and decisions seem to change daily, if not hourly. We expect to hear new information and guidelines from public health and government leaders in the coming days and weeks as the province looks to determine how to advise people how to best work and live amid the reality of the Omicron variant. In the interim, we are proactively taking steps and making some short-term modifications.

Remote start for winter 2022 courses

We continue to plan for a return to conventional course delivery and in-person instruction for most courses during the winter semester (as outlined in Tuesday’s COVID-19 update), including at our Ridgetown campus.  Winter semester classes will begin as scheduled Jan. 10, 2022. However, we are asking instructors to hold classes virtually for the first two weeks, with limited exceptions such as clinical teaching. This change aligns with advice from Ontario’s chief medical officer and with actions taken by nearby universities. A remote start to the semester will allow as many members of our U of G community as possible to get their third vaccine before physically returning to campus, which is important as vaccination continues to be the best way to reduce the severe health effects of COVID-19 and variants of concern.

Following the remote two-week start, we will return to in-person delivery in those courses scheduled to be delivered in that format beginning Jan. 24. Instructors who have questions should contact their chair or dean; students should check CourseLink for details.

Third doses

With our vaccination policy and our COVID-19 safety measures in place – including wearing masks – we can all help keep our community safe. We encourage you to get your third shot as soon as you are eligible. The province is expected to increase vaccine availability. Please explore options from your local public health unit and pharmacy. The University will hold vaccination clinics for eligible U of G community members in December, January and February; you can find information and details online or call 519-824-4120, Ext. 52131, to book an appointment.

Exams continue as scheduled

We are on Day 8 of our 11-day final exam period of the fall semester; about half of our final exams were scheduled as in-person. Final exams will continue as scheduled and under the method of delivery indicated in the course outline, unless otherwise noted by the instructor. Exam schedules are available online on the Office of Registrarial Services web page and in WebAdvisor.

Ensuring campus services and operations

It is important that the University continues to provide services and operations, especially in areas that provide direct student services. As the fall semester winds down, we expect that the number of staff physically working on campus will lessen as people leave for planned winter holidays. The University’s winter break begins Dec. 24, and University operations resume Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. The University continues to aim for a physical return to campus for faculty and staff, following operational plans, in January. To align with the resumption of face-to-face classes, flexible work arrangements previously scheduled to start on Jan. 10 will now begin on Jan. 24. More information is forthcoming to directors/managers. Should the situation change, details will be provided on our COVID-19 website and the intranet and through COVID-19 email updates.

Residences

Current plans call for welcoming back students to campus residence on Jan. 8. However, we encourage students, when possible, to delay their return to campus residences until in-person courses resume Jan. 24. We also encourage students to get their third vaccine shot in their hometown before returning to campus. Students living in residence this winter will receive further information by email from Student Housing Services. Please watch your uoguelph.ca inbox for more information.

Study spaces

The McLaughlin Library remains open at a limited capacity. Information including hours, services and library-specific COVID-19 protocols are available online. Study spaces are also available across campus; a list of spaces and hours of operation are listed on the Buildings, Events and Services page. Graduate students may continue to do research and access their offices. Health and safety protocols remain in effect.

Research

Our University has faced many challenges together over the last many months. We know how difficult and challenging the pandemic has been for all our U of G community members and their families. We appreciate the flexibility, commitment and understanding of our faculty, staff and students. We are confident that by working together we can continue to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. We hope that our short-term modifications and plans will allow everyone to enjoy the upcoming winter holidays. We will continue to monitor the situation and follow guidance from national, provincial and local public health units, and we will keep our community informed via email or updates to our COVID-19 page.

Our best wishes to you and your family for health and happiness this holiday season and in the coming year.

Sincerely,

Gwen Chapman
Provost and Vice-President (Academic)

Sharmilla Rasheed
Vice-President (Finance and Operations)