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No COVID-19 outbreaks reported so far on campus this year

Vice-president updates on new UCheck ambassador pilot program, vaccination rates
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RILLA WANG/THE VARSITY
RILLA WANG/THE VARSITY

U of T’s Governing Council met on October 28, where acting Vice-President and Provost Trevor Young gave updates on the status of COVID-19 vaccinations and outbreaks on campus, along with a new UCheck ambassador pilot program and an update on U of T’s plan for the winter semester. 

The council also heard criticism of the university’s transparency on health and safety measures from Terezia Zorić, president of the University of Toronto Faculty Association (UTFA). 

COVID-19 updates 

In his report, Young gave the most recent vaccination numbers at the university. So far, over 88,000 community members have declared their vaccination status via UCheck, with 97 per cent of them being fully vaccinated and 2 per cent on their way to being fully vaccinated. 

He noted that staff who are working on verifying vaccination documents have found very few that are incorrect. 

Young also mentioned that a number of international students were not able to get fully vaccinated by the October 29 deadline because of problems returning to Canada or having gotten vaccines not approved by Health Canada. The university is working with those students individually, and they will continue to use the rapid testing program. Young encouraged students who do not plan to get vaccinated to contact their registrars. 

Addressing unvaccinated employees, Young said, “This fall, a small number of employees, who were needed on site that were not able to attend due to vaccination status, have been moved to unpaid status.”

On the subject of COVID-19 case rates, Young said that so far there have been zero outbreaks reported on campus, with an average of four cases reported each week. 

Young noted that despite a new timeline for returning to normal recently put out by the Ford administration, which includes the lifting of some safety measures like mask mandates by March, the university has not yet changed their plans for returning to in-person courses. The university will continue to look at the province’s plan and what it indicates for U of T going forward. 

Young also discussed a new UCheck ambassador pilot program that the university is looking to introduce in the coming weeks. Ambassadors with the program would be placed at various locations around campus and check students’ UCheck status at the entrances of certain spaces. 

He also said that the delivery methods for winter 2022 semester courses may be available next week. Currently, 15 per cent of courses are planned to be delivered in person only, 45 per cent will have a hybrid course of delivery, while 40 per cent will be delivered online only. 

Criticisms from UTFA 

Zorić spoke at the meeting, criticizing the university for a lack of transparency and information around health and safety on campus. 

“We want transparent information as [it] relates to the university’s ventilation systems, and we want to be assured that all employee groups and student groups will have access to key documents, not as occurred courtesy, but because they have a right to know, a right to participate, and a right to refuse unsafe work,” said Zorić. 

UTFA has brought up the topic of transparency repeatedly. Over the summer, UTFA criticized the university for what it described as a lack of transparency around Legionella outbreaks in water pipes on campus. 

Replying to Zorić’s concerns during the Governing Council meeting, Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity and Culture Kelly Hannah-Moffat said, “We share that concern; [we are] making sure that there are multiple layers of safety implemented in our community, along with a really high vaccination rate [and] improvements to ventilation.”

— With files from Evangeline Yeung.