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March 11, 2020: University monitoring COVID-19 outbreak

Dear members of the OCAD University community,

We are writing to provide you with an update regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.

The University’s Emergency Management Team – COVID-19 meets daily to actively monitor developments and coordinate the University’s ongoing response to the outbreak.

We are in regular communication with Toronto Public Health (TPH) and are following their direction. As advised by TPH, OCAD University is planning and preparing for a potential escalation of the COVID-19 and impacts to the community in the event of a significant disruption of services and curricular and co-curricular activities. 

Classes
As of March 11, 2020, all classes are being held as scheduled. We will be providing information to faculty members regarding the assessment for end-of-term work in the days ahead, if necessary.

Events 
As of March 11, 2020, all events are being held as scheduled. We will undertake event risk assessments as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

If there are any changes to classes and events, we will notify you by email, in addition to our regular updates on the University website and employee and student portals. We recently updated a list of frequently asked questions, which you can read below.

Frequently Asked Questions
We recently updated a list of frequently asked questions, which you can read below.

Travel
We ask students, faculty and staff to regularly check travel advisories in advance of any OCAD University business or personal travel. The Government of Canada issues and updates these travel advisories on a daily basis. 

All employees proposing international travel on university business should contact HR@ocadu.ca and request and subsequently submit an International Business Travel Information Form detailing their upcoming travel plans. 

Questions about the COVID-19?
We have identified Kaye Ferrer, the University’s Environmental Health and Safety Advisor, as the primary contact for OCAD U students and employees. She can answer your questions or re-direct your questions quickly and ensure you receive a reliable response.
•    Email: kferrer@ocadu.ca
•    Tel. 416 977 6000, ext. 626

Attending class or work if you have flu-like symptoms
Students, staff and faculty experiencing flu-like symptoms are advised to stay at home. In addition, Toronto Public Health may instruct individuals to self-isolate as a preventative measure. 

Given the situation, faculty should not require students to provide doctors' notes to substantiate absences and should provide alternatives for students who may need to miss class. Managers should not require a doctor’s note to substantiate employee absence.

How to protect yourself
TPH has reminded the community that the best prevention regarding the spread of illness is to wash your hands often with soap and water for a least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer. We encourage you to take the following additional prevention measures to prevent illness:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
  • Stay home when you are ill.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Visit the Toronto Public Health website for more information. You can also visit OCAD University’s website with updated frequently asked questions.

Read the latest statement from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, March 11, 2020

Resources – COVID-19
•    Ontario Ministry of Health
•    Toronto Public Health 
•    Public Health Ontario 
•    Public Health Agency of Canada 
•    World Health Organization

Caroline Langill, Vice-President, Academic and Provost

Alan Simms, Vice-President, Administration & Finance

 

Coronavirus FAQs for OCAD U Community

 
Last updated March 11, 2020


1.    What is the Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that originate in animals but are known to cause respiratory illness in humans, particularly during the fall and winter months. Other novel coronaviruses have included Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV).

In January 2020, a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) was identified as the cause of an outbreak of pneumonia originating in Wuhan. The provincial government provides updated statistics for Ontario.

2.    What is the risk?
The situation is rapidly evolving and the University is taking its guidance from public health agencies at the local, provincial and federal level, who are closely monitoring the outbreak, conducting surveillance and appropriate laboratory testing, and providing public health and infection control guidance.

To date, cases have been reported in individuals who have been in affected areas, and those who have had personal contact with infected individuals. The risk of more severe illness may be higher for individuals with weakened immune systems such as older people or chronic diseases such as diabetes, or heart, renal or chronic lung disease.

3.    What are the symptoms of novel COVID-19?

Symptoms range from common to severe respiratory illnesses and include: 
•    fever
•    cough
•    difficulty breathing

Many of these symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza. Should you experience these symptoms AND have recently travelled internationally to an affected region, avoid contact with others and follow-up with your health care professional. Advise your health professional in advance of attending clinic of your symptoms and travel history.

4.    What can I do to protect myself?
As usual, continue to practice good hand washing techniques and hygiene practices. This includes washing thoroughly with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and staying at home if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms.

If you have a compromised immune system and you are concerned, you may wish to consult with your health care provider for any additional precautions.

5.     Should I wear a mask?
According to the World Health Organization:

  • If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person suspected with Novel COVID-19.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are only effective when used in coordinating with frequent hand washing with alcohol based hand rub or soap and water.
  • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

6.    Should students, staff or faculty with flu-like symptoms attend class/work?
As usual, those with flu-like symptoms who have not travelled internationally to an affected region, should stay at home.  

Those who have questions or concerns, who have travelled internationally to an affected region, and do not have symptoms, should call Telehealth Ontario: Toll-free 1-866-797-0000 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007).  

As of March 6, 2020, TPH, is advising that people who have travelled to Hubei province or Iran, or have had close contact with a person who is ill with COVID-19, should limit their contact with others for a total of 14 days from the date that they left Hubei or Iran, or were in contact with a person ill with COVID-19.

This means self-isolate and staying at home. In addition, they should contact their local public health authority within 24 hours of arriving in Canada.

Travellers returning from other affected areas should monitor for symptoms. Those who develop symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) or any other symptoms within 14 days after returning to Canada, are advised to avoid contact with others and contact Telehealth Ontario (1-866-797-0000), your health care provider, or local health authority.  Inform them about your symptoms and travel history.

If you are not already isolated, self-quarantine yourself in your home.

Faculty should not require doctor’s notes to substantiate student absences in this current situation. Students are advised to let their instructors know that they are experiencing flu-like symptoms. 

Managers should not require doctor’s notes to substantiate short employee absences related to flu in this current situation. At this time, the risk of contracting novel coronavirus is low.


7.    Should students, staff or faculty with flu-like symptoms be excluded from class/work?

No one should be excluded or banned from attending classes or work. Students, staff and faculty with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to stay home, but some may choose to attend classes and work. 


8. Should anyone with a travel history to an affected region be excluded from class/work?
Students, staff and faculty with symptoms who have visited the affected region recently should follow the instructions outlined by the TPH in Question 6.


9. Should we be canceling events?
At this time, OCAD U is following the advice of the TPH and no events are being cancelled. However, we are reviewing upcoming events to conduct a risk assessment, where appropriate. Should the situation change, we will provide advice on our website, student and staff portals.


10. I am planning to travel in the coming days. What should I do?
Students, faculty and staff should check travel and public health advisories given this is an evolving situation.

The Government of Canada issues and updates travel advisories as the coronavirus changes. OCAD University is encouraging faculty, staff and students to check these travel advisories in advance.

11. What if I don’t have symptoms but would like more information?
Telehealth Ontario: 1-866-797-0000
Telehealth Ontario is a free, confidential service you can call to get health advice or information. A Registered Nurse will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Other resources:
•    Ontario Ministry of Health
•    Toronto Public Health 
•    Public Health Ontario 
•    Public Health Agency of Canada 
•    World Health Organization

March 4, 2020: Update #6, Coronavirus: What you need to know

OCAD U has established a working group that is actively monitoring developments regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19). We are in close communication with Toronto Public Health and will be posting regular updates on our website, as well as on our employee and student portals. Toronto Public Health has said that the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 in Toronto remains low.

If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19:
You can call or email the Student Wellness Centre to book an appointment instead of dropping by the Centre in person. This will allow us to provide the best care for you and others in the Centre.
•    Email: swc@ocadu.ca
•    Tel.: 416 977 6000, ext. 260

If you have questions about the COVID-19 and would like to talk to someone:
OCAD U’s Environmental Health and Safety Advisor Kaye Ferrer has been designated as the key point of contact at the University for students and employees. She can answer your questions or re-direct your questions quickly and ensure you receive a reliable response.
•    Email: kferrer@ocadu.ca
•    Tel. 416 977 6000, ext. 626

How to protect yourself
We encourage you to take the following prevention measures to prevent illness:
•    Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
•    Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
•    Avoid close contact with people who are ill.
•    Stay home when you are ill.
•    Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.
•    If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
•    Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Visit the Toronto Public Health website for more information.

OCAD U Events
As of March 4, OCAD U has not cancelled any events, this includes GradEx105. However, we have learned that Level Up, the video game showcase, has been cancelled.

Travelling internationally
The Government of Canada issues and updates travel advisories as the coronavirus changes. Please visit the Government of Canada travel advisory website for more information. 

OCAD U is encouraging faculty, staff and students to check in advance for, and adhere to, such travel advisories. As of March 4, non-essential travel to China, South Korea, Italy or Iran is not recommended.

Self-isolation after international travel
OCAD U is asking students, faculty and staff to follow the advice of the Toronto Public Health for the situations indicated below:

  • People who have recently travelled from Hubei Province, China (including Wuhan City) or Iran OR have had close contact with a person ill with COVID-19 are asked to self-isolate (see self-isolation below) for a total of 14 days after last exposure (i.e., last day in Hubei or last contact with a person ill with COVID-19). Contact Toronto Public Health at 416-338-7600.
  • For people who have recently travelled from China (other than Hubei Province), Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, or Italy are asked to watch for signs and symptoms that may develop up to 14 days after an exposure (i.e., last date of travel). If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, you must self-isolate (see self-isolation below) and follow-up with a health care provider. Tell your health care provider about your symptoms and travel history before going to a medical office or an emergency department. This will allow the health care provider to prepare for your visit and protect other patients.

Self-isolation
Persons diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are suspected of having COVID-19 should stay home. Specifically, do not attend child care, school or work. Avoid public spaces, contact with others, taking public transit; and refrain from having visitors.

For more information about COVID-19 (March 3, 2020):
Read the fact sheet from Toronto Public Health here.

Important links about COVID-19
Government of Canada (outbreak update and other information)
Toronto Public Health