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OCAD U responds to new temporary measures to curb Omicron transmission

A photo of the Sharp Centre building, a rectangular white structure with black squares resting on coloured stands, with snow in the foreground

Dear members of the OCAD U community, 

Happy New Year! I hope you were all able to take a well-deserved break during the holidays and found some time to rest, relax and connect with family and/or friends. 

On Monday, the Government of Ontario announced new temporary measures to “blunt the spike in transmission” of the Omicron variant and ease the pressure on our health care system. This trajectory of transmission and hospitalizations was anticipated in the modelling shared with us in mid-December and informed our decision to begin instructional activities later in January.  

We remain confident that our decision to start classes on January 28 was – and is – the right decision.  

We based our analysis on several interdependent factors including: projections that showed a continued rise in Omicron cases in January with the potential of increased hospitalizations (which we are seeing today); the potential of a delay to in-person learning for elementary and high schools that would impact many members of our community (which happened as of yesterday); giving our international students the necessary time to get settled in the city to complete their quarantine and get their boosters; the potential impact of many of our faculty, staff and/or students unable to work or study due to illness and isolation/quarantine requirements; and responding to feedback on growing burnout and fatigue from the community. 

By slowing down and reducing our activities on campus, we are creating capacity for all members of our community to gain some flexibility, a key variable we need to live through yet another wave. I hope you are all able to use these next three weeks to attend to what matters most – your health (by getting boosters and managing your stressors), your families/friends (by being there when needed), and your work and/or studies (by having the time to think, create and intentionally design what is required today, for future contingencies and more). 

I would like to acknowledge and thank all the members of the OCAD U community, especially our students who have had to experience such tremendous change during this multi-year pandemic. Your strength and resolve to make things work, not just for yourself but for everyone in the community, is how we will live through this next wave with grace.  

I also want to thank our administrative staff and faculty, especially those with children at home for whom these next three weeks will truly be difficult. Please know that we understand the challenges you are facing and will work with you to support you.  

Given the modelling, including when infections will peak, we remain cautiously optimistic that we will be ready for a safe return to in-person teaching on January 28. In the meantime, we are undertaking the following measures in light of the recent Ontario government announcement:  

Beginning today, the campus will be open with limited access during regular business hours, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; studios and shops are currently closed.  

All staff and faculty who can work from home will continue to do so until further notice; most services and support will be delivered remotely. Details will be shared later this week.  

While instructional activities begin on January 28, all non-instructional activities will continue remotely as planned, including Senate and Senate committees. For students, we will be offering extended co-curricular activities with more information to come shortly.  

Research activity that cannot be conducted remotely can continue on campus during regular business hours, subject to health and safety protocols, including the completion of the COVID-19 self-assessment before arriving on campus. 

Coming to campus? You must complete the COVID-19 self-assessment on the OCAD U Safe app or alternative web page prior to arrival on campus, every time. You will need to swipe your OCAD U ID card to access the buildings during regular business hours. Once on campus, you must follow all health and safety protocols, including wearing a well-fitting mask and maintaining physical distancing. 

Do not come to campus if you are feeling sick or showing any symptom of COVID-19, or if someone in your household is also showing any symptom or has tested positive for COVID-19. Symptoms include a fever of more than 37.8o C and/or chills; cough, new or worsening; trouble breathing; decrease or loss of smell or taste; runny nose or nasal congestion; headache; very tired; sore throat; and muscle aches or joint pain. 

During these next three weeks, we will continue to support students, faculty and staff in getting their booster vaccines as we explore the possibility of having a vaccine clinic near OCAD U, and in having access to well-fitting masks and rapid antigen tests. As well, while we are planning for a safe return to in-person learning, we recognize that having a plan for the worst outcomes is also necessary. To this end, as we have done throughout the pandemic, we are developing different scenarios for various possible eventualities. 

I thank all of you for your ongoing patience, understanding and support as we continue to navigate through these uncertain times together. 

Stay safe and stay well! 

Ana Serrano
President and Vice-Chancellor