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Coronavirus: Hamilton-area universities cancel classes, events, encourage staff to stay in Canada

McMaster university stepped up measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 on campus by cancelling events and travel.
McMaster university stepped up measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 on campus by cancelling events and travel. mcmaster.ca

McMaster University has cancelled all classes and non-core events at the school and is asking employees to avoid travelling outside of Canada due to the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

On Thursday, the Ontario government ordered all publicly-funded schools to shut down for two weeks after March Break based on advice from the province’s chief medical officer. Not long after the announcement, several Hamilton-area universities and colleges updated travel and events policies.

McMaster will now follow suit suspending undergraduate and graduate student classes as of Friday with no in-person exams at the end of term.

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“And while the university has taken many measures to prepare and keep our community informed as the pandemic has unfolded, it is now time to take a more significant decision to suspend classes at McMaster.” president David Farrar said in a release on Friday.

Faculty members and instructors are expected to communicate with students by Wednesday, March 18th on how the remainder of their courses will be managed and grades assessed to complete credits.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Hamilton public health confirms 2nd positive test for COVID-19

The university pointed to the province’s action to close public schools until April 5 as motivation to cancel non-academic discretionary events until at least the end of April.

Cancelled events include:

  • University and student-organized fundraisers, intramurals, and performances on and off-campus
  • Events at McMaster booked and hosted by outside organizations including tournaments, conferences, public speakers, etc.
  • March Break tours, March Break camps and public lectures and non-academic presentations

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Earlier in the week, the university cancelled all international travel for undergraduate and graduate students and continues to advise against travel outside of Canada.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: When will a COVID-19 vaccine be ready?

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In London, Ont., Western University cancelled classes until Tuesday, Mar. 17 in a statement Thursday night. The school said exams would be rescheduled and that classes would be conducted online for the remainder of the term.

Earlier in March, three Hamilton-area public school boards cancelled or postponed March break trips overseas in connection to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board (BHNCDSB), Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) and Grand Erie District School Board (GEDSB) confirmed trips during the week of March 16 were cancelled.

Meanwhile, Mohawk College also cancelled class on Friday.

“Classes will restart online or with alternative delivery beginning Monday, March 23,” Spokesperson Bill Steinburg said in a release.

“Mohawk will be contacting students on Thursday, March 19 to let them know how the remainder of their semester will be managed and grades evaluated. All in-person exams are cancelled,” said Steinberg.

In addition, Mohawk is restricting domestic and international travel for employees and encouraging staff to move content online.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Physician tested positive for COVID-19, says Hamilton Public Health

All campuses will be closed to students and the community as of March 14. The school is also encouraging students in residence to return home, if possible.

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Brock University also said it’s suspending “face to face classes going forward,” on Friday.

The school will also nix exams for the rest of this academic term and is working on a plan to move to alternative forms of class and exam delivery, including online.

The school said the academic term is not at risk and hopes to run exams during the regularly scheduled exam period from April 6 to April 23.

On Thursday, Brock said it was prohibiting all students, faculty and staff travel outside Canada, except for work placements and exchanges.

Travel to academic conferences and professional development events have been nixed, as well as March break tours, the spring open house and on-campus events.

In a release, Redeemer University cancelled classes and is also turning to e-learning. The school also cancelled all sponsored and student-sponsored events.

They are also encouraging staff and students to cancel plans to attend large gatherings including academic conferences and workshops.

READ MORE: What’s cancelled amid the novel coronavirus pandemic? Here’s a full list

Hamilton Public Health says it has dealt with two positive COVID-19 cases in the last seven days. The latest is a 52-year-old man who returned ill from New York City on March 5. He subsequently tested positive on March 10 after a visit to the Urgent Care Clinic on Main St. W.

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Since the first confirmed case was revealed, the city has activated its management response plan, which focuses on the continuity of operations, and will meet daily and as required, according to a release from the city.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says the response will mean a “redeployment” of some city services to prevent the spreading of the virus, which would likely put some regular activities on hold.

Click to play video 'Step-by-step guide to washing your hands' Step-by-step guide to washing your hands
Step-by-step guide to washing your hands – Apr 13, 2016

Concerned about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. And if you get sick, stay at home.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.