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Coronavirus: How Edmonton post-secondary institutes are responding to the pandemic

How the University of Alberta is responding to the coronavirus pandemic
WATCH ABOVE: While the University of Alberta was open on Friday, with all services available and all staff at work, classes were suspended for the day. Fletcher Kent has more from campus.

Colleges and universities in Edmonton are updating their plans after Alberta’s top doctor issued new, stricter guidelines on public gatherings and travel.

In her daily update on Thursday, chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw called for all events with more than 250 people to be cancelled to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Hinshaw also urged cancellation of any event with more than 50 attendees that includes international participants or other high-risk groups like seniors.

READ MORE: Confirmed coronavirus cases in Alberta rise to 23, officials urge cancellation of large gatherings

Hinshaw said the recommendation to cancel big events does not extend to places of worship, grocery stores, airports or shopping centres. She said schools and daycares can stay open for now but discouraged events like assemblies.

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The City of Edmonton also announced it will cancel all mass gatherings, ban employee travel and develop a work-from-home plan. The city says it is also considering closing rec centres.

READ MORE: Edmonton looks at possibly closing rec centres, council meets Friday to discuss ’emerging coronavirus situation’

Edmonton’s post-secondary institutions are taking numerous measures as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the province — as of Thursday, there were 23 cases, and all were travel-related. All of the colleges say that if staff or students are unwell, they should stay home.

Here’s what the University of Alberta, MacEwan University, NAIT, Concordia and NorQuest College are doing:

University of Alberta

While the University of Alberta said it will remain open on Friday, with all services available and all staff at work, classes are being suspended for the day.

This will allow for additional consultation with public health experts, government officials and other post-secondary institutions on appropriate next steps.

An update will be provided no later than Sunday, March 15 on the resumption of the majority of classes on Monday.

“While Alberta Health guidelines do not require the closure of schools, large research institutions are unique in their scale and diversity of experiences and we have heard from many of you that you that you want us to fully assess the situation,” the university said in an update issued early Friday morning.

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The U of A said the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge are also taking these measures.

READ MORE: University of Calgary moves to ‘remote learning’ after classes cancelled at several Alberta universities Friday

For more on the University of Alberta, click here.

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MacEwan University

MacEwan University said it wasn’t cancelling classes, as it doesn’t have large lecture hall classes of more than 250 people like other post-secondary institutions. It also said there are no interruptions to other operations.

The university said it is suspending all university travel. “Students, faculty and staff will not be approved to travel to regions where the Government of Canada has recommended Canadians ‘avoid all non-essential travel’ and avoid all travel,'” a spokesperson said in a statement.

The university said a working group representing areas across the university is developing plans in anticipation of a number of scenarios and to provide guidance for our community.

For more on MacEwan University, click here.

NAIT

In an update Thursday night, NAIT said its emergency operations centre had been activated and is leading its response management.

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NAIT said classes will continue as scheduled, but events with more than 250 people are cancelled as per the government’s guidelines, and attendance to business-related events of that size is restricted. NAIT is restricting all business travel outside of Canada.

School events with fewer than 250 people and those that do not have high-risk populations in attendance can proceed, but risk mitigation such as sanitizer stations and distancing between attendees must be in place, the college said.

NAIT is also limiting seating to 225 in its cafeterias. It has ramped up cleaning and is planning for potential disruptions to work as well.

NAIT said it is also providing all employees an additional 10 days of paid leave for COVID-19-related absences. It said it would reassess after 10 days on a case-by-case basis.

For more on NAIT, click here.

READ MORE: Health Link, Edmonton police 911 experience high call volumes amid coronavirus pandemic

Concordia University of Edmonton

Concordia University said on Monday that it would be moving to Level 2 of its emergency plan.

Public events — including music, drama, athletics and other workshops and events — are cancelled.

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Select classes are in session, the university said, adding that at the discretion of the instructor, classes may move to distance delivery as possible and appropriate through Moodle and/or other platforms.

Instructors will be responsible for notifying students and providing details and were told to prepare for the possibility of having to deliver the remainder of the semester’s content online if the school moves to Level 3.

All instructors should prepare for the possibility of having to conduct course assessment activities via Moodle and/or other free platforms at very short notice should the school move to Response Level 3, Concordia said.

Students living in residence were also told to prepare for the possibility of evacuation on short notice should the college upgrade its response.

Concordia said international travel is restricted to regions deemed to be at risk levels 1 or 2 of the Canadian government’s travel advisories.

International visitors from regions deemed to be at the Canadian government’s travel advisory risk levels 3 (avoid non-essential travel) or 4 (avoid all travel) — which includes Italy, China and Iran — due to COVID-19 are not permitted on campus.

For more on Concordia, click here.

READ MORE: Your coronavirus questions, answered — Medical experts respond to your COVID-19 concerns

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NorQuest College

All business travel out of the province has been banned, NorQuest College announced on Thursday. The school also said caution should be exercised for all NorQuest business travel to any place inside Alberta with a presumptive case (like Calgary), including non-essential trips to Edmonton for those not working on the Edmonton campus.

Employees should exercise discretion when visiting the main campus and consider using alternative ways of connecting, like teleconference, video conference, Teams and email.

No information about the status of classes was available. NorQuest said it would notify students and the community of any disruptions through email and online.

For more on NorQuest, click here.

WATCH: Alberta Health and the City of Edmonton’s latest novel coronavirus measures were announced on Thursday

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The new coronavirus was first identified in Hubei province, China, in December 2019 and spread rapidly. While the outbreak has begun to level off in China, it seems the virus has found a foothold in a number of countries around the world, and it continues to spread.

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

Health officials say the risk is low for Canadians but warn this could change quickly. They caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

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. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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.