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St. FX president apologizes, school cancels in-person exams amid growing COVID-19 outbreak

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 outbreak at St. FX at 114 total cases after 55 new infections reported: N.S. top doctor' COVID-19 outbreak at St. FX at 114 total cases after 55 new infections reported: N.S. top doctor
Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang said Friday that there had been 55 new cases of COVID-19 reported that are attributable to the outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University, bringing the total number to 114. – Dec 10, 2021

The president and vice-chancellor of St. Francis Xavier University is apologizing for the school’s role in a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

As of Friday, there were 114 cases associated with the outbreak, which stemmed from graduation events at the Antigonish, N.S., school.

“I want to begin by offering my apology to all affected within our community by the current outbreak,” said Andy Hakin in a statement posted to the school’s Facebook page.

“I have heard from our students, faculty and staff, their families, business owners and residents of the town and county of Antigonish – I hear the worry in your voices, the concern and anxiety in your notes and I understand the anger that is being felt after working together for so long to get it right.

Read more: COVID-19: N.S. daily case count soars above 120 as St. FX outbreak grows

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“Please know that we deeply regret the consequences of the activities which should have been celebratory occasions for our university and community,” the statement continued.

“Hearing how the virus is impacting our campus and our wider community is simply heartbreaking. We are so sorry – I am so sorry. None of this was intended.”

Hakin said the university will learn from this event and is committed to rebuilding trust.

In-person exams cancelled

On Friday, the province said due to the outbreak, all close contacts, including those who are fully vaccinated, need to isolate until they have a negative result from a lab-based (PCR) test. The lab test should be performed at least 72 hours after the exposure.

Previously, people didn’t need to isolate if they were fully vaccinated.

In a statement Dec. 10, St. FX academic vice-president and provost Timothy Hynes said this policy change “significantly affects our ability to deliver in-person exams.”

“For clarity, Public Health reiterated that in-person exams are safe; however, this new province-wide change will almost assuredly increase the number of students required to isolate and test, affecting their ability to attend an in-person exam,” said Hynes in his statement. “Staff and faculty are likely to be impacted as well.”

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19 outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University grows' COVID-19 outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University grows
COVID-19 outbreak at St. Francis Xavier University grows – Dec 10, 2021

It said the university decided to discontinue in-person exams during the December exam period effective Saturday. Faculty members are asked to change to an alternative delivery format such as online or take-home exams.

Read more: St. FX faculty want ‘hybrid’ exam model as outbreak grows, concerned about communication

“For those courses where such a change is impractical, faculty members will need to defer the in-person exam until January,” the statement said.

The statement said the school planned to reach out to faculty members Friday evening who were scheduled to deliver in-person exams on Saturday to ensure they were aware of the change.

“I recognize and regret that the decision to convert to online exams with such little notice may cause additional stress and challenge at an already stressful and challenging time,” it said. “However, it is important to comply with this latest directive from Public Health officials and continue to follow their lead.”

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