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How Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions are handling masks this fall

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The World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the number of deaths from COVID-19 was on the rise globally, with 15,000 people having died from the virus in the last week alone. "We cannot live with 15,000 deaths a week," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing on Wednesday, adding with colder temperatures approaching in the northern hemisphere, risk factors would increase with more people spending time inside – Aug 17, 2022

While masking is no longer required in Nova Scotia, some post-secondary institutions are taking extra precautions against COVID-19 this fall.

The province dropped most of its masking requirements in March, and all other health protections, including mandatory self-isolation for positive cases, in July. However, some restrictions stay in place in high-risk settings such as health-care facilities.

As COVID-19 cases remain high, this is what the province’s universities and colleges have planned as the fall semester draws closer.

Dalhousie University

On Aug. 11, Dalhousie University announced that masks will be required in all indoor instructional spaces during scheduled teaching time, beginning Sept. 1 until at least the end of the fall term.

Masking will be voluntary in other campus spaces such as residences, athletic facilities, workspaces and research labs, but it’s “strongly recommended” in libraries and learning commons, as well as gathering spaces where physical distancing may be limited.

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Masks will also be required at Student Health and Wellness Clinics in Halifax and Truro, as well as in other health-care contexts. Faculties of medicine, health and dentistry may also have additional health and safety protocols to follow and students can expect additional guidance from their faculties.

Instructors, as well as students presenting in class, may remove their mask while lecturing as long as they can fully maintain two metres of distance from all others.

As well, students in music classes where they must remove their masks in order to properly learn are asked to keep their masks on when they’re not actively training.

Outdoor learning spaces like the fields on Dalhousie’s agricultural campus will not require masks.

Saint Mary’s University

On Aug. 16, Saint Mary’s University announced that new mask requirements come into effect on Sept. 1, and will apply to all students, faculty and staff regardless of vaccination status.

The university said masks will need to be worn in learning spaces like classrooms and labs, and common areas like the library, atrium, study spaces, hallways and elevators.

Masks will also be required at the student health centre, all residence common areas including hallways, elevators and lounges, athletic facilities, and large indoor gatherings.

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People can remove their masks when they are seated to eat and drink, inside their residence rooms or apartments, or while actively playing sports or exercising at indoor or outdoor athletic facilities.

Faculty may also remove their masks when lecturing, as long as two metres of social distancing can be maintained.

University of King’s College

In its latest update on Aug. 10, the University of King’s College said that as of Aug. 25 — when “early arrival” students begin to return — the school will once again require three-ply masks in all indoor common spaces on the King’s campus.

The mandate will be in effect until at least Sept. 18.

“Prior to that date, the OH&S Committee will reconvene to assess the situation on campus and advise if the mandate should be lifted or maintained,” the school said on its website.

“We are committed to reviewing this policy on a regular basis.”

St. Francis Xavier University

As of July 4, St. Francis Xavier University will continue to require masks in all instructional spaces like classrooms, labs and studios.

Faculty who are teaching and students who are presenting may remove their mask while speaking, as long as they are physically distanced.

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“Wearing masks in other areas such as corridors, the library, and other more open areas will be your choice according to your comfort level or personal situation,” the school said on its website.

The university also said it strongly encourages all members of the campus community to “be judicious” with any group gatherings.

“While restrictions have been relaxed, please be mindful that COVID has not disappeared and that it continues to circulate within our communities,” it said. “It is still incumbent upon everyone to monitor their health and stay home if you are sick.”

Mount Saint Vincent University

As of Sept. 4, masks will once again be required in classrooms and student lab spaces at Mount Saint Vincent University.

In a letter to students earlier this month, president and vice-chancellor Joël Dickinson said it is “one of the easiest things we can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“Masks will continue to be strongly recommended in all other common indoor areas, with the exception of the MSVU Health Office, Counselling Services, Career Services and Accessibility Services where masks will be required in keeping with NS Health protocols,” the letter said.

Instructors may remove their masks to teach and masks can be lowered to take a drink, or to eat if regular eating is required for medical reasons.

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Students and presenters may choose to remove their masks while presenting. Those who cannot wear masks for medical reasons must register with accessibility services and instructors will be advised of students who are medically exempt from the mask requirement.

The school will also operate their classrooms at 80 per cent capacity for the fall 2022 semester. “At the same time, we continue to offer a number of online courses for those who need or want to continue to learn online,” the letter said.

Acadia University

On Aug. 19, Acadia University said it will re-introduce an indoor masking requirement effective Thursday, Sept. 1.

“This measure is being introduced to help us enjoy the start of the school year safely and to ensure that we do our best as a community to minimize the spread of COVID-19 as students arrive on campus,” the school said on its website.

The mask requirement will be in place until at least Thanksgiving weekend, with plans to re-assess at that time to determine if it should continue.

Masks will be required in all classrooms, labs, and other learning spaces, including academic sections of the athletics complex, though they won’t be required elsewhere in the complex.

Instructors and student presenters can remove their masks while presenting in class, as long as they can maintain a physical distance of two metres. As well, in specific learning environments like some music settings, masks can be removed with the permission of the instructor if it is necessary to learn.

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In class or lab settings, masks can be lowered briefly while taking a drink or eating when the instructor permits.

Acadia says masks will also be required at the Vaughan Memorial Library, except for study spaces once seated, and in all common areas like hallways and elevators.

Masking will also be required in service area waiting rooms like the health, counselling, accessible learning and residence life offices.

While masks won’t be required in residences, Wheelock Dining Hall, or the Students’ Union Building, they are “strongly recommended.”

Cape Breton University

As of June 30, masking requirements at Cape Breton University are no longer in effect.

“Our response continues to be guided by our commitment to the health and safety of the campus community,” the school said on its website.

It said CBU’s pandemic planning task force, formed in early March 2020, continues to meet regularly “to make informed decisions as the situation evolves.”

The school also said social distancing continues to be encouraged wherever possible and vaccinations are “highly encouraged as a measure to protect our campus community.”

Nova Scotia Community College

As per the Nova Scotia Community College’s last update on July 21, masking is not required but is “strongly recommended.”

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“Our response to COVID-19 is aligned with the provincial government’s easing of public health restrictions,” the NSCC website said.

“Safety continues to remain a priority. We’re committed to helping keep each other safe and will adapt our requirements as needed based on public health advice.”

However, it noted that masking is a requirement in some programs and “students in affected programs are aware of this.”

Université Sainte-Anne

As of March 21, Université Sainte-Anne said wearing a mask is no longer required, but is strongly recommended in indoor public places or crowded outdoor spaces.

There is also no longer a limit on gatherings or the capacity of rooms, offices or public places. Physical distancing is encouraged but not required.

Nova Scotia College of Art and Design

As of July 1, masks are no longer required on Nova Scotia College of Art and Design campuses.

“There may be members of the university community who choose to wear masks, and we support everyone’s right to do so,” NSCAD said on its website.

It also said students, faculty and staff are not required to provide proof of full vaccination to work and study on campus — “although the university emphatically supports vaccines and the importance of full vaccination.”

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“This requirement may change based on health and safety risks to our community and NSCAD will consider reinstating a vaccine requirement if necessary,” the website said.

Atlantic School of Theology

As of May 1, masks are not required at the Atlantic School of Theology, but are encouraged in all shared indoor spaces.

Students are asked to stay home if they are feeling unwell or exhibit symptoms of illness, including COVID-19.

The school said those who rent a room in residence will require full vaccination “as a part of the Residence agreement.” Vaccination is not mandatory, but encouraged, for everyone else.

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