Over the past two years, Brock University has put many requirements into place in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As cases begin to shift, the university’s requirements have changed, with Brock now introducing pertinent new mandates for the school year ahead.
During the 2021-2022 academic year, students saw the incorporation of both vaccination and masking requirements, as well as the continuation of online learning in many courses. Similarly to previous years, Brock continues to uphold certain mandates in order to continue preventing the spread of infection. However, the requirements which have been set prior to the beginning of the 2022-2023 academic year look different to what the university has seen so far, with both a change in the campus’ mask mandate as well as its vaccine requirements.
Following similar mandates made by other post-secondary institutions, such as Western University and Dalhousie University, Brock has recently come out with an update regarding the use of masks on campus. As stated on Brock University’s official website, starting on Tuesday, Sept. 6, the campus will be implementing a mask mandate in which masks must be worn in all instructional spaces, including classrooms, lecture halls, seminars, teaching labs, and all other spaces where instruction takes place.
“It is a pretty broad-based consultation and you are never going to get everybody saying the same thing or agreeing on the best approach,” said Dr. Lynn Wells, Brock’s Interim President and Vice Chancellor, about the decision process behind the new mandate.
While keeping in contact with BUSU, as well as the Graduate Students Association, Dr. Wells also sits at the executive heads table for the Council of Ontario Universities, where she is able to gather exterior factors that aid in such decisions. However, despite referring to many factors in the making of Brock’s new mandate, one aspect remains the most significant.
“The most important thing that we do when considering COVID protocols is work with our local Regional Medical health officer, doctor Hirji,” said Wells.
Dr. Hirji has been strongly recommending the continuation of masks as a preventative measure on campus. With both a potential fall wave of COVID-19 cases and the upcoming flu season, Dr. Wells deems that the use of masks will help prevent and minimize the spread of both COVID-19 and the flu virus on campus.
By limiting the mandate to within the classroom environment, as opposed to a campus-wide mandate, Wells believes that the university will be able to target and prevent spreading in spaces with close contact.
“If things do worsen in the fall then we may need to extend the mandate further. If conditions improve, we are hoping to look at loosening the mandate or eliminating it, depending on the public health conditions,” said Wells.
Despite Brock’s recent development with its mask mandate, the university is set to uphold its pause on vaccination requirements, which were introduced earlier this summer. However, staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations is still strongly encouraged on campus.
When asked if the pause in vaccination requirements could potentially lift considering the risk of a new wave of cases, meaning students would once again have to be fully vaccinated to be allowed on campus, Dr. Wells brings attention to the complexity of what a vaccine mandate would look like now.
“One of the complicated things now is what fully vaccinated means? Is fully vaccinated two doses? Is it three? Does it depend on how long ago your vaccination was?” said Wells.
Overall, various factors play a role in the changing of such a mandate.
While Brock has made some prominent changes in their COVID-19 requirements with the help of many significant factors, Wells regards the campus’ main responsibility as remaining intact.
“Being responsive to student needs and ensuring the health and safety of students on campus is a critical concern,” said Wells.
For more information on Brock’s recent changes in their mask and vaccination requirements, go to the Brock website’s COVID-19 update page here.