With more in-person learning expected on campus this fall, York University is getting ready to welcome you back safely. Here are a few of the changes that have been made.
1. Enhanced ventilation and air filtration
Running air systems 24-7 to improve airflow, purging air in between classroom use and using hospital-grade air filtration.
Over the course of this past year, York has made changes to improve air flow in buildings on our campuses and has installed high-quality air filtration products to protect against airborne COVID-19 virus particles. All academic buildings have mechanical ventilation in place to allow fresh air to be circulated. These upgrades focused on maximizing the amount of fresh air that our systems can handle, running them 24-7 to improve air flow.
The air in classroom spaces is purged before students arrive and after they leave. We also use air filters similar to those found in hospitals, especially in key buildings with higher expected occupancy, where there is also a mix of fresh and recycled air. These filters are being replaced at a higher rate of frequency for increased health and safety protection.
At room and building entranceways, forced air recycling has been disabled to reduce possible recirculation of airborne particles in these spaces. York follows the latest recommendations and guidance set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
2. Promoting vaccinations
Encouraging vaccination and improving access in the York community.
York encourages all members of the community to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible to support the health and safety of their families, friends and the York community. Vaccines play an important role in reducing the severity of illness and protecting those around us.
The Better Together website offers curated resources to help inform decision-making, and York is a proud partner with the Faster Together and #ThisIsOurShotCA campaigns to promote vaccinations. There are also a number of pop-up and mobile clinics happening across the province, with plans underway to make York’s Keele Campus a vaccination site. To find out where you can book your COVID-19 vaccination appointment, search here by postal code.
3. Rapid screening and testing on campus
Fast testing for those engaged in face-to-face interaction.
For the fall, York will offer a focused screening and testing program on both the Keele and Glendon campuses in partnership with the Provincial Antigen Screening Program (PASP). This program is supported by an ethical framework, is voluntary, and limited to those students, staff, faculty, researchers and instructors who are asymptomatic. Those who are symptomatic will be advised to go to their closest COVID-19 assessment centre.
The focused on-site rapid screening program will be available to select members of the York community, including students, staff, faculty, instructors and researchers in public-facing roles with high in-person interactions or those individuals who are required to participate in testing as per the requirements of their regulatory body. It will also be available to University community members participating in key events and activities. That said, the University will not turn away anyone who is asymptomatic and who requests a test.
4. Automated screening and case management
Required daily screening, contact tracing and case management in the community.
To protect York community members from exposure to COVID-19, the University requires everyone – students, staff, faculty, instructors, librarians, researchers, visitors and contractors – to complete a daily health screening prior to attending any activities or events on University campuses. If you answer yes to any of the screening questions, you are not to come to any of York’s campuses or sites.
In anticipation of a more significant return in the fall, York is preparing to offer an online self-assessment tool for the community. This would support the University’s contact tracing and case management efforts, as all York community members would be required to self-assess before coming to campuses.
5. Physical distancing and plexiglass barriers
Physical distancing supported in all spaces and plexiglass barriers for high-traffic areas.
York University diligently follows all public health guidance on physical distancing. At present, current guidelines in Canada require physical distancing of two metres. There is reason to believe that physical distancing requirements may be reduced by the fall, given the changes in guidance being issued by different health organizations, such as the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, and by the signals from federal, provincial and municipal governments.
Fall classes are being scheduled into rooms based on a planning assumption that a minimum one-metre distance will be required in September. However, if the two-metre requirement is not lifted by September, we will continue observing all public health regulations accordingly and our plans will support this. Physical distancing requirements inform capacity limits within our on-campus spaces, and York’s approach to fall planning aims for no more than 60 per cent of building capacity to be used at any one point in time.
In spaces where physical distancing cannot be safely maintained, additional health measures will be integrated to ensure the highest standard of safety possible. Plexiglass barriers and sneeze guards have been installed in high-traffic areas where maintaining physical distancing is not possible.
6. Monitoring building capacity and campus density
Managing building density and the use of space on campuses.
Multiple strategies will help support the University’s efforts to monitor building capacity and campus density on a daily basis. The online screening self-assessment tool will need to be used daily and usage data will help to monitor overall density on York’s campuses. Certain buildings will also have controlled perimeter access and community members will require approved campus access and YU-cards to enter buildings.
The current Campus Access tool is being refreshed and made more user-friendly in time for the start of the new academic year. Once this is ready, full instructions on the updated campus access system will be provided. Updated instructions for ongoing and one-time campus access requests will also be available. The data from campus access requests will also inform monitoring of campus density and building capacity.
To support oversight of building capacity and campus density, all community members are advised to come on campus only when required and while there, they must avoid actions like propping building doors open. Where possible, in-person or on-campus services and amenities will also be provided to students, staff and faculty on an appointment basis to support the management of building capacity and campus density.
7. Enhanced cleaning, hand sanitization and touchless entrances
Frequent disinfection of high-touch points, sanitizing stations and touchless entrances.
Custodial Services has implemented additional protocols to ensure the health and safety of the York community. In addition to upgraded ventilation and air circulation systems, communal areas on campus are being deep cleaned and sanitized. High-touch areas such as door handles, elevator buttons, stair rails etc. are cleaned daily and under enhanced cleaning protocols. Heavy equipment is being used to deep clean the floors.
York will continue to support the daily enhanced cleaning of classrooms, library and study spaces that are open Monday to Friday. Some washrooms on campus will also have touchless entrances and others have had doors removed where design allows. Where this couldn’t be done, a “step-and-pull” feature has been added to the inside of doors to enable a foot to open them.
The University is also installing multiple new high-density, foot-pedal-operated hand sanitizer stations. Each dispenser will be installed at an accessible height in high-traffic locations across our campuses, so that everyone can easily sanitize their hands when proper hand-washing is not possible.
8. Required masks or face coverings
High-quality masks or face coverings are a must.
Masks or face coverings are required in all indoor spaces and outdoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained. We anticipate that the face covering/mask mandate will continue in 2021 until the 2022 academic year, as the wearing of masks and/or face coverings is known to reduce the spread of COVID-19. All students, staff, faculty, instructors and guests are expected to observe the University’s face covering protocol while on York’s campuses. Should public health guidance on masks or face coverings change, updated information will be communicated to University members and posted on the Better Together website.
Face coverings are provided by York University to those members of our community who are currently required to be physically present at work on campus or who are living in on-campus residences. These face coverings consist of at least three layers, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and supported by Public Health Agency of Canada.
New students to the University will be provided York-branded face coverings as part of their welcome package. For all members of the community, these branded face coverings will be available for purchase on York’s campuses.
9. Clear signage
Clear signage to direct foot traffic and maintain required physical distancing.
Signage across campus will include information about physical distancing, proper hand hygiene and maximum occupancy in meeting rooms and elevators. There will also be signage across our campuses to help with wayfinding, to direct the flow of foot traffic, and to discourage congregating.
In classrooms, seating will be marked to accommodate physical distancing. All community members are expected to abide by the guidelines outlined in campus signage. Safety and well-being are shared responsibilities by all York community members.
10. Safe gathering areas
Mandatory distancing and enhanced safety measures where masks cannot be worn.
Designated areas for smoking and for eating will be identified on the Keele and Glendon campuses. Smoking sites will be located at a safe distance from building entrances, windows and air return ventilation, and receptacles will be provided in the designated smoking areas.
As smoking and eating require the removal of face coverings, there will be clear signage posted to remind people to maintain safe physical distance from one another in these areas. There is every expectation that members of the University community observe the guidelines of the University and only smoke and eat in designated smoking and eating areas in an effort to safeguard against increased community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or its variants.
11. Required health and safety plans, and return-to-work planning
Following required health and safety planning to return to York spaces.
The Welcoming YU Back Roadmap will offer a high-level overview of York’s approach to return to campus planning, but attention to local-level planning gives Faculties, divisions and units the ability to tailor guiding principles to their on-campus activities. Simply put, what may be needed to keep everyone safe in a food court is not necessarily what is needed in classrooms or office spaces, so thoughtful local health and safety plans will be posted in highly visible locations or will be made available on request. This approach allows for greater attention to the specific needs of each space on campus and ensures health and safety in all workspaces.
12. Regular community updates
Staying connected to the latest health and safety information.
The community can stay up to date on the latest information on return-to-campus planning by regularly visiting the Better Together website for the latest updates. In addition, information will be shared through social media and special issues of YFile, and for staff and faculty, a weekly Wellness Wednesday Return to Campus Special Issue. More virtual town halls focused on return-to-campus planning will occur throughout the weeks leading up to the start of the academic term, and FAQs are updated regularly after each town hall.