With more in-person learning on campus this fall, the University has prepared to welcome you back safely. We all have a role to play in supporting a community of care and protecting ourselves and each other as we return to campus, so it’s important to follow the latest public health guidance.
Here are a few of the changes that have been made to welcome you back safely on York’s campuses:
Running air systems 24/7 to improve airflow, purging air in between classroom use and hospital-grade air filtration.
Encouraging physical distancing in all spaces and plexiglass barriers in high-traffic areas.
Managing building density and the use of space on campuses.
Regular cleaning, sanitizing stations and touchless entrances.
Clear signage in place to remind us of required health and safety measures and direct foot traffic.
Following required health and safety planning to return to York spaces.
Enhanced ventilation & 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. Our upgrades focused on maximizing the amount of fresh air that our systems can handle, running them 24/7 to improve air flow.
Time is allowed for the air in classroom spaces to be 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, we have also disabled forced air recycling to reduce possible recirculation of airborne particles in these spaces. We follow the latest recommendations and guidance set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
York will require all community members and visitors on our campuses this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19, subject to medical and human rights exemptions, in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. This is in addition to the requirement for students living in undergraduate residences for 2021/22 to be vaccinated.
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 severity of illness and protecting those around us.
Through a partnership with Humber River Hospital, a number of pop-up clinics have been held on York’s Keele Campus to date. Additional clinics have been happening on Keele Campus from late August throughout the fall term, to support access to first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to these on-campus clinics, you may search by postal code for additional locations for COVID-19 vaccination.
The Better Together site also offers curated resources to help inform decision-making and York is a proud partner with the Faster Together and #ThisIsOurShot campaigns to promote vaccinations. As a reminder, health information is considered private information and so it is not advisable to ask others about their vaccination status if they have not shared it. The University follows all applicable health and safety protocols for in-person activities.
Rapid screening & testing on campus
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 are not to attend York’s campuses or sites and 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, researchers in public facing roles with high in-person interactions or who are required to participate in testing as per the requirements of their regulatory body or the university. It will also be available to university members participating in key events and activities, for example on days when students move into their residences. That said, the University will not turn away anyone who is asymptomatic and who requests a test. More information about the program, including ways in which to book appointments, will be available on the Better Together website prior to the start of the Fall Term.
Automated screening & case management
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 daily COVID-19 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. Refer to ‘What you need to know’ on the Better Together site for next steps.
The YU Screen/YU Dépistage tool launched in August, 2021 and will support the University’s contact tracing and case management efforts (handled in partnership with Toronto Public Health), as all York community members must self-assess before coming to campuses. More information about the automated screening and case management tool was posted under “Updates” on the Better Together site before the start of the Fall term.
Physical distancing and plexiglass barriers
York University diligently follows all public health guidance on physical distancing and encourages all community members to give others space while on campus. The latest guidance from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU), allows for flexible capacity limits and requirements for physical distancing in indoor instructional spaces, such as classrooms, libraries and lab spaces.
In some spaces, additional health measures have been integrated to ensure the highest standard of safety possible. Plexiglass barriers and sneeze guards have been installed in high-traffic areas on York’s campuses. As our understanding of the transmission of the COVID-19 virus has evolved, new installations of plexiglass barriers will be limited to select spaces only, as we focus more energy on enhanced ventilation and air filtration.
Monitoring building capacity & campus density
York continues to monitor the status of the pandemic and will be prepared to follow any new direction from the province in the upcoming weeks and months. YU Screen/YU Dépistage (the online screening self-assessment tool used daily by community members), has the ability to assist with monitoring overall density on York’s campuses, should it be required.
It’s important to note that the University's approach to the fall will remain more measured and this means that we will not see an immediate return to pre-pandemic numbers on our campuses on any given day. For example, some students, faculty and instructors will not be able to come to York's campuses due to a variety of reasons; some staff will be participating in the Transitional Remote Work pilot; and not all courses will be offered in-person or on-campus.
Hand sanitization & touchless entrances
Communal areas on York’s campuses will be cleaned regularly. More information on the current cleaning practices are available here. The University has also installed multiple new high-density foot pedal-operated hand sanitizer stations. Each dispenser has been installed at an accessible height in high-traffic locations across our campuses, so that everyone can easily sanitize their hands when proper handwashing is not possible.
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.
Required masks or face coverings
The Fall 2021 guidance issued by the Ministry of Colleges and Universities (also supported by Toronto Public Health), mandates the continued requirement for masks and face coverings. Masks or face coverings are required in all indoor spaces, with new guidance available here and community members must bring their own to campus.
If you are on-campus and you realize that you have forgotten, lost, soiled, or damaged your mask, they can be acquired from vending machines located on both campuses. Machines will be equipped with YU-card readers and the 3-ply medical/procedural disposable masks will be dispensed at a nominal cost to valid YU-card holders. If you require a YU-card, please go here to learn more about how to get one in advance of the start of the fall term. Proceeds from vending machine masks sales will go towards a disposable mask recycling program. Mask recycling containers will also be located throughout campuses, and all community members are asked to not dispose of anything other than disposable masks in these containers.
We anticipate that the face coverings/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.
Signage across campuses will be updated to include information about the health and safety measures that all university community members must follow. Signs will focus on things like using YU Screen/YU Dépistage each time before you come to campus, wearing a mask or face covering in all indoor spaces, giving others their space and how to engage in proper hand hygiene. There will also be signage for designated eating and smoking areas in place, as well as guidelines for shared areas like quiet and flex study spaces.
Signage across our campuses will help with wayfinding, direct the flow of foot traffic, and discourage congregating.
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.
Safe gathering areas
Designated areas for smoking and for eating have been identified on both Keele and Glendon campus. Smoking sites are located at a safe distance from building entrances, windows and air return ventilation and receptables 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 in designated smoking areas in efforts to safeguard against increased community transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or its variants. Health and safety guidance for conduct in lunchrooms is available under the Campus and Community Safety FAQS.
Where possible, eat outdoors or eat solely in designated eating areas. Avoid eating or drinking in classrooms, other instructional spaces, research areas, or in shared spaces such as libraries or study rooms.
Required health & safety plans and return to work planning
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 area specific workplace 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.
Regular community updates
The community can stay up-to-date on the latest information on return to campus planning by regularly visiting Better Together for updates. Information will also be shared through social media, special issue of yFile and for staff and faculty, a weekly Wellness Wednesday Return to Campus special issue. More virtual Town Halls will be scheduled, and FAQs are updated regularly after each Town Hallevent.