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Students say they are concerned about mask removal and vaccination mandates at Ottawa universities and colleges

Earlier in April, Ottawa Public Health gave schools and post-secondary institutions their blessing to adopt their own mask policies.

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Some Ottawa students are expressing concern and concern about the impending removal of masks and vaccination mandates on their university and college campuses this spring, as indicators suggest the province is facing a sixth wave of COVID-19 infections. .

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“I really think it’s too soon. Personally, I’m going to wear my mask for a while. It’s not 100% sure yet,” said uOttawa student Smrithi Dhanasekar.

“It will never be, but we are not even close to 80% security, I think.

The University of Ottawa is removing requirements for students to be vaccinated and wear masks on campus, following the provincial government’s decision to suspend the two measures for most public places in March. The University of Ottawa has chosen to keep the mandates in place for the end of the winter term, but they will be suspended on May 1.

The city’s two largest colleges, Algonquin and La Cité, are also suspending their terms on May 1.

Their decisions come as health experts increasingly warn that the province is facing a surge of new COVID infections, with Ottawa’s sewage indicators reporting record levels of COVID in recent days. Testing data is no longer considered a reliable indicator of the spread of COVID in the community after the province restricted access to PCR testing to people deemed high risk late last year.

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Given the level of the virus in the community, Ottawa Public Health issued a strong recommendation that “people wear masks indoors, especially in situations where physical distancing is difficult or impossible.”

“To reduce the transmission of COVID-19, Ottawa Public Health continues to strongly recommend that people continue to practice the measures we know work,” reads a statement from the public health agency.

Earlier this month, OPH explicitly gave its blessing to schools and post-secondary institutions to adopt their own mask policies.

“OPH also supports actions that can be taken to increase mask use during this resurgence, including policies in specific businesses, workplaces, and community settings, including schools and daycares,” said OPH in a statement on April 11.

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“Additionally, in the context of high absenteeism, schools/school boards and post-secondary institutions could consider introducing temporary masking policies to provide a safer environment to support classroom learning.

The decision to make masks optional, in particular, has raised concerns among some post-secondary students, who say they now doubt going to campus.

“I work in an elementary school where masks are not required and I witness many disease spreads that could easily be prevented by wearing a mask until the appointed time,” said Collicia Robinson-Bell, a student. from Algonquin College which studies child and youth care. .

With the college deciding to drop terms, Robinson-Bell said she preferred to study online.

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“I think most students don’t see mask mandates the way I do. People I know will jump at the chance not to wear one and as fair as college students have a choice, knowing what most will choose will make me uncomfortable. So if I had the choice, I would stay home through all of this.

The worsening COVID situation has already prompted a university in Ottawa to reverse its intention to suspend its mask mandate. Carleton University says it will now continue to require masks on campus indefinitely.

The school attributed the decision to worsening COVID indicators and the recommendation from Ottawa Public Health.

Carleton isn’t the only school to continue to mask up after May Day. The University of Waterloo, University of Guelph, Brock University and York University have all announced that they will require masks on campus until further notice.

Wilfrid Laurier, Queen’s and McMaster universities have extended their mask mandates until May 31.

For Vivian Achor, a student at Carleton, it’s a welcome decision.

“I think the decision may have been influenced by other universities, and also by the fact that COVID cases are increasing.”

Achor said she understands the province’s decision puts universities in a difficult position and they will likely follow suit.

“I don’t think the university can really do much because these are provincial guidelines, and obviously we have to live alongside COVID at this point.”

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