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COVID-19 update: March 11

Impact of alert level change; new tool to support return-to-campus planning

Campus and Community

Memorial has released the COVID-19 impact scale to provide greater clarity about the university’s staged and measured approach to the resumption of on-campus activities.

This five-stage scale provides guidance for decision-making on all facets of Memorial’s operations and activities.

The regional approach to public health directives means that Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook may operate at a different level on the COVID-19 impact scale than the campuses and locations on the Avalon peninsula.

The Marine Institute (MI) has different controls in place. The five-stage scale does not apply to its operations and locations. MI is working closely with the Chief Risk Office to ensure the health and safety of its campus community.

‘Dynamic tool’

“It is important to note that the stages in Memorial’s scale do not necessarily align exactly with provincial alert levels and that a change in provincial levels does not indicate an automatic change for Memorial,” said Greg McDougall, chief risk officer. Mr. McDougall’s team led the development of the tool.

“This means the university may stay at a given level for a longer period based on a number of factors, including the number of new daily COVID cases, the provincial alert level, advice from Public Health, community spread and contact tracing and university operational considerations.”

He notes that the five-stage scale is a dynamic tool that can be adjusted as evolving circumstances require.

Changes to the impact scale will be guided by the need to maintain the health and safety of the Memorial community while enabling additional on-campus activities that are necessary for the university to fulfil its academic and research obligations.

Right now, Memorial’s St. John’s and Signal Hill campuses are classified as “very high” risk, indicating on-campus access is only available for approved critical continuity activities.

Grenfell Campus is currently operating at “moderate” risk and will be issuing an update to its campus community shortly about its operations and activities.

Upcoming changes

Given the move to provincial alert level four in the Avalon region and analysis of the specific impacts at Memorial, the St. John’s and Signal Hill campuses will move to the “high” risk stage on Tuesday, March 16.

The specific changes associated with the high risk stage follow below:

  • Staff who cannot complete the majority of their tasks while working from home should return to campus at the discretion of their supervisor.
  • Faculty and staff who find it challenging to work remotely and would prefer to return to campus may return, with prior supervisor approval and ensuring they meet the necessary density requirements. People should avoid working in common areas if at all possible.
  • Additional on-campus research activities may resume based on the COVID-19 Research Working Group Framework. More information will be shared shortly.
  • Libraries can resume curbside services. More information will be shared shortly.

Any on-campus work will require a minimum occupancy density of 225 square feet per person. A team, or cohort, based approach is recommended. This approach requires supervisors to assign employees, who perform the same function and typically work together, to separate teams and develop a work schedule that keeps different teams separated. This keeps interactions at a minimum and supports business continuity best practices.

Leaders should work with staff who will be returning to determine an appropriate timeline for the return to campus as well as the creation of cohorts within a unit.

Anyone returning to campus is reminded to complete the daily COVID-19 self-assessment and follow public health guidelines. As announced on Feb. 13, 2021, a two-ply face mask is the minimum standard while three-ply is recommended. Memorial requires everyone on campus to wear a non-medical face mask while in public spaces and common areas on campus, offices or while conducting fieldwork.

Memorial continues to support working from home where possible, in line with public health messages for all alert levels, and to keep building densities low.

Building occupants at the Marine Institute, Grenfell Campus, Labrador Institute and Signal Hill Campus will continue to receive location-specific information directly from leaders.

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