With the emergence and rapid spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the start of the holiday season has been challenging and we would like to express our gratitude to everyone for their dedication, patience and flexibility as we navigate through the new challenges that are facing our province and our community.
Return to primarily remote delivery
If employees are not required to be on campus, they should work from home until Jan. 10, 2022, as per the provincial government’s move to Alert Level 3. Please bring home any equipment needed to do your job effectively while working remotely.
The fall term has been on all accounts, a safe and successful return to in-person learning and most of us were hopeful to build on this for the winter term. However, given the information we have regarding this new variant, Memorial University will return to a primarily remote teaching and learning environment for the start of winter semester until Jan. 31. We understand it has been difficult to pivot quickly again, but we are asking everyone to pull together to address this new situation.
Originally scheduled to begin Jan. 6, the winter semester will now begin Jan. 10 with most classes operating in a remote teaching and learning environment. Instruction in online courses will also begin on Jan. 10. The delayed date was selected to provide additional time for employees and students returning from travel to self-isolate and facilitate maintaining the scheduled end of semester. The new start date will not change the university diary dates as outlined in the calendar. All other semester dates will remain unchanged.
Where possible, labs, fine and performing arts programs, and practicums will take place in-person on all campuses. We will strive to provide in-person learning where it is essential to the delivery of the course material. Programs with accreditation requirements as well as programs at the Marine Institute will set their course modes accordingly.
On-campus gatherings, including all welcome and orientation activities, scheduled before Jan. 10 are suspended. For events after Jan. 10, please contact Environmental Health and Safety for guidance. Health and safety plans must be in place for on-campus events.
The plan is to be back on campus for in-person teaching on Jan. 31. However, that will depend on public health guidance and risk assessments.
University buildings will open Jan. 4 at the Marine Institute and on Jan. 5 for St. John’s campus and Grenfell Campus.
For all research activities that take place off-campus, please contact Environmental Health and Safety for any additional public health restrictions in the jurisdiction of the research. Health and safety plans must be in place for these activities.
The Memorial community has a high vaccination rate and all faculty, students and staff who are eligible for their booster COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to receive one as soon as possible. Pharmacies and public health are offering booster clinics and Memorial plans to offer on-campus booster clinics very soon. In Corner Brook, Grenfell faculty, staff and students are asked to book booster appointments through the Western Health portal or local pharmacies.
Memorial’s vaccine requirement will continue for the winter semester. Students, faculty and staff arriving on Memorial campuses for the first time in January need to complete the vaccine declaration form available here as soon as possible. Students who originally would have been studying in-person and/or online must complete the form. If you provided proof of full COVID-19 vaccination in the fall semester you do not need to re-submit this information for the winter semester. Memorial’s updated mask requirement will also remain in place across all campuses.
Requests for exemptions from the vaccination requirement must be made by submitting the online vaccination declaration form. Exemptions will only be considered for individuals who request an accommodation as a result of a medical condition or other grounds protected by the Human Rights Act, 2010.
University travel & self-isolation requirements
Memorial has suspended all non-essential international university travel. All travel should comply with the Government of Canada and provincial government advisories. Newfoundland and Labrador’s latest travel advisories can be found here.
All students, faculty and staff entering the province for the start of the winter semester will be required to self-isolate for five days, as per the additional measures to address the Omicron variant. More details (self-isolation options, supports, etc.) can be found on our COVID website.
We want to acknowledge the extraordinary resilience and dedication members of our campus community have shown. It has been taxing for academic staff to prepare for the winter term under uncertain circumstances. It has been equally difficult for many students to learn remotely and struggling with feelings of isolation. Please reach out for help if you need support.
In St. John’s, Student Wellness and Counselling Centre resources can be found here. In Corner Brook, students needing support should contact Grenfell’s Counselling and Psychological Services. Employee resources are available here.
Memorial’s leadership team will be meeting frequently throughout the holiday break to ensure decisions are made and communicated as quickly as possible. Updated information will be shared widely and the COVID-19 website will be updated often. Campus-specific information is available for the Grenfell campus here and for the Marine Institute here. These sites will also be regularly updated.
Memorial’s top priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire community, and everyone must continue to remain vigilant and do their part to keep cases low. Please be mindful of health and safety protocols over the holiday season, particularly at gatherings and as you celebrate with family and friends.
Memorial’s faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to support the core mission of the institution. We were all looking forward to an in-person semester and much work has gone into preparing for it. In the coming weeks, we will closely monitor the advancement of Omicron in our province and hope that the proposed unfolding of the winter term will buy us the time we need to assess the remainder of the term.