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Brock University defies trend, vows to continue mandatory masks and vaccination


The acting medical officer of health for Niagara said he applauded Brock’s leadership in maintaining mask and vaccine mandates.

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Brock University in St. Catharines has bucked the Ontario post-secondary trend and announced it will continue to require students and staff to wear masks and to be fully vaccinated while indoors on campus in the summer term.

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The university said it made the decision based on the increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations and after consultation with the acting medical officer of health for Niagara, Dr. Mustafa Hirji.

In a news release from the university, Hirji said he applauded Brock’s leadership in maintaining mask and vaccine mandates.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji is the acting medical officer of health for the Niagara region
Dr. Mustafa Hirji is the acting medical officer of health for the Niagara region Photo by Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services /Handout

The measures will continue to protect students, staff and visitors while allowing “important activities on campus to continue unimpeded while maintaining a level of safety that everyone has enjoyed this past academic year,” Hirji said.

Hirji noted that the Niagara region and Ontario were now in the early part of a sixth wave of COVID-19.

Both Hirji and Ottawa’s medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, are strongly encouraging people to wear masks indoors.

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Etches, in a statement on March 30, warned that the level of COVID-19 was rising in Ottawa.

She “highly recommended” that people “continue wearing a mask indoors especially when physical distancing may not be possible or proves to be challenging in crowded areas.”

That represented an upgrade from statements made less than a week earlier, on March 24, when deputy medical officer of health Dr. Brent Moloughney said OPH “strongly recommends” mask use “for people at risk for severe illness, including their family and close contacts, and for everyone to consider masking in indoor settings when physical distancing may be difficult.”

The statements from Ottawa Public Health on masking don’t specifically refer to post-secondary institutions.

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Officials at Algonquin College said they were still considering whether to extend or pause mask and vaccination mandates for the summer term and planned to make an announcement soon.

Both Carleton University and the University of Ottawa have announced they will suspend requirements for students and staff to be vaccinated and to wear masks on campus on May 1.

Most major Ontario universities have done the same, including the University of Toronto, York, Ryerson, Queen’s, McMaster, Wilfried Laurier, Windsor and Waterloo.

Both Carleton and uOttawa have also issued statements saying they are ready to reconsider policies based on the COVID-19 situation.

“As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the evolution of the virus and public health conditions are difficult to predict, so the decision to suspend vaccination and mask requirements beginning May 1, 2022, is contingent on current conditions and directions continuing,” Carleton officials said.

“We will adjust our plans as required by these evolving conditions to ensure everyone’s health and safety and to comply with public health advice or any applicable legal requirements.”

The province dropped the requirement to wear masks indoors in most public spaces on March 21.

The province had not required vaccination on university and college campuses, but many post-secondary institutions had their own mandates.

jmiller@postmedia.com



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