Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic’s ever-changing conditions and the restrictions that come along with it are at the forefront of many students’ minds.

Restrictions include the requirement to wear masks in all classrooms, hallways, elevators, stairways, administrative offices, and common areas. Masks may only be removed by students when seated in a common area for eating and drinking. 

Social distancing is to be maintained in all classrooms and the setup will provide 1 metre distancing between students.

There is directional signage on all entrances indicating which doors are entrances and exits as well as stairwells indicating up or down use.

Access to hand sanitizer throughout buildings will remain in place. Regular hand sanitization and handwashing is promoted. Increased cleaning and disinfecting precautions will be continued.

Everyone, including faculty and staff, are encouraged to stay home when they are sick and to get tested if they are symptomatic. Common symptoms include fever, dry cough, runny nose, headache, new on-set fatigue, aches and pains, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, and diarrhea.

Mandatory testing will begin September 20 for students who are not vaccinated or partially vaccinated. The deadline to provide proof of full vaccination or approved medical or religious exemptions in order to access on-campus facilities and classes is October 15.

Initially, UNB and STU had decided against mandatory vaccines for the 2021 September return to campus. This decision stemmed from a survey that included questions about students’ vaccination intentions that was sent out in late July. The results indicated that 87% of students had either received their first dose, both doses, or were expecting to have their second dose by the time they came to campus in September.

The decision was reversed on August 19 under the guidance of the Provincial Government and Public Health stating on the STU website that “they are strongly recommending post-secondary institutions implement a program that includes mandatory vaccinations and testing similar to the government.”

Associate Vice President of Communications, Jeffrey Carleton,  provided insight on the new program and how it will work.

Guidance on testing procedures was expected to be communicated to students as early as Tuesday, September 14. Carleton indicated that communication regarding the originally planned start date for testing of September 15 was pushed back due to the unexpected campus lockdown on Friday, September 10.

The new expected date of the twice-weekly mandatory testing is set to begin on September 20. Students will be given access to an online tool called STU Safe that will allow students, faculty, and staff to upload their proof of vaccination. 

“[STU Safe] will also provide students with the information on the process of applying for an exemption – medical or religious,” explained Carleton. “[It] will also allow them to upload their testing results.”

Students who receive an approved exemption will have access to at least 25 take-home testing kits at a time and provided with links to a video by New Brunswick’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jennifer Russell on how to administer the self-test. They are recommending testing days to be Mondays and Thursdays.

Students that test positive with the at-home rapid test will be required to follow-up with a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test offered locally through Public Health.

STU Safe will also include information on the dates and deadlines associated with the vaccine mandate. All students will have until October 15 to upload their documentation.

It is expected that it will take 3-5 business days to get back to the students as the administrative processing of each upload requires individual vetting by staff. The process is expected to resemble the online UCard procedure.

There will be no penalty for students who choose not to get vaccinated and who go without approved exemptions. 

“We’re asking them to meet with student services […] and to meet with academic advisors to see what options they have,” Carleton continued. “We have had a very, very small number of students express concerns to us and we have been reaching out and dealing with them on a case-by-case basis.”

Universities in New Brunswick and the community colleges participate in weekly conference calls with Public Health and the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training, and Labour to determine the next steps in navigating the implementation or removal of restrictions on UNB and STU campuses. 

“If they’re going to change their position, we are going to change our position as well,” said Carleton.

Students will have to sit tight with the current COVID-19 policies and procedures until restrictions are re-evaluated with health officials on October 15.