Latest information and updates about COVID-19 (coronavirus) from McMaster University
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Dear Members of the Research Community,

Yesterday, the Ontario government declared its second state of emergency and issued a stay-at-home order to try to slow the pace of COVID-19 cases and to help ensure that Ontario’s healthcare system is able to manage the demands of the pandemic and patient care. The state of emergency begins at 12:01 am Thursday, January 14th and will be in effect until at least February 11, 2021.

Our measured and phased approach to returning to research – in addition to your individual and collective commitment to keeping the McMaster community safe – has positioned us well for this next mandated stage. At the outset of our Phased Return to Increased Research Activity, we acknowledged that McMaster’s policies and guidance may be more restrictive than government and health agency policies. At this time, we are introducing some additional safety measures.

We are mindful of the increased community spread, the province’s modelling trends and the stay-at-home order. As such, out of an abundance of caution and a responsibility to assist the province in its goal to manage the demands on the healthcare system, and after consultation with the Faculties, we have determined that our best way forward is to reduce the on-campus density of research personnel. This is in addition to the lockdown directives outlined on December 21, 2020.

In an effort to help slow the spread and, thus, better ensure we can continue research activity across all Faculties in the coming months, we are asking that all PIs reduce their group’s on-campus occupancy to 50 percent of that in their current approved plans. We ask that you do this in whatever way works best for your individual research programs and space requirements. For example, this could be realized through implementing scheduled shifts or more flexible working hours for your research personnel. This reduction in occupancy is to help ensure your research activity is not jeopardized.

For now, you can still operate under your current approved plan, while you identify capacity-reducing measures. However, in the coming days, all previously approved research plans will be re-set to “denied” status and you will be required to submit a revised plan through the portal outlining how capacity will be reduced. Within the next week, you will receive an email informing you of the change in approval status and instructions on how to submit your revised plan. Revised plans must be submitted by January 20th for approval by your ADR/VDR. Questions related to on-going fieldwork should be directed to your ADR/VDR.

As a reminder, please ensure that personnel are limited to only those who absolutely need to be on campus, they stay for the shortest time possible and restrict movements to areas essential to their research. If your research staff and students can conduct their work from home, or if their activity can pivot to work that can be conducted from home, it is imperative they do not come to campus. Limiting our numbers on campus is viewed as an important response to the province’s new directives.

For those who are required to be on campus, all social distancing and face mask protocols must be followed. The province now requires that every person wears a face mask that covers their mouth, nose and chin when they are in indoor areas of an organization or business. Wearing a face mask is now recommended outdoors when you can’t physically distance more than two metres.

As I said some 10 months ago, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. We are inching closer to the end of this crisis and the rollout of vaccines is a positive step forward. But the projection data illustrates a very serious situation and it is incumbent upon us to take every reasonable precaution to limit the risk to the McMaster and our broader community and to do our part to help the province manage this pandemic. We appreciate your efforts to date, and thank you for your cooperation moving forward.

It is difficult to predict how long these new measures will be in place, but know that we will continue to monitor the situation and update you with any new directives.

Stay safe,

Karen Mossman
Vice-President, Research