By Kalinowski, Tim on March 13, 2020.
There are no presumptive cases of COVID-19 on campus at the University of Lethbridge, says Doug Mackie, the university’s chief safety officer, but the post-secondary institution is preparing for various contingencies just in case.
“It’s a collaborative effort to address all the issues related to COVID-19. We have been meeting since January on a large scale to identify any concerns we might need to address, and we have been delivering consistent messaging to our campus community regarding our activities, and what we are preparing to do, and what we are preparing for.”
To this end, the university is asking all students, staff and faculty members to avoid all unnecessary travel overseas; especially to 10 “hotspot” countries for the virus, including China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, France, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.
Additionally, the U of L has suspended recruitment efforts in those countries.
“Taking our lead from Alberta Health – any unnecessary international travel is discouraged,” said Mackie. “I think there is a concern with that, and I think all of cases that we’re aware of in Alberta to date are travel related. We are very aware of that, and we are discouraging travel.”
Students from abroad are also being contacted, said Mackie.
“We have contacted all of our students abroad, and we’re giving them options for how they continue their academic studies or return home.”
The university has also created a health registry for those on campus to report if they are experiencing symptoms, and an event and travel registry for students, staff and faculty to register their travel plans and list who is taking part in events and where.
“All of our efforts are focused on preventing such an (outbreak) occurrence, with things like hand washing and maintaining social distance – those have been our efforts to date on campus to provide that direction to people.
“It gives them an opportunity to take personal responsibility in this situation, and I think that is key as well.”
Mackie says the university has not cancelled any planned public events on campus as of yet; although that may be subject to change if any presumptive cases emerge in Lethbridge.
“Based on the lead from Alberta Health Services, despite what the fear is, the risks still remain very low in Lethbridge with no confirmed cases,” he says. “On that basis, we have decided to leave a lot of our events running.”
Mackie expects the costs of COVID-19 to the university, and the fallout from the virus in the broader economy, to take a large financial toll on the institution in the days, weeks and potentially months ahead.
“This has come as a surprise to every organization and every facet of our economy otherwise,” he says. “I think it will continue to be impactful to our economy, ours as a university and others. We don’t have a pot of money to sit on is the term that has been used, and it will likely be a challenge for us if this gets more serious.”
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