Coronavirus: Hamilton-area universities cancel events, encourage staff to stay in Canada

McMaster University has cancelled all non-core events at the school and is asking employees to avoid travelling outside of Canada due to the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

On Thursday, the Ontario government ordered all publicly-funded schools to shut down for two weeks after March Break based on advice from the province’s chief medical officer. Not long after the announcement, several Hamilton-area universities and colleges updated travel and events policies.

However, all classes at McMaster will continue as scheduled, according to the university.

“These new measures, which are effective immediately, underscore the university’s commitment to operations that focus on students and learning as the COVID-19 situation evolves,” the school said in a release on Thursday.

The university pointed to the province’s action to close public schools until April 5 as motivation to cancel all non-academic discretionary events until at least the end of April.

Cancelled events include:

  • University and student-organized fundraisers, intramurals, and performances on and off-campus
  • Events at McMaster booked and hosted by outside organizations including tournaments, conferences, public speakers, etc.
  • March Break tours, March Break camps and public lectures and non-academic presentations

Earlier in the week, the university cancelled all international travel for undergraduate and graduate students and continues to advise against travel outside of Canada.

In London, Ont., Western University cancelled classes until Tuesday, Mar. 17 in a statement Thursday night. The school said exams would be rescheduled and that classes would be conducted online for the remainder of the term.

Earlier in March, three Hamilton-area public school boards cancelled or postponed March break trips overseas in connection to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board (BHNCDSB), Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) and Grand Erie District School Board (GEDSB) confirmed trips during the week of March 16 were cancelled.

Meanwhile, Mohawk College says it’s restricting domestic and international travel for employees and are encouraging staff to move content online.

“We are now asking faculty to begin moving as much content as they can online to reduce the need for students to come on campus,” president Ron McKerlie said in a statement on Thursday. “The campus will remain open to maintain access to services. If the situation were to escalate further, the college may need to close.”

In a release, Redeemer University says it’s cancelling all school-sponsored international travel until further notice. They are also encouraging staff and students to cancel plans to attend large gatherings including academic conferences and workshops. However, classes will continue on schedule.

On Thursday, Brock University said it was prohibiting all students, faculty and staff travel outside Canada, except for work placements and exchanges.

Travel to academic conferences and professional development events have been nixed, as well as March break tours, the spring open house and on-campus events.

Hamilton Public Health says it has dealt with two positive COVID-19 cases in the last seven days. The latest is a 52-year-old man who returned ill from New York City on March 5. He subsequently tested positive on March 10 after a visit to the Urgent Care Clinic on Main St. W.

Since the first confirmed case was revealed, the city has activated its management response plan, which focuses on the continuity of operations, and will meet daily and as required, according to a release from the city.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says the response will mean a “redeployment” of some city services to prevent the spreading of the virus, which would likely put some regular activities on hold.

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