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University residence
Students express disappointment that campus life has had to change in light of new government restrictions. Photo: Hailey Otten/Fulcrum
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Gym closures, takeout dining, and guest limitations are several of the new guidelines students in residence are navigating 

The Omicron variant has led to rising COVID-19 case numbers and increased hospitalizations across Ontario, forcing the province to revert back to Stage 2 of its reopening plan. With a variety of new restrictions and the cancellation of campus activities, residence and campus protocols have changed to reflect this newest round of COVID-19 restrictions.

Residence life under the new restrictions

A full return to campus life has been delayed until Jan. 31. While classrooms are closed, residences remain open to students with some restrictions in place, including a two visitor limit and the closure of common rooms. Residence access is limited to those living within the residence community. 

“You must limit your interactions to those living in your unit (your roommates) and one or two support people who live in a [U of O] residence,” wrote a University of Ottawa spokesperson in an email to the Fulcrum. “You cannot have any outside guests.”

While the dining hall prohibited the use of take-out containers in December, that restriction has been overturned due to Omicron protocols. The dining hall has been converted to a takeout-only program, which requires students to obtain their food in a reusable container to enjoy their meals in their dorm instead of in the dining hall. 

Although these efforts have been made to limit exposure to the virus, this change has some students expressing the impact this has on their socialization and wellbeing. 

“We used to spend hours in the dining hall eating together with friends, it was a good break from classes and schoolwork. Eating every meal alone in our dorm rooms just isn’t the same,” said Sophie Long, a first-year political science student.

While classrooms are closed, several study areas and rooms remain open with mask and physical distance protocols. University sports teams and recreational activities have also been paused, and gyms and recreational facilities have been closed because of government protocols. 

Lila Galipeau, a first-year commerce student, said, “I’m upset about gyms and sports being postponed, especially intramurals at the University, as exercise has been key in my mental health journey. Physical activity, as well as team sports, has been one of the reasons I’ve been able to improve my mental state.” 

These campus life restrictions remain in effect until provincial restrictions are lifted. 

Testing positive for Omicron in residence

The University has stated that students who have tested positive for COVID-19 and live in residence must self-isolate. 

According to University protocol, students in a residence with a communal washroom will be moved to an isolation unit for the remainder of their isolation period, where they will be provided with a clean room, access to a bathroom, and three meals a day. 

Students who live in an apartment-style residence must isolate themselves in their room, where they will also have access to food and hygienic products. All students in isolation must remain in their respective rooms and not be visited by guests during their isolation period. 

Although these restrictions have proven to be demanding, the students and staff at the University of Ottawa are adapting to them and are demonstrating their resilience.

The U of O spokesperson added that “the University continues to monitor the situation and will communicate any changes to its community.”

For more information on the U of O’s COVID-19 policy updates, click here