Students exhibit concerns over COVID-19 spreading in residence and testing for unvaccinated individuals
Incoming first-year students at the University of Ottawa moved into their on-campus housing accommodations this weekend. Residence buildings have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, raising concerns of how COVID-19 safety measures can be implemented and handled better in residence and during the move-in process.
Leyla Fall, a first-year nursing student moving into 90U, described parts of the move-in experience as “convenient and safe,” with only minor crowding issues in shared elevators.
Fall also spoke about the mandatory COVID-19 safety module on Brightspace, saying that it “asked that we only have a maximum of two people in our rooms from the same residence, and they’re really strict on COVID-19 rules.”
The module is mandatory and meant to be completed by residents four days prior to their arrival day at the latest. Other protocols put in place in university residences include not allowing guests until Sept. 20 and stricter regulations for common spaces.
Fall observed security around residence lobbies, ensuring that people used their residence cards and that only residents of the buildings were going inside. “We’re not allowed to bring guests inside unless they do the COVID-19 screening assessment tool, and only to help us move.”
The university’s website states that students must wear a mask and are only allowed to bring one person within the residence to help them move.
Fall said that one way the university is prioritizing students’ safety is through a mandatory COVID-19 assessment tool prior to coming on campus every day.
First-year criminology student Emily Towns is also moving into 90U, and said of the process that “[the housing team] did everything really well. I personally wouldn’t change anything.”
Towns — along with all other students coming onto campus — was required to complete the vaccine declaration process, which allows the university to ensure that only fully vaccinated students are on campus.
“Other than that, once you got here you had to take the self-assessment tool, and that was it,” said Towns.
Towns also mentioned that her room was sanitized prior to her arrival. “Both my floor and my room were clean when I got here, and that was refreshing,” said Towns.
For students that are not yet fully vaccinated, the university requires a negative rapid COVID-19 test to be completed twice a week. The university’s website has no mention of which specific days tests must be completed, but Towns said it must occur on Mondays and Thursdays.
Additionally, there was little knowledge from the students we interviewed regarding the processes in place for when someone on campus tests positive for COVID-19. First-year geography student Christopher Lecsek was unsure about the protocol for students, stating “in the training we had to complete, it told us to contact the housing director, but I’m not sure.”
Lecsek and his parents also wish that students who are not fully vaccinated would have to be rapid-tested every day rather than only twice a week. Lecsek’s mother, Paula Barrett, commented that “it would be great if everyone who was unvaccinated had to get rapid tested daily. Logistically I don’t know if it would work, but in an ideal scenario it would be available.”
The Fulcrum reached out to Patrick Genest, director of client services at the University of Ottawa, for information on COVID-19 safety protocols in residence, but did not receive a response at time of publishing.