The U of O’s walk-in clinic, seen in 2019. Photo: Parker Townes/The Fulcrum
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Students can now request medical note from walk-in clinic reception staff without seeing doctor or nurse practitioner

The University of Ottawa has introduced a new medical note policy amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, with two cases of the virus confirmed in Ottawa as of Thursday. 

Under the new system introduced by U of O Health Services earlier this week, students can request a medical note for a short-term illness (less than 72 hours) proving they are or were unable to meet an academic requirement from walk-in clinic reception staff without needing to see a doctor or nurse practitioner.

“Reception staff will print a medical certificate to be completed by you,” the administration said. “Once you have completed it, reception will stamp it to validate and scan a copy for your chart.”

The university says the new process looks to cut down on the administrative strain to clinical resources, reduce exposure of students to contagious illnesses in clinic space, and save the clinic’s capacity for those who need to see a medical professional for advice or treatment.

“The new process applies to all requests for a medical certificate for a short-term illness, not only for requests related to COVID-19,” the university says. “All faculties have been informed of this new procedure and will accept these certificates until further notice.”

The first case of COVID-19 in Ottawa was confirmed on Wednesday, a man in his 40s who contracted the virus while travelling in Austria. The man is experiencing mild symptoms, was not symptomatic on his flight back to Canada, and is self-isolating after being tested at the Ottawa Hospital’s General Campus.

Ottawa’s second case was confirmed on Thursday, a woman in her 40s who is self-isolating after a positive test at the Queensway-Carleton Hospital, according to the province. 

Across the province, there have been at least 54 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, with five labelled as resolved. Country-wide, there have been at least 117 confirmed cases of the virus. 

COVID-19 has infected more than 127,000 people and killed over 4,700 globally since emerging in Wuhan, China in December 2019. 

More than 100 colleges in the United States have moved classes online as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. In Canada, Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. has moved classes online until further notice.

At the U of O, an online petition has been launched, with over 50 signatures as of publication time, calling on the administration to suspend in-person classes. 

The U of O has suspended operations in China and in Iran due to the spread of the virus and launched a travel registry for students, staff, and faculty abroad. 

The school has also struck a working group of senior administrators, led by president Jacques Frémont and provost and vice-president (academic affairs) Jill Scott, to coordinate the university’s response across campuses and to “refine academic and administrative contingency plans.”

“Since public health authorities continue to say that the risk to the Ottawa community remains low, we have not made any changes to scheduled classes, exams or campus events at present,” the university said in an update on Wednesday evening. “However, contingency plans are being prepared should this fluid situation change.”

Earlier this month, it was announced that five U of O professors are receiving more than $2 million in funding from the federal government to support research projects aimed at addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

More to come.

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