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“testing is no longer the best line of defence:” Queen’s University announces changes to COVID-19 protocols

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Queen’s University has announced a series of changes to its COVID-19 testing, isolation, and mask protocols, in preparation for the return of students in the winter semester. According to the university, the protocols are intended to align with the new circumstances surrounding the Omicron variant, and align with recently imposed COVID-19 restrictions by the Ontario Government. 

The new announcement outlines the limited accessibility of PCR tests, confirming that “most students will not be eligible for PCR tests to confirm positive cases of COVID19.They further added that rapid anti-tests won’t be available to all students as they are being “prioritized for health care, high-risk settings and ‘test-to-work’ situations.” 

“Individuals with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are presumed positive and they should follow isolation and/or self-monitoring guidelines,” Queen’s University wrote.

Symptomatic students are now being asked to self-isolate for five days along with anyone they live with. Those who are partially vaccinated or are immunocompromised, they are being asked to isolate for 10 days in accordance with new recommendations.

For students living in residence, the changes mean that the university will no longer issue memos informing residents about positive cases, nor will it inform residents about floor outbreaks. It will now presume all students with symptoms of COVID-19 to be positive cases. Once students recognize symptoms, they will need to isolate for five days and be required to alert their own close contacts of the need to isolate. 

“As the residence population is fully vaccinated, symptomatic students and their close contacts will isolate themselves in their own residence room for 5 days (10 days if you are immunocompromised),” wrote Queen’s Residence Life and Services in an email on Thursday. Students will be required to wear a mask at all times when using shared washrooms and will need to pre-order their meals using a form in order to pick up their meals. 

Additional measures have been imposed for at least the next 21 days. This includes a common room capacity of five people, a “Pick & Pack” program where students will be able to take their meals to-go, only two front desks will remain open and masks are to be worn in residence at all times outside of student rooms. The university is strongly encouraging students to wear triple-layer non-woven masks instead of cloth masks.

Queen’s University Residences has been encouraging students to stay home until classes return to in-person learning, but “understands that for some, this may not be possible.” For those who choose to delay their return, the university is promising to credit students up to $340 per week for each week that they aren’t living in residence. 

Finally, Queen’s is strongly encouraging all students and staff to get their booster shots prior to returning to campus. “Students, staff and faculty are strongly encouraged to seek a third vaccine dose when eligible and, if possible, before returning to campus; third doses reduce the chance of acquiring and transmitting Omicron,” wrote Queen’s University on Thursday. Vaccinations are to be made available by Student Wellness Services on January 14th.

Operational changes have been made by the university to align with provincial regulations. The ARC will remain closed until the Ontario Government lifts the order for gyms to close and libraries will remain at 50% capacity for the time being.

COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • fever or chills
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • decreased or loss of taste or smell
  • two or more of:
    – runny nose or nasal congestion
    – headache
    – extreme fatigue
    – sore throat
    – muscle aches or joint pain
    – gastrointestinal symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhea)
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