COVID 19 UPDATE – September 8th, 2021

COVID 19 UPDATE – September 8th, 2021

Dear Members,

With the beginning of term now upon us and the return to face-to-face teaching being a reality, I wanted to provide a brief – and admittedly still incomplete – update regarding the University’s expectations for Faculty members in ensuring students are wearing masks, and a couple of clarifications regarding the email that went out to instructors yesterday regarding dealing with students ill with COVID.


We are still in the process of securing more information regarding masking guidelines from the Administration. We have been informed that FAQs are being prepared for instructors on these and other issues related to return to campus. On the matter of mask wearing we can provide the following updates:

What are the acceptable exemptions for wearing a mask in class?

There are two broad categories of medical exemptions that would allow students to not wear masks in class:

  • Psychological, behavioural or health condition;
  • Physical, cognitive or mental impairment

To secure an accommodation to wearing a mask, all UVic members would need to declare that they are claiming an exemption on medical grounds via the THRIVE app system. Students will be asked to declare to their instructor on the first day of class if they claim one of these exemptions. Instructors can then ask their Chair to confirm the exemption. Chairs will be able to reach out to a contact (individual still to be determined) at the Office of Student Life to confirm the exemption.  ​

There are further “situational” exemptions that may prevent a student from wearing a mask. Instructors are going to be expected to assess these on a case-by-case basis. Some situational exemptions related to classroom settings may include:

  • Removing a mask for the purposes of identifying the person wearing it.
  • Removing a mask while communicating with a person for whom visual cues, facial expressions, lip-reading or lip movements are essential.
  • To engage in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a mask, for example while actively playing a wind instrument
  • While delivering instruction, a lecture or presentation if there is a distance of two metres between the instructor or presenter and other persons in attendance, or the presenter is behind a barrier.
  • While participating in physical activity organized by the university or at a fitness facility or sport facility operated by the university.

For more details on exemptions see the OHSE website.

We are awaiting responses from the University on the question of eating and drinking in the classroom, and the extent to which this would allow students to remain unmasked while attending a class.  The Association is not in support of this being an exemption to mask wearing in the classroom.​

As it stands, in the event that a student is not masking and there does not seem to be a situational exemption nor a pre-declared medical exemption, UVic is directing instructors to “gently and privately approach the student to ask why they are not masking.” It does not at this point appear that instructors will be expected to enforce the mask mandate beyond this point.

The University has informed us that:  “It may be helpful to display the masks required slide at the beginning of each class and review safety protocols with students on the first day of the course. The university will also have Building Ambassadors to hand out masks and remind faculty, staff and students to wear masks when indoors.”

Should a student not be cooperative in relation to a masking discussion, we have been told that instructors may provide their name to Campus Security for follow up. We have also been informed by the Administration that instructors should not deny a student access to educational services because they are not wearing a mask. We will be following up with the Administration on this issue.

Students ill with COVID

The Association has asked for clarification about a couple of points sent out in the Administration’s email yesterday about how faculty can address issues related to students ill with COVID.

In terms of faculty members providing advice to students who think they have COVID, we have been advised that the faculty should not do anything more than assist students in accessing the relevant website. We were told that faculty “are not expected to, indeed should not, provide advice on a student’s personal medical situation beyond referring to the resources suggested.”

The email also noted that instructors should not advise a class that someone in the class has tested positive for COVID.  We have been

told that given legislation and university policy that protects personal health information, unless Island Health determines that sharing this information is necessary for public health reasons, any faculty member who shares this information may be breaching privacy legislation and university privacy policy.

We are seeking further information from the University about the level of contact tracing that will be undertaken by Island Health this term.

We hope to have more information very soon on these and other matters of concern to you as i​nstructors.

All the very best,


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