COVID-19: DC, Ontario Tech, Trent cancel classes

Durham College president Don Lovisa records a video regarding COVID-19. Photo credit: Tara Sottile

Co-written by Ryan Hahn

Durham College (DC), Ontario Tech University and Trent University Durham in Oshawa have announced class cancellations amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

DC has cancelled classes today and Monday, March 16, while Ontario Tech has announced a cancellation of classes effective today. Existing online classes at both schools will continue as regularly scheduled.

Trent University Durham has cancelled classes effective today and says it will move to online or alternative delivery of courses starting Wednesday.

Ontario Tech’s website said a further update will be provided by Monday at the latest.

An email sent to DC students and faculty said: “The decision to cancel classes will allow the college leadership team, faculty and employees to prepare strategies to support continuity of learning for the remainder of the semester. Updates will be provided as they become available.”

Elsewhere, the Ontario government has closed all publicly-funded elementary and secondary schools through April 5 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meantime, DC president Don Lovisa said the college is also stepping up cleaning efforts in ‘high touch’ areas.

“Like most public institutions, we are taking additional measures to ensure that we are cleaning high traffic, high touch areas more regularly. We are ensuring that the soaps and stuff in the bathroom are clean,” he said.

According to media reports Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau are in self-isolation. Gregoire Trudeau has tested positive for COVID-19 while the Prime Minister is not experiencing symptoms.

During a phone-call with CBC, Trudeau said the government may recommend Canadians not travel outside the country.

The spread of COVID-19 has impacted some students at schools in Canada and the U.S. earlier this week.

According to media reports, three elementary schools in the Vancouver-area have also been closed and several U.S. colleges have also either cancelled classes or moved them online, including Stanford, Yale, Notre Dame, Harvard, Princeton, Duke and Ohio State.

When it comes to international students, Lovisa said the college is looking at all possibilities.

“We are looking at policies to ensure that students who are coming back from restricted areas, that they’re tested, and if necessary, quarantined,” he said.

Lovisa said the Durham College website has all the information students and faculty need.

“It can help people feel a little more safe and take some of the anxiety away from people because information is really important in this because there’s so much misinformation out there,” he said.

As of March 12, there were 148 cases of COVID-19 across Canada, including 59 in Ontario, with five cases resolved.

Durham Region has two cases of COVID-19, a husband and wife from Ajax, according to the Durham Region Health Department. The 69-year-old man and 51-year-old woman are in self-isolation.

Both the DC and Ontario Tech websites offer similar advice to the campus community to prevent the spread of germs:

· Wash your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty

· Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow and encourage others to do the same

· Clean and disinfect surfaces, especially those that are high-touch areas

· Do not share water bottles, straws, eating utensils, cigarettes, toothbrushes, toys or anything else that has been in contact with saliva, nose or throat secretions

· If you are ill, stay at home and keep yourself away from others

· If you are ill and must visit a healthcare provider, call ahead or tell them right away when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness and wear a mask while waiting to be seen