The COVID-19 Omicron variant is driving a 4th major wave of infections. The past three waves each lasted roughly two to three months. While the Omicron variant is not yet well understood, new cases and test positivity are rising at a faster rate than in previous waves. We know that students are deeply frustrated and hoping for a quick resolution to this wave.
As a result of sharply rising COVID-19 numbers, the University and the provincial government have decided to shift most classes online until January 23, 2022. Other post-secondary institutions across Alberta and the rest of Canada are taking similar measures against Omicron.
We support a return to in-person classes as soon as it is safe to do so, based on public health recommendations, COVID-19 numbers, and booster vaccination rates. We continue to encourage students, staff, and faculty to keep themselves and their communities safe by getting booster vaccinations. Boosters are a routine part of many vaccine schedules, and have been shown to significantly strengthen immunity beyond the levels of protection offered by first and second doses.
While making hard choices about personal safety, housing, and the return to school, students need as much predictability as possible in this unpredictable situation. We continue to call on the University to strengthen masking recommendations, distribute high-quality masks to student-facing staff, and keep students promptly and clearly informed of all developments. We also call on the University to extend the add/drop deadline to the end of January to give students a chance at an in-person educational experience before that deadline.
The University will also need to take serious measures to preserve the quality and accessibility of virtual education. For the vast majority of students, remote learning was a frustrating and unsatisfying experience. Remote proctoring and other accessibility challenges have had deep impacts on equity, especially for students of colour, disabled students, or students without stable internet access or safe living situations. The University will need to prevent these inequities from recurring over the coming weeks.
Like the rest of the student body, we're frustrated that the escalating COVID-19 situation has made such a long shift to remote learning necessary. If you or a loved one need access to vaccines and COVID-19 testing, please see the Government of Alberta's rapid testing and vaccine distribution programs. For more information on mental and physical health support, see UASU Cares, an interactive wellness resource designed to connect you with the services you need.
If you wish to connect with the UASU President, Rowan Ley, please email email@example.com.