Saskatchewan’s seven-day average of daily new cases of COVID-19 is higher than it has ever been, but the university is remaining cautiously optimistic about in-person services this fall.
The Sept. 16 update from Peter Stoicheff, U of S president, revealed findings from the COVID-19 vaccination statuses of the campus population, which students, faculty and staff were asked to submit by Sept. 9.
The update said that 92 per cent of students, faculty and staff had submitted their statuses. 97 per cent of them were at least partially vaccinated and 91 per cent were fully vaccinated. Data from Sept. 18 shows that 96 per cent of student respondents are at least partially vaccinated, and 87 per cent are fully vaccinated.
Considering the current provincial vaccination rates, which show that just under 78% of eligible Saskatchewan residents have received at least one dose, Dr. Darcy Marciniuk, chair of the university’s Pandemic Response and Recovery Team (PRT), said the U of S vaccination numbers “are very good.”
“We’re pleased,” Marciniuk said. “We are going to continue to work hard to try and get that even higher.”
According to USSU president Tasnim Jaisee, representatives of the PRT have discussed plans with the USSU to create pop-up vaccination clinics on campus. She says the USSU has also been discussing with the PRT and Access and Equity Services what accommodations are necessary for students with medical vaccination exemptions.
“The [vaccination] numbers definitely need to increase. It is uplifting, but there’s still more work to be done,” said Jaisee.
Marciniuk says the university will continue encouraging the campus community to get vaccinated and delivering accurate information about vaccines through email communication and signage.
“On campus, we’ve got a lot of expertise and things that we can do to ensure that people are best informed,” Marciniuk said.
He says that the university is collaborating with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the City of Saskatoon to help that expertise reach beyond the campus.
“[Students, faculty and staff] will be very familiar with a few individuals who are on the news and in the newspaper, trying to help inform so that, not only members of our university campus, but the community at large, are best informed,” Marciniuk said.
The PRT gave the first address at the University Students’ Council meeting on Sept. 9, where students raised concerns about course delivery. Jaisee says the USSU appreciates the PRT’s efforts to be transparent.
“We’re creating these avenues for student constituency representatives to actually come to the meetings, and actually take back the information to their constituency,” Jaisee said.
As for the people on campus who are unvaccinated, or whose vaccination status is unknown, Marciniuk does not appear overly concerned.
“There’s only so much we can influence, but I truly believe, and I think we have data to support, that everybody’s doing their part and they’re doing pretty good,” Marciniuk said.
Marciniuk says that many of those who haven’t responded to the survey have simply been busy and have missed the university’s communication on the vaccine status process, and the Pandemic Response and Recovery Team is reaching out to them individually. For those that are aware of the measures and do not comply, however, he describes the obligation to submit twice-weekly negative COVID-19 test results and daily symptom checks as their “consequences.”
“Vaccines, combined with masking and social distancing where possible, will definitely help ensure that COVID-19 cases remain low. And we are hoping that those numbers stay low or that we are able to continue having our campus life,” Jaisee said.
“Everybody on campus has families,” Marciniuk said, “and so we want to instill a little bit of trust and provide some reassurance that we’re doing the very best job we can, not only for people here on campus, but also for the community, to sort of lead from the front.”