Students make use of E-building's common area while adhering to the college's guidelines. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, student life continues on campus. Photo credit: Julien St-Jean

The college is coming face to face with the COVID-19 pandemic as five community members who have tested positive have recently been on the Ottawa campus as of Sept. 24.

Despite the recent influx of cases, students on campus feel reassured by the college’s handling of the situation.

“I feel safe,” said James Hope, a first-semester mechanical engineering technician student. “I see them sanitize the labs and everything. It makes me feel confident I won’t catch anything in the labs.”

So far, cases have not affected classes. However, the cases have reminded some students not to let up.

“I think it added a little stress and anxiety and everything for everyone,” said Carson Stewart, a first-semester photography student. “It hasn’t really affected class or anything. It gets everyone on their toes again, I think people got a bit relaxed.”

The college is disinfecting and sanitizing at-risk areas by following procedures outlined in their Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for COVID-19. The president has also recently asked that members of the community remain vigilant in their efforts to minimize spread of the virus.

“I have full confidence in our campus health and safety plans and campus access procedures,” said Claude Brulé, Algonquin’s president, in his Sept. 16 email. “With our continued focus on remote learning and limited face-to-face activity, and renewed vigilance by those members of our community required to be on campus, I am confident we can continue to minimize the risk of cases.”

Cleaning and disinfection procedures

Beyond asking students to stay home if they feel sick, wear a mask, practice physical distancing, proper hand-hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, the college is disinfecting different high-touch areas to minimize potential spread of the virus.

High-touch areas are frequently touched by members of the community and allow for the virus to survive long enough to potentially transfer to someone else. High-touch areas include: door handles, lunchroom tables, public printers, desktops, countertops, bathroom stalls, computer mice and keyboards, etc.

“College cleaning contractors use hospital grade cleaners on all College surfaces and touch points. In addition to routine cleaning, surfaces that have frequent contact with hands should be cleaned and disinfected twice per day and when visibly dirty,” states the college’s Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for COVID-19.

If a student or employee of the college who has recently been on campus tests positive for COVID-19 and an area is suspected of being contaminated, the college will initiate deep cleaning and disinfection protocols.

“When areas are being deep-cleaned or disinfected they may be closed to personnel for periods of time. Specialized equipment, such as misting and fogging equipment, and specialized PPE(Personal protective equipment) may be used for these processes,” states the college’s Occupational Health and Safety Guidelines for COVID-19.

If a community member suddenly develops symptoms while on campus, they are asked to immediately go home, start self-isolating and contact college officials.

“So the message to students and employees continues to be: Do not come to campus if you have any symptoms,” said Chris Lackner, a spokesperson for the college. “That means if any member of the College community develops a symptom while on campus, they should go directly home, continue practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask – and follow Ottawa Public Health direction to manage their illness and determine next steps.”

Community Tracing

After a student is reported as showing symptoms or is confirmed to have COVID-19, the college informs Ottawa Public Health, who then contact students for community tracing.

Community tracing is the act of identifying, contacting, assessing and managing those who have potentially been exposed to someone carrying the virus. Individuals who have recently been nearby a virus carrier will be asked questions to identify whether or not they are considered to be at risk of having contracted the virus.

The college assists Ottawa Public Health in community tracing by providing information about students who may be considered at risk of transfer such as: identities, class lists and contact information.

“Isolated COVID-19 instances are to be expected given the current public context – especially given the large size of any post-secondary community,” said Lackner. “As the President said in his message, COVID-19 cases have been documented at other post-secondary institutions in Ottawa and across Canada, and we will no doubt experience additional isolated cases amidst our own population in the days, weeks and months ahead.”