To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the Province of Ontario has declared a state of emergency and made a stay at home order which will last until at least four weeks.

Dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences, Paul O’Byrne, has written to the Faculty regarding the province’s move into the state of emergency, and the plans for COVID-19 vaccinations by the Faculty’s two academic hospital partners. 

He said:

The Ontario government has declared a State of Emergency effective immediately with a stay at home order which began Jan. 14.  These measures are to try to slow the pace of COVID-19 spread and to help ensure our healthcare system is able to manage the demands of the pandemic and patient care.

 I must emphasize that this situation continues to be dynamic and these are the decisions at this time.

It appears McMaster University’s protocols do not need to be altered based on the new provincial regulations, but these changes caused by the state of emergency are still being reviewed, and any impact on programs and services will be communicated as soon as they are available.

It is, however, important that both the standing and new regulations are followed.

The university has issued these directives:

Stay at Home order and the requirement that only essential workers be in the workplace

If you can work from home, it is important to do so.  The majority of university employees are already working from home with only essential work being carried out on campus. However, the number of people working from a university location increased as restrictions were eased through last summer. It is important that supervisors review any access requests that have been approved to ensure that any access employees have to work on campus or in their offices are for exceptional circumstances and meet the requirement that only essential workers be in the workplace.

Research

Discussions are ongoing on the status of on-campus research and fieldwork activities. Vice-President, Research Karen Mossman will communicate any updates directly to the research community and they will also be available on the university’s COVID-19 website.

Face masks

The province has updated its face mask protocol.  It requires that every person wears a face mask that covers their mouth, nose and chin when they are in indoor areas of an organization or business.  Face masks are required in all campus buildings and facilities, with limited exceptions for those with health conditions that impact their ability to wear a mask. Wearing a face mask is now recommended outdoors when you can't physically distance more than two metres.  

Ongoing updates may be found on the university’s COVID19.mcmaster.ca website and more specific information about the declaration of Ontario’s state of emergency on the provincial website

I would also like to ensure you know the details of the vaccination plans for those people who work for or at the sites of Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

These plans follow the directives of the province for prioritization to ensure those most vulnerable are vaccinated first, and I would expect there should be no attempts to jump the queue. 

The four groups are: 

  • Group 1 is any healthcare worker or support staff who is at highest risk of COVID-19 exposure at work. Examples would be anyone working in COVID-19 units or assessment centres, critical care units and emergency departments. 
  • Group 2 is anyone working with vulnerable patients at high risk. This includes healthcare workers in long term care, or with patients in adult dialysis, malignant hematology, or inpatient oncology.
  • Group 3 is healthcare or support staff workers providing care or services to patient populations with lower risk of severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19.
  • Group 4 is all remaining hospital staff and physicians not covered in the other groups. This would include hospital research or office staff, or clinical staff working remotely or virtually. 

Vaccine sequencing for McMaster employees at these hospital sites:

  • McMaster faculty and staff who are also employees of a hospital should follow direction of their hospital employer.
  • McMaster employees who work at a hospital and are “forward patient facing”, that is, have direct exposure to patients, are in Group 3. An example would be an administrative assistant who sees/schedules patients.
  • McMaster employees who work in a hospital and do not directly see patients, are in Group 4. An example is a staff person who works in an office with no clinical responsibilities. 
  • McMaster employees who work in a hospital or on campus but who are not related to a hospital operation, such as McMaster staff in the Health Sciences Centre, are not included in healthcare worker sequencing/groupings.

For those who have signed up and do not fit into one of the groups, to change/cancel your appointment, email: cancelvac@hhsc.ca with your name, date of birth and appointment date and your appointment will be changed or cancelled.

Faculty of Health Sciences employees of the Waterloo and Niagara regional campuses or other clinical sites should contact your department for more information.

McMaster health professional learners who have direct contact with patients related to their education programs may now receive vaccines based on the sequence of their clinical unit. They should contact their program for more information.

Thank you all very much for your continuing patience as the pandemic continues to evolve.