COVID-19 medical mask.

COVID-19 medical mask. UNSPLASH/ Pam Menegakis

Does Guelph-Humber’s new COVID-19 policy jeopardize students’ health?

The University of Guelph-Humber removed their mask mandate on July 1, 2022. Guelph-Humber’s special projects manager Brenda Whiteside states, “The University of Guelph-Humber shares a campus with Humber College. As a result, the university’s COVID-19 measures were aligned with those in place at Humber.”

Lifting this requirement, the schools Guelph-Humber and Humber College emphasize the need for self-monitoring. They also advise students to stay home if they get sick.

Alexis Kissoon, a justice studies student, says, “It’s a little unnerving just ‘cause things go around so quickly and COVID is not done”.

However, the University of Guelph’s website states that certain areas on campus, such as study areas, still require masks because they want students to feel comfortable using campus resources.

Guelph’s decision to have masked areas is not something Guelph-Humber has followed. Despite there being close study spaces on Guelph-Humber’s campus, and having a student population of 4,900 who all have access to the same study spaces.

Study spaces include any of the seating areas located on the sides of each of the floors, the quiet rooms and designated workspaces on the second floor, as well as the presentation rooms on the third floor.

Skylar Volanska Hutt, a third year student in the justice studies program, said, “I feel pretty safe, I’ve noticed going to school it’s not super busy, there is quite a bit of room between students, and my class sizes aren’t the largest which I think makes me feel safer than going to a lecture size of 300 students, like at the University of Toronto.”

Guelph-Humber’s website has provided some information on its cleaning routine. The website mentions high use areas and touch surfaces are being cleaned, including door handles, railings, elevator buttons, vending machines, parking machines, and drinking fountains. Sanitize wipes are provided for cleaning shared surfaces and equipment in classes and labs. Whiteside confirms additional cleaning of high touch areas continues.

Andrea Veliz Verastegui, a transfer student in the psychology program, says, “I’ll always have sanitizer with me, I’m always making sure my hands are clean because I do touch my face and my hair a lot.”

The university also provides sanitizer for classes, labs, and passing through hallways.

Students have mixed reactions about the university’s decision. Some students preferred not wearing a mask, if they did not have to. While others claimed although they did not like wearing the mask, they saw the value in wearing one.

Whiteside explains, Guelph-Humber and Humber College employees continue to monitor the pandemic status across the province. They have formed a COVID-19 watch group (CWG), that monitors the pandemic along with government and public health information and directives. She said, “The CWG includes subject-matter experts in health care, occupational health and safety, emergency management, government relations, facilities management, and residence life.”

As the University of Guelph-Humber continues to monitor the pandemic, time will tell if their actions are enough.