University of Victoria (UVic) faculty, staff and students shouldn’t toss their face masks just yet.

The school’s senate recently passed a motion, meaning its members will now recommend to UVic’s president and board of governors that the recently scrapped mask mandate be reinstated on campus immediately.

On Thursday, a special meeting saw 19 senate members opposed, while 23 favoured the mandate being brought back and extended past the April exam period.

Effective March 11th, mask use for most areas on campus shifted from “required” to “strongly encouraged” when close to others in indoor public spaces. Healthcare locations on campus continue to require masks under a separate health order.

The repealed rule came after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that masks would no longer be mandatory in most indoor public spaces across the province.

At the time, Henry indicated that the decision to change the mandate was made in the context of declining illness rates and hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

However, the motion presented by UVic’s senate argues, “the university has not tried functioning without masks in the context of a variant as infectious as Omicron, so there is no way of knowing what the impact of removing masks will be.”

The motion says dropping the mask mandate in mid-March “fundamentally altered” the learning and working environment overnight for immunocompromised students, staff, faculty and librarians. It says it left them no time to seek accommodations or make alternative educational plans.

“It increases the risk for such community members to be on campus, without providing time for them to arrange viable alternatives,” states the motion.

“It also increases the chance of significant absences of faculty, staff and students leading up to and during the exam period, with the attendant disruptions to teaching and exams.”

While mask use is no longer required on campus, UVic says people do have a choice of what type and quality of mask to use and where they wish to use them.

According to UVic, only two BC post-secondary institutions—the University of British Columbia and Kwantlen Polytechnic University—have indicated that masks are required.

More to come…


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