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McGill University, UdeM to require students to wear masks at all times

MONTREAL -

McGill University and Université de Montréal (UdeM) are taking tougher stances than the Quebec government when it comes to mask requirements in class.

This fall, students at the two universities will have to wear procedural masks while seated in class, despite the Quebec government saying recently that they only have to be masked while unseated or walking around.          

McGill says it is also limiting class sizes to no larger than 150 people.

All students in Quebec must wear masks while circulating, but McGill says it is maintaining distancing and mask rules while seated, though there is a plan to gradually phase out distancing over time, if conditions allow.

Professors at both universities will be allowed to remove their masks to teach, as long as they are at least two metres away from students.

At UdeM, masks can be removed if the person is in an enclosed office alone, in an individual workroom in the libraries, in a meeting room or in the dining area, as long as a two metre distance can be maintained.

MUHC immunologist Dr. Donald Vinh says he is on board with the decision since, he says, masking has proved to be such an effective measure against transmission.

"I'm not entirely sure I understand the government's directives here. I don't think that they should be soft or lax and I certainly don't think that it should be up to the individual to decide whether it is good for the rest of the people in that classroom," he said.

Vinh added that an ideal situation would be proper ventilation in all classrooms, as well as 100 per cent vaccination on campus.

"I'm actually quite proud that McGill [and UdeM] is taking that initiative, that in classes we are going to be doing masking," said Vinh.

He admits different campuses have different limitations, highlighting the importance of masking.

At the Waterloo and Ottawa universities, in addition to New York University, vaccines are mandatory for attendance. This is not the case in any Quebec university to date.

Human rights lawyer Pearl Eliades says institutions that do not institute mandatory vaccination orders could be challenged in the future, but it seems unlikely Quebec would institute a provincial order.

"The distinction being made is between essential activities and non-essential activities. That's the key dividing line," she said. "If you want to go to a bar, if you want to go to a restaurant, if you want to go to a sporting event, that is a non-essential activity, but accessing medical services, the right to education, those are things that are considered to be quite different."

The health ministry said Tuesday it is planning to set up vaccination clinics on campuses this fall to encourage as many students as possible to get the shots to protect themselves and others.

 

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