Since the appearance of the Novel Coronavirus in January, we have been closely monitoring the situation and following the advice of Ottawa Public Health and other public health agencies.

As you know, the Coronavirus Working Group has been meeting regularly since mid-January to assess COVID-19 risks, advise on best practices in mitigation measures and inform our communications to the campus community. I would like to thank everyone involved for these proactive and important contributions.

At this time, the risks remain low in the Ottawa region, but as the situation took a turn for the worse in other countries, notably Iran and Italy, we have intensified preparedness efforts in the event that the virus should come to the area, which could conceivably occur before the end of term.

I have asked Suzanne Blanchard, vice-president (Students and Enrolment) and University Registrar, to lead our integrated COVID-19 efforts. Suzanne will spearhead and coordinate our mitigation and preparedness strategies on campus and will also serve as point person to ensure continued effective collaboration with Ottawa Public Health and other health authorities.

Members of the existing Coronavirus Working Group will bring their expertise and experience to a newly formed Operations Committee, co-chaired by Suzanne and Michel Piché, vice-president (Finance and Administration), that includes all aspects of campus operations, notably health services, facilities, residences, safety and communications.

Of particular importance for the next several weeks, until the end of the winter term, will be preparing for the continuity of our academic operations in the event of disruption. Provost Jerry Tomberlin and Deputy Provost Lorraine Dyke are leading these efforts and will soon be communicating contingency plans that aim to ensure we can complete the winter term and exam period.

We are continuing to share information and best practices with Universities Canada, the Council of Ontario Universities and other higher education institutions, as universities and colleges across the country are facing similar issues.

As the situation continues to evolve, it is essential that we remain calm and respectful of each other. This can be difficult under this additional stress, especially in March when everyone is tired, but it is crucial to an effective community response.

It is important that each of us continue to check public health and travel advisories, which are regularly updated on the Ottawa Public Health website and on the Carleton coronavirus information website.

The FAQ section has been updated to include information about academic accommodations and new cleaning procedures. If the answers you seek are not yet on the website, you can at all times direct any specific questions to this special email address we have opened specifically for this purpose:

Again, the risk remains low in Ottawa as of today, but it is better to be safe than sorry and we are putting all the necessary measures in place to ensure we are prepared should we need it.

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