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COVID-19 preparedness an essential part of Queen’s planning

Over the last month, Queen’s has been educating students arriving in Kingston about the role they need to play in helping keep the community safe from the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, Principal Patrick Deane has directed the university to create a new Incident Command Structure to help manage possible or confirmed cases of the virus within the university community to further support efforts to protect the health and safety of all faculty, staff, and students – and the Kingston community at large.

“As this fall term gets underway, ensuring we are prepared to manage any cases of COVID-19 within our community is critical,” says Principal Deane. “I have asked Provost Mark Green to lead this effort at Queen’s. We know we must remain vigilant and have the right structure in place to help us act quickly.”

Under the Incident Command Structure, members of the Incident Command Team Executive now meet three times a week to review information on the status of any possible or known cases of COVID-19, and address any required changes to campus operations and communications. Along with the Provost, the meeting includes Dr. David Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on COVID-19, as well as the Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration), Vice-Principal (Research), Vice-Principal (University Relations), and others.  

In the event of an outbreak, the Provost will take on the role of University Incident Commander and will activate the larger Incident Command Team, which will operate in accordance with the university’s Emergency Management Plan. If there is an impacted area or unit on campus, the relevant Dean or portfolio lead will be included in the Incident Command Team.

“The Incident Command Team has completed several scenario planning exercises with local public health officials to ensure we are prepared to make the decisions required to protect the health and safety of our community,” says Provost Green. “Gaps identified during these scenario exercises are being addressed. Of significance is the need for clear and fast communications.”

Public health support  

In the event of a confirmed case within the Queen’s community, public health will alert the university when warranted. If a student or staff member in residence tests positive, public health will immediately contact the university, as there are special protocols in place. For all other members of the Queen’s community, public health will only notify the university if they have the permission of the faculty, staff, or student involved, or if it is essential that the university be contacted for purposes of contract tracing. All guidelines make it clear that anyone who becomes aware of a confirmed case on campus should immediately inform Dan Langham (613-533-6000 x74980; dan.langham@queensu.ca) or call the Queen’s Emergency Report Centre (613-533-6111). Langham will then contact public health for confirmation and will also alert the Incident Command Team.

It is important to note there are legal restrictions to sharing personal health information under the Personal Health Information Privacy Act (PHIPA). If a member of the Queen’s community is notified of a confirmed or potential positive case, including a notice from someone who is self-reporting, any identifying personal information must be removed in emails – including the email address, name, signature block, and any other identifying information about the original sender. 

Communications

When Queen’s receives detailed information about a confirmed case of COVID-19, the Incident Command Team will determine the appropriate communications in consultation with public health and all communications must ultimately be approved by the University Incident Commander.

To limit the spread of unconfirmed or incomplete information, and to protect personal health information, units across campus should refrain from sending communications about cases of COVID-19.

More details about the university’s pandemic planning are available on the COVID-19 website which is updated daily.