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Confronting COVID-19

More than food banks are needed during the coronavirus pandemic

The Conversation: The ability of food banks to meet the needs of food insecure Canadians has plummeted just when it is needed most.

People pack boxes at a foodbank
Many people who have never used food banks before have had to rely on them during the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19 is revealing critical weaknesses in how we care for each other. While many Canadians are being thrown out of work and need emergency food assistance, food banks have had to shut down operations to deal with physical distancing requirements, reduce staffing as elderly volunteers stay home to self-isolate and ration food as donations decline.

The feel-good vibes of food drives might suggest that if we all just pitch in a little bit more, food banks could meet their goal of feeding all hungry Canadians. But decades of evidence convincingly shows food banks have never remedied the inadequate or insecure access to food faced by Canadians, whether in booming economic times or faltering ones.

There are thousands of food banks and affiliated agencies in Canada. Businesses and individuals donate millions of dollars, millions of pounds of non-perishable food and millions of hours of volunteers’ labour.

Yet rates of food insecurity in Canada are shockingly high and rising. The latest statistics from 2017-18 estimate that more than 4.4 million Canadians and one in six households with children worried about what to eat or reduced the quality or quantity of food they ate because of lack of money.

These numbers are higher than ever and we have no idea how much higher food insecurity rates will climb in the next few months as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Lack quantity and variety

Even before COVID-19, only about a quarter of those who meet the objective criteria of food insecurity ever went to a food bank. Many neighbourhoods don’t have an accessible food bank or one with convenient hours. Food banks seldom have the quantity or variety of foods that people need for dietary and health needs or because of religious or personal reasons.

And even when food bank staff or volunteers are kind and caring, the experience of going to a food bank is inherently stigmatizing. This means many would rather go hungry than accept charity.

Food banks are simply unable to address the core reason that too many people don’t have enough food — poverty. Nearly all food bank clients report experiencing severe food insecurity, which means skipping meals, losing weight or potentially going for entire days without eating.

Given all we know about the insufficiency of food banks, it’s distressing to see governments promoting them as a means to address food insecurity.

Shelves are filled with non-perishable food items.
Businesses and individuals donate millions of dollars, millions of pounds of non-perishable food and millions of hours of volunteers’ labour. 

Charity isn’t the solution

In late March, Premier François Legault told Québecers not to be ashamed to go to the food bank to get what they need. “It’s not your fault if you lost your job,” he said.

While this is true — no one should feel embarrassed for needing help — we should all be ashamed that government officials would point to food banks as the solution for deficiencies in government income supports.

The government of British Columbia then announced $3 million for the province’s struggling food banks “to help ensure that people continue to have access to the food they need.” And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared the federal government would invest $100 million for food banks and similar organizations so that “vulnerable Canadians can get the food they need, when they need it most.”

Let’s be clear: food banks have never been where Canadians can get the food they need.

For almost 40 years, governments of all political stripes have called on food banks to address food needs instead of developing meaningful policy solutions to reduce poverty. During the coronavirus crisis, politicians have thrown the frayed rope of charity instead of a strong lifeline to a robust social safety net.

People need sufficient income

Contrary to what our politicians are telling us, food banks have never — and cannot — adequately address food insecurity. Struggling Canadians need sufficient income to feed themselves now and in the post-pandemic future.

If we are “all in this together,” as politicians keep reminding us, perhaps new food bank users will join food bank veterans and other Canadians to demand that our governments provide a real safety net. This would include a basic income that would allow all of us to meet the material necessities of life.

The best sign of a successful national response to the food insecurity crisis is that food banks will finally close after 40 years — not because of lack of food or physical distancing rules, but lack of demand.The Conversation

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Elaine Power, Associate Professor in Health Studies, Queen's University; Jennifer Black, Associate Professor of Food, Nutrition and Health, University of British Columbia, and Jennifer Brady, Assistant Professor, Applied Human Nutrition, Mount Saint Vincent University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Ready for a productive summer online

Enrolments are surging in popular online summer courses at Queen’s.

Photo of a person using a laptop.
Faculties have been adding new courses to meet the high demand for summer online learning at Queen's University.

Demand has never been higher for online summer courses at Queen’s University.

As many students have had their summer plans disrupted by the pandemic, they are turning to online courses in large numbers. And there is still time to enroll in a wide variety of courses, including options in the humanities, education, engineering, and health sciences.

Across the university, most faculties are reporting large increases in their summer online programs over last year. Compared to May 2019, the Faculty of Arts and Science has seen enrolments for Arts and Science Online rise by 50 per cent. They currently have over 9,000 enrolments across their courses and are expecting more for the July start date.

“The pandemic has made it challenging for many students to pursue their original plans for the summer. With our long track record of delivering first-rate online education, we are well-positioned to increase our course offerings and expand enrolment to help ensure that students have options. The extremely high levels of enrolment we are seeing is thanks in large part to the strong reputation of our online programs. It is also due to the fact that our courses are for-credit and may be applied to a student’s degree, regardless of whether they are Queen’s students or students at other institutions who are taking our courses for transfer credits,” says Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science.

Increased demand for online courses across Queen’s

Arts and Science Online is not the only program seeing large spikes in enrolment. The Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) has more than doubled its enrolment for summer online courses compared to last year. Currently, there are over 1,900 students enrolled in these classes. Recognizing the high demand, the BHSc has added six courses to its original set of offerings for the summer.

The Faculty of Law has raised the enrolment caps for some of their courses as well to respond to demand. Enrolments for Aboriginal Law have more than doubled compared to last year. And Introduction to Canadian Law has 210 students enrolled with a number of students on a waitlist, compared to 147 enrolments in 2019.

Over the last five years, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science (FEAS) has seen sustained growth in its online summer courses. This summer that trend has accelerated. This spring term, FEAS has more than 775 enrolments in their online courses, which is more than 200 additional enrolments then they had in 2019.

Expanding course offerings in Education

Teachers and graduate students in education are also turning to Queen’s to develop their skills over the summer. The Faculty of Education has added courses to several different programs and seen unprecedented demand for all their offerings. They have added a new seven-week spring term to their Graduate Diploma in Professional Inquiry and Professional Master of Education programs. During this new term, they are offering nine courses, and all reached full enrolment shortly after registration opened.

The Faculty of Education also offers a number of Continuing Teacher Education (CTE) and Professional Studies courses. These have also seen strong surges in interest. Compared to their 2019 spring course enrollments, there are 1300 more students enrolled in Professional Studies and CTE courses this spring. One of the more popular courses this year is Teaching and Learning through e-Learning, which provides timely skills that can help teachers improve their remote instruction abilities.

Read more about how faculties are connecting students with online learning opportunities in this previous article in the Queen’s Gazette.

To learn more about summer online courses and enrolment, visit the faculty websites.

Chronicling COVID-19 for future researchers

The Queen’s Archives is compiling digital materials that document the pandemic’s impact on the university and the community.

Photo of the Queen's Archives
The Queen's Archives is using Archive-It to make an online record of COVID-19 that is open to anyone.

Stretching back 179 years, Queen’s past has been marked by the effects of Canadian Confederation, two world wars, the Spanish Flu of 1918, and many other historical events. But the current novel coronavirus pandemic is now creating a chapter unlike any other in its history.

That’s why the Queen’s University Archives is making sure that this moment is preserved for future generations. Working with area partners, the Archives is capturing digital records that tell the story of how COVID-19 has affected both the university and the broader Kingston area.

“In the future, people are going to want to know how the pandemic changed life in this region, and the only way they’ll be able to find out is if there is an archive they can turn to. By capturing as much information as we can, we’re going to make it possible to study how some of the larger institutions in the area responded to the virus and how the media covered what happened here,” says Jeremy Heil, Digital and Private Records Archivist at Queen’s.

Deciding what to record

Shortly after Queen’s transitioned to remote teaching and working arrangements, the Archives moved quickly to start keeping a record of this unprecedented time. They decided to focus their efforts first on collecting records of materials such as municipal decisions, public health information, and communications from the university. These materials are what future researchers would be able to use to reconstruct a timeline of how the early stages of the pandemic unfolded at Queen’s and in the region.

As part of their work, the Queen’s University Archives reached out to area partners to ensure that they would coordinate their efforts with the City of Kingston, Kingston Frontenac Public Library, KFL&A Public Health, and others. All these groups are now working together to make sure that they aren’t duplicating efforts and to ensure that all the most relevant material is documented. As part of the Queen's University Library, the Archives is also coordinating with other university library and archives members of the Canadian Web Archiving Coalition that are documenting the impacts of COVID-19 in their locales.

Even though so much information has been coming out so quickly, the Archives is well positioned to capture it. In 2016, the Archives launched a program to make a web archive of the university’s online presence. And in 2018 they expanded this effort to make records of some significant government documents as well. When the time came to capture material related to COVID-19, the Archives was able to build off of this work and start collecting material quickly.

Archiving websites

For its ongoing digital archiving projects, Queen’s uses Archive-It, an application created by the Internet Archive. With Archive-It, Queen’s can capture URLs at specific moments in time, keeping a record of websites and pages for posterity.

The Queen’s Archives is frequently capturing the official websites for city and public health agencies, as we all as the university’s main website and its COVID-19 website. But it is also keeping records of many relevant stories that appear in local media outlets, especially The Kingston Whig-Standard. Queen’s Gazette stories in the Confronting COVID-19 series are also documented in the archive. Even some particularly significant Tweets from the university and local institutions will be captured.

The future of the COVID-19 archive

The future of the pandemic remains uncertain, but the Queen’s University Archives is committed to adding to their coronavirus archive for as long as necessary. When the pandemic eventually subsides, the Archives will also consider expanding the kinds of materials they include texts like personal accounts of the experience.

While they cannot know for certain who will use the archive in the future, they believe it will hold wide appeal. “The archive will be open to everyone, so a lot of people will be able to find creative uses for it. It will definitely be of interest to historians who want to understand how COVID-19 affected Queen’s and Kingston. But I also think future students and community members will want to use it to learn about this period. It’s our responsibility to collect this material as best as we can. It will be up to later generations to decide how they want to use it,” says Heil.

To learn more, visit the COVID-19 Archive, but please note that some materials are currently being processed and are not yet able to be viewed. For more information about the Queen’s Archives, visit their website.

Principal Deane to host online town hall on May 13

All faculty and staff are invited to participate in an online town hall with Principal Patrick Deane to discuss the current COVID-19 situation at Queen’s, as well as the university’s plans for the future.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, May 13, 2:00-3:30 pm via Microsoft Teams.

Joining Principal Deane will be:

  • Mark Green, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
  • Donna Janiec, Vice-Principal (Finance & Administration)
  • Kim Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research)
  • David Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on COVID-19

Questions for Principal Deane or another panelist can be submitted online, by noon on Tuesday, May 12. Questions will also be taken live during the event. This meeting will be recorded and posted to the principal’s website following the event.

Join the meeting by clicking on this link.

Queen’s-KHSC team develop in-house COVID-19 test

Researchers from Queen’s and Kingston Health Sciences Centres have developed a test that provides results in just 24 hours.

A researcher analyzes a COVID-19 test
Queen’s University and Kingston Health Sciences Centres (KHSC) partnered with Public Health Ontario Laboratories and Hamilton Health Sciences Center to develop an in-house test for COVID-19 that can be completed in large volumes and provide results in 24 hours. (Photo by Matthew Manor / Kingston Health Sciences Centre)

Testing is key to containment and management of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Yet, the costs, availability, and current timelines for testing have challenged health-care systems worldwide.

Anticipating these complications, in the early days of the pandemic, a team of researchers from Queen’s University and Kingston Health Sciences Centres (KHSC) partnered with Public Health Ontario Laboratories and Hamilton Health Sciences Center to develop an in-house test that could be completed in large volumes by redeployed and retrained technologists and provide results in 24 hours. The test has since been licensed by the Ontario Ministry of Health.

“We wanted to be up and running with a test for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) as soon as possible because we knew other labs were having supply issues with commercial tests,” says Prameet Sheth, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, and Director of Microbiology in the Division of Microbiology at KHSC. “We decided to create our own test so that shortages of reagent (a substance or mixture for use in chemical analysis) would not be a major hurdle in our testing capacity. The second consideration was that the cost of a lab-developed test is about a tenth of the commercial platforms.”

Testing for detection

While all tests for coronavirus have the same principle of detection, each targets a different part of the virus. For example, the test the team developed does not actually detect the virus itself, but it identifies genetic information of the virus.

How is this done? Nasal swab samples from tested individuals are analyzed for any presence of the coronavirus’s genetic material, using a technique known as a “polymerase chain reaction.”

The team explains that PCR is a method used in molecular biology that allows for a particular piece of DNA to be targeted and copied many, many times. Eventually, the genetic sequence is amplified so much that it can be detected by specialized laboratory equipment at KHSC. But if the COVID-19 sequence is not present in the sample, nothing would get duplicated, so the test would be negative.

Once samples are ready, it takes three to four hours to complete the process and results are reported out as soon as they are available. This has allowed not only more tests to be completed from a few per day to a capacity of 400 per day  in the Kingston region, but also for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox and Addington Public Health to inform tested patients of outcomes within two days.

The result is more tests and faster results at a fraction of the cost. The team’s testing technique has been shared with other laboratories across Ontario through a provincial diagnostic network, which has been set up so that Ontario could see a coordinated approach to COVID-19 testing across the province.

A networked approach

Established by Ontario Health, the network includes all Ontario laboratories undertaking COVID-19 testing to ensure all labs can meet capacity and testing requirements and work together to manage needs. The group meets seven days a week as a means of sharing laboratory data, problem solving, and idea generation. 

“Laboratories have never seen the volume of testing that has been pouring in as a result of the pandemic,” says Lewis Tomalty, Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and Service Chief, Clinical Microbiology at KHSC.  “Early on, a number of the large labs that would normally be the primary providers of such testing became overwhelmed and turnaround times started to suffer. The goal of the network is to ensure the ability to offload from labs that were at overcapacity to other labs that had the ability to take on more volume.”

This partnership means that all laboratories are able to provide COVID 19 results in reasonable timeframes, and immediately react and re-direct specimens if a laboratory goes down (e.g. equipment malfunction or supply limitations). 

The Queen’s and KHSC team will continue to monitor the virus and will be sure to adapt the test if the virus changes over time, which is something they do each year for influenza.

Elders host virtual knowledge-sharing sessions

In response to pandemic, campus community heads online to explore Indigenous ways of knowing.

Drum (by Bernard Clark)
Sessions are led by Elder-in-residence Wendy Phillips and Cultural Advisor Allen Doxtator. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

Over 100 members of the campus community joined Queen’s Elders-in-residence for the first of a series of Online Indigenous Ways of Knowing Sessions. Organized by the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, the virtual meetings continue efforts to further integrate Indigenous knowledge into the work being done across the university. The first in the series served as an opportunity for participants to meet the Elders and share topics of interest for future sessions.

“These sessions can be a wonderful way for us to create cultural awareness and build relationships, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Wendy Phillips, Elder in Residence with Queen’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives. “Among many Indigenous communities there is often skepticism about technology’s role in traditional knowledge-sharing, as the more spiritual aspects can feel excluded without physical presence of a group. That said, the interest in our first remote meeting was so strong, I’m encouraged that we will reach many more people with these important conversations.”

Phillips co-facilitated the session alongside Cultural Advisor Allen Doxtator. Together they outlined the office’s work and sought input from attendees about what areas of Indigenous knowledge could best advance the university’s 2017 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force final report recommendations.

Participants expressed keen interest in how Elders and Knowledge Keepers are identified within Indigenous communities and the pathways to taking on these roles and inquired about tips to advance Indigenous inclusion on campus, especially when hiring faculty and staff.

“Though our virtual sessions were created out of necessity for physical distancing, I am very encouraged by the interest in this discussion format,” says Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill), Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation). “Campus community members are driven to learn more about Indigenous ways of knowing and the online space we’ve created provides the safety and accessibility for people to explore these topics with us. For Indigenous allies it is a particularly helpful opportunity to hear new perspectives, network, and deepen understanding.”

The next Online Indigenous Ways of Knowing Session is set for Friday, May 8, 2020, from at 11 am to 12 pm ET. For more information and to register for the discussion, visit Eventbrite and use your Queen’s email to sign up.

A quick economic recovery is unlikely

As countries get ready to re-open their economies, history and current economic models suggest those looking for a quick rebound will be disappointed.

A man floolws the stock market with a phone and computer.
Economists are using models to try to determine what short- and long-term impacts the coronavirus pandemic will have on the global economy. (Unsplash / Jason Briscoe)

Predictions about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the world’s economy arrive almost daily. How can we make sense of them in the midst of this economic storm? After all, research shows that economic forecasts made during events such as SARS are often wildly inaccurate.

To calibrate current forecasts — such as the International Monetary Fund’s prediction of a 6.2 per cent decline in Gross Domestic Product for Canada — I’ve looked at the history of similar worldwide economic shocks, studied macroeconomics models and reviewed nearly 75 studies to better understand what might happen in a post-pandemic world.

The economic effects of 1918-20 flu

The influenza outbreak of 1918-20 killed at least 40 million people, or approximately two per cent of the world’s population. In Canada alone, at least 50,000 deaths were attributed to the flu, approaching the number of Canadian deaths in the First World War. Solid data about GDP did not exist for that era, so economic historians have to recreate economic measurements based on the data that was collected.

The most thorough study focuses on how the influenza pandemic 100 years ago affected Sweden. The Swedish study took advantage of the fact that the country kept very detailed data on causes of death, as well as having a history of accurate economic record-keeping dating back to the 1800s.

Sweden was a neutral country in the First World War, so unlike other Western nations, the war had limited impact on the country’s economy. The fatality rate from the flu in Sweden was comparable to most Western nations and its economy was similar to other developed countries.

The study of Sweden’s flu experience a century ago suggests there could be permanent negative long-term economic effects from the current pandemic. There was a decline in income from capital sources such as interest, dividends and rents of five per cent that lasted at least until 1929. This was a permanent decline not recovered once the flu pandemic passed.

Swedish poor never recovered

There was also an increase in absolute poverty for those Swedes at the bottom of the economic pyramid: enrolment in government-run “poorhouses” in higher flu-incidence regions jumped 11 per cent and did not decline over the next decade. There was some good news: while employment income was reduced during the crisis, it quickly rebounded to predicted normal levels.

A recent study attempts to measure the effects of the influenza on 1918-21 GDP. Harvard economist Robert Barro and his colleagues painstakingly put together a set of economic data that attempts to recreate what GDP in 42 countries would have been.

They have found that the flu was responsible for an additional six per cent decline in global GDP. The study concludes that the effects were reversed by 1921. This estimate of the flu’s historical GDP effects is strikingly similar to the IMF’s current prediction of six per cent reduction in GDP for Western economies as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Modelling economic effects of a pandemic

Beyond economic history, we can look at macroeconomic models of the global, regional or national economies that run scenarios about pandemic economic shocks.

One scenario by British economists and health science academics is particularly apt in light of COVID-19.

Their scenario models virus incidence and fatality rates close to the current best estimates and includes strong and early social distancing measures such as school closures and work-from-home arrangements that we see today in many countries fighting the pandemic.

Their model estimates a 21 per cent decline in U.K. GDP in the first full quarter of the pandemic, with a 4.45 per cent decline in GDP for first year. The model also suggests the time frame to economic recovery is about two years. The current IMF projection for the U.K. is a 6.5 per cent decline in annual GDP.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 is a major shock to the global economy. Across all the studies I reviewed, the conclusion of a significant decline in GDP in the order of 4.5 to six per cent with full recovery within two years seems to be well justified.

The economic history of the influenza pandemic 100 years ago suggests early easing of social distancing measures and the inability to develop an effective vaccine contributed to second and third flu waves. These waves might have greater effects on the modern service-based economy of Western nations than they did on the more agrarian economy of 100 years ago.

Economic history serves as a potential warning that the economy could get much worse if these measures are ignored.

It’s important to remember that GDP is a marker of a nation’s overall economic health. On an individual level, the effects may be more far-reaching and painful. There are financial and professional losses that may never be recovered.

The 1918-20 flu offers an important history lesson for the world’s current economic outlook: there may be significant declines in the returns to capital in the next decade, as well as relative increases in poverty for the neediest in our society.The Conversation

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Steven E. Salterio, Stephen JR Smith Chair of Accounting and Auditng, Professor of Business, Smith School of Business, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Principal’s update on planning for Fall 2020

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane on how Queen’s is preparing for a variety of scenarios for the coming academic year.

Gran Hall seen from above

With the 2019-2020 academic year wrapping up, the Queen’s University community is giving its full attention to the coming year and to the question of how we will provide our students with the same outstanding experience that for 179 years has defined our institution. What impact the COVID-19 pandemic will still be having on life in our city and province this fall is impossible to predict with certainty, so we are having to make decisions to prepare for a variety of scenarios. This is of course a challenging and complex situation, with September more than four months away and so much unknown.

One thing we do know for certain is that Queen’s will welcome new and returning students this fall with the same eagerness and excitement as in any other year. We will be open, but how “normal” life at Queen’s will be will depend on the best advice available from public health authorities to ensure that students enjoy stable, safe and stimulating conditions for their studies. It is certainly our hope that students will be on campus, but we are also preparing for the possibility of remote delivery should physical distancing still be required and significant concentrations of people be prohibited.

Whether such restrictions will be less or more severe is impossible to say at present. As I announced just a few weeks ago, we have teams of staff, faculty and students hard at work reviewing all the possible ways we might operate in the fall. They are committed to ensuring that whatever limits may be placed on our physical presence, the vitality of the community experience and the excellence of a Queen’s education are not compromised. What has drawn generations of students to Queen’s, and what has nourished and stimulated them while they were here, will be available to students this fall, regardless of the ways in which we might be forced to adapt to COVID-19. 

In the weeks and months ahead we will learn more, and as we do so we will take care to provide timely and clear information on the various decisions that we know will have to be made. Because academic programs vary widely in their needs, and because the conditions of learning and research differ across faculties and other units, aspects of course delivery will inevitably diverge across the institution. For that reason, it is the faculties that will increasingly be sources of information and guidance as we gain clarity on the implications of COVID-19 for our fall operations. It is too early yet to make final decisions, but I can commit to you that our goal will always be the full return of our students, staff and faculty. But if we are to be realistic, this is likely to be achieved in stages as we see public health restrictions being lifted. 

I am sure everyone understands how difficult it is to make these decisions in a context that is extremely changeable. The best I can do is promise to keep everyone — students returning, students arriving, staff and faculty — properly informed of the situation in which Queen’s will continue to pursue its distinguished mission.

Sincerely,
Patrick Deane

Philanthropists back ventilator project led by Queen's Nobel Laureate

Canadian donors are supporting Professor Emeritus Art McDonald as he leads the development of a ventilator that could help people affected by COVID-19.

The team's ventilator design.
The team's ventilator unit design. (Photo by Mechanical Ventilator Milano)

Philanthropists from across the country are rallying to support a team of Canadian physicists and engineers who are part of an international initiative to create an easy-to-build ventilator that can help treat COVID-19 patients.

These efforts, led in Canada by Arthur B. McDonald, an emeritus professor at Queen’s University and the co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics, are harnessing the talents of physicists who would normally be spending their time trying to solve the mysteries of dark matter. Since both tasks depend on the precise regulation of gas flow, Dr. McDonald and the project founder, Dr. Cristiano Galbiati in Italy, felt their fellow astroparticle physicists were perfectly positioned to help build up the world’s ventilator supply. In Canada, Dr. McDonald got instant and continuing participation from the lab directors and teams at TRIUMF Laboratory, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories at Chalk River, SNOLAB, and the McDonald Institute.

The collaboration, now called the MVM Ventilator project, has gained national attention — including a strong statement of support from Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and from federal innovation, supply, and regulatory agencies.

This work at such a difficult time for the world has captured the imagination of a dozen Canadian philanthropists who have stepped forward to support the project financially with donations through Queen’s University to the Dr. Art McDonald Ventilator Research Fund.

Pictou, Nova Scotia-based Donald Sobey, a Queen’s alumnus and the chair emeritus of Empire Company Limited, was one of the first philanthropists to support the initiative, making his donation less than 24 hours after receiving an early Easter morning call from fellow Nova Scotian Dr. McDonald.

“Dr. McDonald’s leadership and brilliance in developing a Canadian solution to the global ventilator shortage during the COVID-19 pandemic is inspiring,” says Sobey. “He is one of the leading scientific minds in the world, and a source of pride for all Canadians. But when we spoke on Easter morning about the urgent issues facing his project, I was compelled by the voice of a true humanitarian.”

Other Canadian philanthropists share Sobey’s enthusiasm for the project. Supporters of now include the Lazaridis Family Foundation, The Garrett Family Foundation, Josh Felker, Dan Robichaud, Patricia Saputo, Peter Nicholson, Salvatore Guerrera, and Nicola Tedeschi, as well as four anonymous donors.

Dr. McDonald extends his thanks for this valuable support.

“The very generous donations by Donald Sobey and the other philanthropists have been crucial for us to maintain our research at a very critical time in the project," he says. "I have been amazed and extremely grateful for their very timely support, as it has enabled our team to push past obstacles towards our goal of producing large numbers of cost-effective ventilators with strong capability for saving lives.”

The MVM Ventilator project is proceeding well toward its goal through successful testing of the ventilator in Italy, Canada, and the US for certification, guided by medical experts. The collaboration team is working with manufacturers who are capable of production at rates up to 1000 per week in the near future. In Canada, the production companies will be Vexos in Markham, Ontario and JMP Solutions in London, Ontario. The development work is published openly and is being carried out with an open source licensing concept, enabling companies around the world to manufacture this design to help with shortages in other countries.

“We are thrilled that so many Canadian philanthropists have been inspired to contribute to the ventilator project,” says Karen Bertrand, Queen’s Vice-Principal (Advancement). “Their generosity is ensuring that more ventilators get in the hands of health-care professionals, and more people receive the treatment they need. This is a graphic illustration of the impact that both research and philanthropy can have on our world.”

For more information, visit the Queen’s research website.

Taking exams from anywhere

Queen’s found innovative ways to deliver over 400 exams remotely to finish the term.

Photo of a person working on a laptop
Instructors experimented with a variety of platforms to deliver exams remotely.

With the move to remote instruction in March, instructors across Queen’s worked quickly to find innovative ways to complete their courses without being able to gather in classrooms. Then after the final day of classes, faculty and staff had to move on to another challenge: holding over 400 exams remotely. To offer exams during this unprecedented situation, instructors at Queen’s utilized several digital platforms and worked hard to address student needs.

“Across the university, faculties, programs, and instructors all experimented with various digital platforms and methods to proctor their exams. Staff and faculty have been doing everything that they can to make sure that students can finish their courses and programs successfully. While the majority of remote exams went smoothly, we very much appreciate the patience our students showed as we worked through this unique situation,” says John Pierce, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning).

Remote exam platforms

Instructors experimented with several platforms for remote exams. One of the more common ones turned to was Examity, which several faculties have used successfully for years. While most remote exams occurred without incident, there were a few instances in which problems occurred. In those cases, instructors worked with the students effected to provide an alternative to allow for a fair evaluation and grade assessment.

“The university continues to review the use of technologies such as Examity for their use now and in the future. Queen’s is dedicated to increasing the support for these essential tools, especially in light of the unprecedented need to enable remote instruction and learning,” says Pierce.

Mitigating student stress

Recognizing the unique stresses that the pandemic has placed on students, Queen’s has moved to mitigate student stress where possible. To this end, the university put in place options to drop courses without penalty before final marks are submitted and also to choose a Pass rather than a letter grade for a final mark, even after students have seen what their grade would be.

“We know these are unique and challenging times, and the university is committed to doing all it can to support our students and their academic success,” says Pierce.

For students who are experiencing high levels of stress, Student Wellness Services (SWS) offers different support options. To stay up to date with all services, visit the SWS website.

The SWS website also includes links to other phone and online mental health services available to students – such as the text support offered by Good2Talk, Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), self-directed help, and 24/7 crisis support options.

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