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Confronting COVID-19

Coronavirus FAQs: Should I wear a mask? How long will schools be closed?

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The Conversation: Questions remain about COVID-19 infection, transmission, treatment and recovery. 

Schools in Ontario have been closed to help flatten the curve of the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Unsplash / Ruben Rodriguez)

The global number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surpassed one million in early April, nearly doubling in a week. Instead of lifting or relaxing guidelines on physical distancing, we’re seeing playgrounds cordoned off and school closures extended in an attempt to flatten the curve and lessen the load on the health-care system.

As people hunker down at home, questions remain about COVID-19 infection, transmission, treatment and recovery. Here are answers to some of the common questions people are asking about the coronavirus pandemic.

Should I wear a mask?

Currently, the accepted science is that wearing masks is best preserved for front-line health-care workers. In other parts of the world, it is more common for the general public to wear masks, but evidence for their utility remains inconclusive.

In general, a mask protects the wearer, such as a health-care worker, from becoming infected. When someone wears a mask in public, it is usually to protect others from getting sick should they cough or sneeze. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people who are sick should be self-isolating at home and not venturing into public.

It’s in our best interest to continue the provincial and federal efforts to preserve personal protective equipment, including masks, for the people who most need them: health-care workers and their patients.

Many people are crafting their own masks made from cotton at home. It may well become a new cultural norm for North Americans to wear masks. There is nothing harmful about this practice, as long as it does not become an excuse for a person who is sick to go out in public.

The safest and healthiest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 remains staying home when you are sick, maintaining physical distances of at least two metres from others, not meeting in groups and cleaning your hands often.

It’s in our best interest to continue the provincial and federal efforts to preserve personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and their patients. (Unsplash / Engin Akyurt) 

How long can you have the virus before you show symptoms?

Most estimates for this “incubation period” range from one to 14 days, with five days being common.

People who are infected with the coronavirus are thought to be the most infectious when they are showing the most symptoms. But infection and transmission can sometimes occur when a person has the virus but doesn’t have any symptoms (they are asymptomatic).

These people can unknowingly spread the coronavirus to other people because they don’t realize they are infected. This is why it is important to stay home and keep up with social distancing — limiting the number of people you come into close contact with. It works, and it can help protect vulnerable people in our communities.

Is there a test to tell me if I’ve already had COVID-19?

When someone is infected with a virus, their immune system begins producing antibodies to that virus. A test that looks for coronavirus-specific antibodies could determine if someone has already had COVID-19, and it could help scientists understand how widespread the disease is.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the first antibody test for COVID-19 on April 1. We don’t have this test in Canada yet.

Many academic laboratories and medical companies around the world are working to produce these blood tests. They would be able to quickly identify antibodies in people who have already been infected with the virus, but experienced no symptoms or only very mild ones.

Can someone who has recovered from the virus still be a host?

This remains unclear. There are a small number of people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, stopped showing symptoms, had two consecutive negative test results two days apart and been discharged from the hospital, but have subsequently tested positive for the infection again.

This suggests that some patients who have recovered may still be contagious, but this must still be confirmed.

Generally, the “viral load” — a measure of how much virus the body is carrying — gradually decreases over time after symptoms have resolved. But in some cases, the virus’s genetic material (RNA) can be detected in people for three weeks or more since their symptoms first appeared.

The levels of viral RNA detected in these studies were low and likely represented remnants of viral RNA, not live virus. But we still don’t have enough evidence yet to confirm this.

Can you get COVID-19 more than once?

Even mild cases should leave recovered patients with some immunity against the virus. But some patients have reported being infected a second time and showing symptoms again.

In one study of 55 patients in China, reactivation occurred in nine per cent of them. The clinical characteristics of these patients were no different from first-time COVID-19 patients. The study didn’t identify any reliable markers that would allow doctors to predict the reactivation risk of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Can COVID-19 survivors’ blood help others recover?

When people recover from an illness, their blood plasma remains rich with the antibodies that helped fight off that disease. This “convalescent plasma” has been used as a treatment, called passive antigenic therapy, for other people who become ill with the same disease.

This approach was used as an emergency measure during the SARS outbreak in 2003 and for people with Ebola in 1995, but it is not used as a standard treatment.

At this time, the use of convalescent plasma to treat critically ill adults with COVID-19 is not recommended, largely because there aren’t enough data yet to show that it is safe and that it works. These recommendations could change with more data and studies.

Many business have closed temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic (Unsplash / Erik McLean)

How long might school and business closures last?

“Flatten the curve” has become a global rallying cry. Epidemiologists are working extremely hard to model various scenarios for our governments to predict the course of the disease. This could tell us if — and when — we can relax the restrictions and other strategies implemented in March.

In Canada, the number of cases we see in the first weeks of April, and the severity of these cases, will give us an indication of the impact travel restrictions and social distancing measures have made. With concrete numbers in hand, epidemiologists can adjust and refine models to better understand how long our schools and businesses will remain closed.

A recent report predicts the demand for ICU beds for patients with COVID-19 may peak in early to mid-April in Ontario. This means we should keep up with physical distancing — and strict isolation for all those confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19 — for at least another few weeks. This is why Ontario extended its emergency declaration and schools remain closed until May 4.

We know these emergency health measures have social and economic impacts on our communities. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, offered some encouraging remarks as he closed the March 30 media briefing:

“With solidarity, humility and assuming the best of each other, we can — and will — overcome this together.”

_________________________________________________

Suzanne Biro from Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health co-authored this story.

Have questions about COVID-19? Let us find an expert to answer them. Send us your questions and story ideas.

Editor’s note: This article was based on information available at the time of publication. The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly, and as new information becomes available, public health officials may change their recommendations. Please see our ongoing coverage of COVID-19 for the most up-to-date information.The Conversation

Kieran Moore is a professor at Queen's University in the Departments of Emergency Medicinw and Family Medicine.

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

Human Resources COVID-19 information website

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Information, resources, strategies, and guidelines for Queen’s employees. 

As we adapt to accommodate efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, Queen’s remains committed to nurturing employee wellbeing. Queen’s Human Resources, working closely with public health authorities, has compiled information, resources, and strategies to help employees remain connected, health, and supported.  

For information on self-isolation, sick leave, travel, campus access, health and wellness, work guidelines, IT support, and more, visit the Human Resources COVID-19 information website

 

Quiet Queen’s - photo essay

With students, faculty, and staff now learning, researching, and working remotely in response to COVID-19, the iconic Queen’s campus looks like never before.

Come early April, campus typically settles into a quiet study routine. Students attend their last classes and then pack the libraries to prepare for exams. A hushed, focused murmur fills the air, interrupted only by the flipping of pages or the squeak of highlighters, and maybe the last, sputtering sips of a second round of coffee.

Given this year’s exceptional circumstances brought upon us by COVID-19, the campus is a new kind of quiet. Beside essential staff and a group of international students waiting to travel, much of the Queen’s community has returned home to complete the term safely online.

The Queen’s Gazette visited campus to capture the remarkable silence of this unprecedented moment.

The intersection of University Avenue and Union Street. Stauffer Library visible on the corner.

The intersection of Union Street and University Avenue at the heart of the campus is often abuzz, but it is now missing its usual scramble of pedestrians headed to classes. Stauffer Library stands tall on the northwest corner (centre), clad in a banner celebrating its 25th anniversary. It starts its next 25 years behind temporarily-closed doors, and instead remains open online for students and researchers.

View down an deserted University Ave.

A look south down campus’ University Avenue with Richardson Hall on the right and Ontario Hall on the left; Grant Hall’s clock tower in the distance. One of the main thoroughfares, it is now vacant except for a lone dog-walker.

Grant Hall

Every year, Grant Hall hosts dozens of convocation ceremonies, but celebrations for Spring 2020 graduates have been postponed indefinitely. Students have worked hard to attain their academic success, so the university is looking at ways to deliver a special experience for graduates so as to celebrate their achievements.

In the foreground, a Research@Queen’s banner hangs from a streetlamp. Faculty researchers and experts continue to work hard to share knowledge as part of our community’s broad efforts to confront COVID-19.

Closed sign at one of Queen's athletic fields.

Like much of the campus, outdoor recreation amenities have been closed until further notice. The health and safety of the Queen’s community is the university’s top priority, so access to gathering places has been limited to promote physical distancing. For up-to-date coronavirus information from Queen’s University visit our COVID-19 website.

Campus security staff patrols a residence lounge.

Campus security is on-site to keep our remaining staff and students safe. Here, a member of Queen's Campus Security and Emergency Services makes the rounds in a second-floor residence lounge. Only a small group of students are still living in residences; primarily international students awaiting their opportunities to return home, with the support of the university’s international programming staff.

Physical Plant Services (PPS) vehicles.

Many members of Physical Plant Services (PPS) are also present on campus to ensure facilities stay maintained for students and for essential staff, and in preparation for the eventual return of the campus community. PPS’ Custodial Support Services even has a special response cleaning team ready to confront COVID-19.

Chairs stacked for storage at a Queen's cafeteria.

Chairs are stacked and stored in the cafeteria at Leonard Hall. Hospitality services have closed most locations, with Ban Righ dining hall left open to serve remaining staff and students. Left with large amounts of perishable food after the closure of most dining facilities, Queen’s Hospitality Services increased regular food donations to local shelters and organizations in Kingston; organizations that have also been impacted greatly by COVID-19.

Poster for CFRC Pandemic Radio show.

A poster promoting CFRC 101.9’s Radio Pandemic displayed near the entrance of David C. Smith House. The new call-in show on Queen’s campus radio station focuses on crucial news and events related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posters promoting physical distancing are posted across campus.

Physical distancing signage has been posted widely, urging everyone to maintain two metres between themselves and others, to avoid group gatherings, and to instead try communicating in different ways, such as by video conference, telephone, or online chat.

Squirrel sits atop a colourful bin.

Faculty, staff, and students have been flexible, resourceful, and resilient as campus life has transitioned online, and our sustained efforts at physical distancing will help health care workers curtail the spread of coronavirus. Queen’s looks forward to welcoming everyone back to campus when the time is right, but for now we must be together from afar. Until then, the ever-popular campus squirrels can scurry about in peace.

For all coronavirus COVID-19 information from Queen’s, visit our website.

Queen’s donates personal protection equipment

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Donations from faculty, labs, students and alumni delivered to Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Donations of PPE to KHSC
Faculty members and research labs across Queen's University recently donated 900 N95 masks, 600 surgical masks, and 300 gowns as well as approximately 500 face shields.

Queen’s University has donated thousands of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) items to help protect frontline healthcare workers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week a request for PPE supplies was sent out to faculty members and research labs across the university, and received 60 offers of supplies.

The response included more than 900 N95 masks, 600 surgical masks, and 300 gowns as well as approximately 500 face shields, which were not included in the initial callout.

The collected items were delivered to Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) on Friday.

“The response from the Queen’s community has been fantastic,” says Steven Smith, Vice-Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Vice President, Health Sciences Research, KHSC and President and CEO, KGH Research Institute. “Our local hospitals indicated what PPE they needed most urgently and labs across the university quickly responded to this request. We are fortunate to play a small role in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting our frontline healthcare workers.”

There are several other groups at Queen’s also working hard to help protect healthcare workers, including PPE Kingston, a team of Queen’s medical students who recognized an acute need for PPE in local community clinics and hospitals.

Team members started canvassing local businesses such as construction companies and salons as well as veterinary and dental clinics. Also using social media to reach out to the community

“Slowly but surely we started getting a steady stream of donations coming in through our email (PPEKingston@gmail.com),” says Anna Curry, organizer of PPE Kingston. “We began organizing pick up of supplies, using proper social distancing measures, by our volunteers as well as coordinating drop off by community members at a centralized location. It has been wonderful to see our community come together during this pandemic and donate resources to our frontline workers.”

The group is working with community partners from the Ontario Medical Association to distribute the supplies.

The group recently received a major boost when they accepted a donation of 1,000 N95 masks from a pair of Queen’s alumni – entrepreneur and Dragons’ Den star Michele Romanow and Anatoliy Melnichuk, Head of Sales at Groupon.

Curry says she reached out to Romanow because of her Queen’s connections and she responded with Melnichuk’s contact information. The first shipment of masks arrived on Thursday and were delivered to KHSC on Friday.

You can follow the group’s activities on their Twitter account.

The Gazette previously reported on another group of Queen’s medical students, medical residents, faculty and staff, who are using 3D printers to create PPE items as well as collecting donations.

Stuart Street parking garage parking rate reduction

Queen’s and KHSC reducing maximum parking rate this month.

Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) and Queen’s University, co-owners of the Stuart Street underground parking garage, have jointly agreed to reduce the daily hourly maximum parking rate from $20 to $5 during April.

Queen’s is also extending the provision of free parking on two of its largest lots to heathcare staff who work at KHSC. Free parking will remain available at the Tindall Parking Lot, located at Albert and Union streets, and the former site of St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital, on Union Street, without permits, through April 13, 2020.

Queen’s appreciates all that Kingston’s healthcare partners are doing to respond to the pandemic and keep our community safe.

Freeing up resources for the COVID-19 battle

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Developed by a Queen's-based startup, the world’s first socially intelligent staff scheduling cloud tool is being made accessible for free to enable new users.

A Queen’s University-based startup is contributing to the effort to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus and support the healthcare system facing increasing demands during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Mesh Scheduling Inc. recently announced it is waiving the monthly subscription fees to Mesh AI, the world’s first socially intelligent staff scheduling cloud tool, during the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to calls for help in battling the spread of the coronavirus, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mesh AI is being made accessible for free to enable new users to improve scheduling and communication. Initially developed as a scheduling and communication platform with a focus on the healthcare sector, Mesh AI can be applied to practically any workplace.

With support from Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation, Mesh Scheduling Inc. is led by Shahram Yousefi, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who’s research interests include applied algorithms and machine learning with applications to healthcare and 5G telecom and data storage. 

Dr. Yousefi, also the startup’s president and CEO, points out that COVID-19 is affecting the availability of healthcare workers in two main ways.

Firstly, as frontline staff contract the disease or get quarantined for safety reasons, they are no longer available to work. Secondly, staff need to work in entirely different modes with new teams, new responsibilities, and in most cases with prolonged shifts to support their units and help save patients' lives. Fatigue, stress, and anxiety lead to loss of productivity and burnout.

How is this done?

Mesh AI allows all staff to add their personal requests such as vacations and shift preferences directly into their mobile apps no matter when and where. It also allows them to easily withdraw from or swap shifts already planned in case of illness or changes in circumstances. Schedule administrators are able to create schedules for week-long or year-long (and everything in between) planning with a press of a button. The highly sophisticated Mesh auto-scheduling engine takes all the organization’s requirements to create shift assignments with near mathematical optimality. This same ‘intelligence’ also suggests best second in place when a shift needs to be reassigned to a new employee.

This is where Mesh AI can make a positive difference.

“MeshAI.io helps with better communication among staff, sharing their needs and limitations, and responding to last-minute staffing changes very efficiently,” Dr. Yousefi says.  “It saves a great deal of time and resources for administrators and decision-makers in assigning shifts and also dealing with change. The data, intelligence, and cloud software features we have built maximize productivity and minimize disruptions, costly errors, and cost. We love the fact that this is done while we also empower employees to have some level of control and agency when it comes to their demanding jobs and work-life conflicts.”

Mesh AI is already being used by a number of healthcare facilities in Canada, U.S., and as far away as Australia, with positive results in adaptability, communication and risk/loss management as teams respond to increasing demands.

“One very interesting risk management component we’ve seen with Mesh AI, with healthcare in particular, is that hospitals and clinics are using Mesh AI to keep a group or subgroup of staff together because they’re being exposed to COVID-19 patients and when they do further shift allocation they keep that group together so they minimize the number of people that are being exposed to COVID-19 and as such they are reducing the risk of losing more and more people to sickness and current team requirements,” Dr. Yousefi says.

Mesh AI is currently available through Public Works and Government Services Canada’s BuyandSell.gc.ca website.

Learn more about Mesh AI and MESH Scheduling Inc. at MeshAI.io.

Those interested in acquiring a free subscription to Mesh AI can apply online using this form.

Supporting international student wellbeing

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The Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) responds to COVID-19 with new online resources.

Photo of a person with a laptop and a notebook
International students can access services through QUIC no matter where they are.

During these unprecedented times, the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) – a division within Student Affairs – is working hard to continue fostering the success and wellbeing of international students at Queen’s.

“Student wellbeing and community building continue to be a priority for us,” says Sultan Almajil, Director of QUIC. “We are committed to building and promoting a sense of belonging online and to support our international students in any way we can.”

Online resources for international students

Recently, QUIC announced that they would be launching online resources and services for international students following the closure of their social spaces on campus. All of QUIC’s regular services are now available online in addition to some exciting new virtual offerings.

Students can continue making individual appointments with International Student Advisors to discuss immigration status, health insurance, and any other concerns they may have. These sessions will now be held online and can be booked by emailing isa@queensu.ca.

QUIC will also be hosting daily Zoom Room advising sessions, which allow students to virtually drop-in between 10-11 am to speak with an advisor. In addition, QUIC will also be hosting a variety of scheduled Zoom Room sessions that feature a specific topic or guest from other areas on campus or in the community. To see a full schedule of Zoom Room sessions, visit the QUIC events page.

All Zoom Rooms can be accessed using the link: https://zoom.us/j/925151345.

Building international community online

In addition to these resources, QUIC is also planning to introduce a number of new offerings including: online trivia, a “Walks with QUIC” series in which members stream their favourite walking trails in Kingston, and an “Uplifting Stories” session that give international students the chance to discuss their travel experiences from back home.

"I am thankful that QUIC is able to continue providing support, especially in a time of major transition in my life due to the outbreak of COVID-19,” says Janki Patel (MEng’20). “The QUIC staff have been very helpful and uplifting – keeping in touch every day to make sure that everyone is doing well. It's reassuring to see that all the services provided by QUIC are still available online and remain as effective as they were in-person.”

To learn more about their online services and stay up-to-date about upcoming offerings, check out the QUIC website or visit them on Facebook.

Free parking for hospital staff extended until April 13

Queen’s is extending the provision of free parking on two of its largest lots to heathcare staff who work at the nearby Kingston Health Sciences Centre. Free parking will remain available at the Tindall Parking Lot, located at Albert and Union streets, and the former site of St. Mary’s of the Lake Hospital, on Union Street, without permits, through April 13, 2020. 

Queen’s initially opened the parking lots to hospital staff on March 19 in an effort to support our healthcare partners, while many Queen’s staff work remotely. With the recent extension of the provincial emergency to April 13, parking capacity will remain available for hospital workers, and the university is happy to extend the offer. Queen’s appreciates all that Kingston’s healthcare partners are doing to respond to the pandemic and keep our community safe.

Queen’s alumna helping to protect frontline healthcare providers

Campaign led by Joanna Griffiths (Com’05) has raised more than $150,000 to purchase Personal Protection Equipment.

Joanna Griffiths
Joanna Griffiths (Com’05) is leading a campaign to raise funds to purchase Personal Protection Equipment for frontline healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Joanna Griffiths (Com’05), was talking with her brother, a doctor working in a Hamilton hospital. He mentioned that masks, gloves, and gowns, also known as personal protective equipment (PPE), were in short supply, and that his fellow frontline health-care workers in hospitals, shelters, and clinics across the country were growing desperate.

Fortunately, Griffiths was in a position to offer support. She is, after all, the founder of Knixwear, a women’s intimate apparel manufacturer, the sixth fastest growing company in Canada.

“My brother said he was really worried about their PPE supplies and wondered if we could help them get access to supplies through my network,” she recalls.

Griffiths and her team sprang into action. They reached out to their manufacturing contacts and vendors, and found them willing to lend a hand. The next step was to find the resources. “We decided to launch a Go Fund Me campaign so that we could just get ahead of things,” she says. “We started ordering supplies so that they could be here immediately while these broader initiatives were taking place.”

The campaign has raised more than $150,000. All money raised is going directly toward purchasing the items to donate. Knix and its partners will cover all costs associated with shipping and distributing the items.

Confronting COVID-19 Read more articles in this series

They are now ordering and distributing PPE items across the country and have set up a registry where health-care facilities in need can sign up. “We’ve had 40 institutions fill out the form and that’s across the country,” Griffiths says. This means hospital workers can safely treat COVID-19 patients without the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

Griffiths recognizes her responsibility as someone in a position to help others. “We’ve done partnerships with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and different organizations,” she says. “A couple of years ago, we launched a campaign called Faces of Fertility to facilitate conversations around fertility. We also have our Positive Returns Program. When you order a bra from us online, if it doesn’t fit or you don’t like it, we enable you to donate that to a local women’s shelter.”

“I think at the best of times, it’s every leader’s responsibility to give back to society,” she says. “And in times of crisis — and this really is a crisis — I think that responsibility increases.”

This article was first published on the Queen's Alumni website.

Library’s virtual doors open to students, researchers

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Queen’s University Library continues to provide remote services during the university’s response to COVID-19.

While library locations remain closed at this time, the Queen’s University Library is very much open online, with many supports and resources available to students, faculty, and staff, as outlined on the library’s COVID-19 website.

“We are committed, as ever, to supporting students and researchers and providing a wide array of information resources and services to enhance and facilitate online course instruction and research,” says Michael Vandenburg, Interim Vice-Provost and University Librarian. “This is an unprecedented time, and while it is a major shift, I would like the community to know that the library is well-equipped to provide additional online resources and support, and library staff are hard at work to ensure that everyone has what they need.”

Remote Learning

Library staff have been keenly focused on supporting instructors with the transition to remote learning. To help students in the Faculty of Law access resources they need to complete their work, the Lederman Law Library has reached out to Canadian legal publishers to provide students and faculty with expanded access to key online legal resources. As a result, law students and faculty now have online access to The Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (also known as the McGill Guide) through personal WestlawNext accounts until the end of the winter term, and Irwin’s Law E-Library is now available campus-wide until the end of the calendar year.

Accessing Library Resources

In Bracken Health Sciences Library, librarians are responding to questions from clinicians searching for more resources on COVID-19 and pandemic planning, and adjusting to provide library services, including instruction on searching databases and citation management, online via Zoom instead of in-person in classes. Across the library, subject specialists are working with researchers remotely to provide the ongoing support needed to continue and complete projects. Library staff are available to answer questions about how to access these resources.

Library staff also continue to work directly with students to ensure they have what they need for coursework or capstone projects to complete the term. All library eReserves are still available to students via OnQ and students and faculty members can email library.reserves@queensu.ca to discuss any changes to reading lists and options for accessing materials online.

“We are doing as much as we can to make this challenging time smoother for students and faculty members,” says Heather McMullen, Associate University Librarian. “We encourage the community to reach out for library support, and to ask us for help if they are facing obstacles in their research and teaching.”

The library’s online resources, including e-journals, e-books, databases, and much more, continue to be available and subject librarians and specialists are available remotely to answer any research questions or inquiries. They can be reached through the Ask Us service or directly via email.

The Copyright Advisory Office has created Copyright & Digital Delivery guides for instructors who are digitizing course materials: Quick Guide and Detailed Guide. Online consultations are available with Mark Swartz, Copyright Manager

Currently, there is no access to print collections but the library is reviewing options for providing access. There is no need to return books to the library at this time, and late fines will not be charged. The library continues to provide Interlibrary Loan services for electronic materials only. Due dates for materials currently out on interlibrary loan will not be enforced, and late fines will not be charged.

More information is available on the library’s COVID-19 website.

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