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Confronting COVID-19

Stay informed with the Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website

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COVID-19 Information website
For up-to-date information about Queen's response and resources regarding the coronavirus outbreak visit the COVID-19 Information website.

As new information about the spread of the coronavirus emerges, Queen’s University continues to work closely with public health authorities to protect the health and safety of everyone in the Queen’s community, whether on campus in Kingston, at SmithToronto, the Bader International Study Centre (BISC), or elsewhere in the world.

As the university steps up its transition to remote learning and working over the coming days, everyone is encouraged to visit the university’s central Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website to stay up to date with what’s changing. The website brings together daily updates and provides quick connections to many resources available across the university community. There is a daily updates section, as well as sections highlighting Messages and Statements, Symptoms and Response, Prevention, Travel, Public Health Updates, and FAQs, as well as information specifically for Students and Faculty and Staff.

Accepting anxiety as COVID-19 looms

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Queen’s University researcher Tom Hollenstein on ways of coping with stress as the world deals with the coronavirus.

A woman leafs through a book
Reading a book, playing a game, watching a movie, doing some spring cleaning, baking or cooking are good ways to distract yourself to lower your anxiety. (Unsplash / Joao Silas) 

With the threat of COVID-19 gripping the world, Queen’s University professor Tom Hollenstein uses his research into how we manage emotions to offer insight into how we are dealing with weeks of disruption, near isolation and the threat of getting sick.

“Resisting anxiety is part of the anxiety,” he says. “There are things we just don’t know, and we need to accept that. We need to accept the uncertainty. We are all anxious and that’s not bad or wrong. Things have changed in the world. We are getting more information faster and faster and things seem more imminent than ever before.

After Dr. Hollenstein’s classes were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, he decided to write something for his students to help them cope. Because that message for his students can be applied to everyone, he also published it on Medium.

“The most prominent feature of the current situation is the difficulty to predict what will happen, a loss of control,” Dr. Hollenstein says in his research piece. “This is true on the best of days but may be more intense with uncertainty about the global situation we are in. The most successful approaches in these situations involve controlling what you can and trying to accept the rest.”

Dr. Hollenstein also talks about trying to distract yourself to lower your anxiety which could include reading a novel, playing a game, watching a movie, doing some spring cleaning, baking or cooking – things you’ve always said you wished you’d had time for. He also says people should reexamine the situation – for example instead of asking “what does this mean for me?” you could say “what does it mean for others.”

“Reframing the situation also could work,” he says. “The entire world is grappling with their uncertainties, responses, and self- or other-imposed social distancing, just like you. We are all in this together. There are very few moments in which we can perceive the entire planet sharing the same experience. Often this comes from common threat. This may not diminish your anxiety, but it might change your sense of feeling alone or lonely over the coming weeks.”

He adds social support is also critical as the world waits for life to normalize. “We should think of this as distant socializing instead of social distancing. Providing support to others, even in a digital way, is just as effective if we are alone and anxious. New technology allows us to transcend time and space and engage each other just enough to get us through this.”

To read the full research piece Regulating Emotions in a COVID-19 World visit Medium.com.

Queen’s students studying abroad recalled

Given the rapidly-changing circumstances across the globe relating to COVID-19, Queen’s University is recalling students who are abroad to return to Canada or, in the case of non-Canadians, to return to their own home country. 

For up-to-date information, visit the Queen's Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website.

Queen’s will provide financial support for the cost of changing travel plans and support students in arranging your travel. If there are circumstances that keep students in their present location, they are asked to convey these circumstances immediately using this form, and no later than Thursday, March 19, by 9 am EST. 

Queen’s continues to affirm that students will not be disadvantaged in their academic program by returning home.  Queen’s will work with students and/or their host university to determine a feasible academic plan if they choose to return.  

The full recall statement available online.

For further information, visit the website for the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic).

How will COVID-19 impact business in Canada?

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In a coronavirus world, cash will be king, wearing a mask might not be so bad, and economic recovery will (hopefully) be quick.


Economics of coronavirus

Coronavirus is like a storm about to hit. No one knows how bad it’s going to get — or not. For now, coronavirus looks like a problem that could last months. Across Canada, governments are enacting emergency measures as they prepare for a virus that has so far sickened more than 200,000 worldwide and killed more than 8,000.

As the number of Canadian cases ticks up, businesses and schools are closing and people are hunkering down at home, having cleaned out stores of hand sanitizers, medical masks and soap. Streets are emptying.

On March 20, join Smith Business Insight and Queen’s Executive Education for a free 45-minute webinar offering an in-depth look at the immediate and long-term impacts of coronavirus on Canada. Featuring Smith finance professor Wei Wang, strategy and governance professor Scott Carson, and organizational behaviour professor Kate Rowbotham.
Register now to learn:
• What steps companies need to take to adapt over the next few months
• The biggest risks that businesses will face
• The long-term implications of coronavirus on the economy
• How government can help firms right now
• How to work with employees and keep them engaged
• Strategic opportunities that may be available to businesses coming out of the crisis
• Whether we can expect a quick recovery (or not)
Following the presentation, we’ll have time for Q&A with our speakers

Coronavirus will create a number of challenges for businesses. What are they? And how can companies best handle them? We asked five Smith School of Business professors to weigh in: marketing professors Laurence Ashworth and Monica LaBarge; finance professors Wei Wang and Louis Gagnon; and strategy and governance professor Scott Carson.

Here, they answer our pressing questions:

What impact do you see on Canadian companies in the weeks ahead with coronavirus?

Laurence Ashworth: The most significant will be a change in consumption habits. Consumers are likely to cancel or reduce travel, delay large expenditures and stockpile essentials. They are also likely to avoid business settings that involves groups, such as exercise classes, bars, restaurants and supermarkets. We will likely see more online shopping, and possibly increased consumption of in-home entertainment. In short, people are likely to engage in what they view as “protective behaviours”.

The extent to which people engage in these behaviours will depend, in part, on their perceptions of the likelihood of catching the disease and the perceived severity of it. These perceptions will not always be accurate. One factor I suspect may play a role in these perceptions will be knowing of someone who has contracted the disease, such as a friend or a friend of a friend. Anecdotal information of this kind is extremely powerful and will have a disproportionate impact on people’s perceptions of the coronavirus risk and exacerbate their protective behaviour.

What are some issues businesses will have to deal with?

Monica LaBarge: From both the customer and an employer/employee side, nobody wants to come in contact with someone who may have the virus. So there is likely to be both reduced demand as well as a reduced ability to provide services if people aren’t wanting to come into work. This may include social service agencies, such as food banks and mental health services, which provide really important services to vulnerable members of our communities. The need for such services doesn’t stop just because there is a virus; in fact, they may become even more important since those populations may not have the ability to either stockpile resources or a safe location to self-quarantine. 

What’s the No. 1 hurdle companies will have to overcome?

Wei Wang: The single biggest issue for firms will be a shock to their cash flows as consumers stop or delay buying. For businesses right now, cash is king. The more short-term liquidity a company has the better it will be able to survive the bad situation. So, companies should start securing lines of credit as soon as possible. Ideally they’ll need a runway that will last two quarters or even longer. Coronavirus will be a lot different than the last crisis because for companies it will be about taking a sudden hit to their cash flows. The longer this situation lasts, the more business failures we are going to see. 

How can businesses prepare themselves?

LaBarge: From a staffing perspective, they have to figure out how they’re going to handle the potential need to close—either because they think it’s the least risky move or if there’s a quarantine. Are they going to pay their workers via their sick leave? Or allow draw-downs on vacation? Or temporarily lay staff off and and potentially allow them to access employment insurance?—if that even will be allowed by government.

From a demand side, it may be a good time to run sales—which could be made available online—so people can buy now and pick up later, so as to maintain some sort of cash flow. For businesses like restaurants, I would suggest they keep one eye on the emergence of cases and another eye on their perishable inventory, so that if they do have to close temporarily they don’t experience significant losses on that front.

What can businesses and government do to ease people’s fears?

Ashworth: Businesses can offer consumers alternative methods of conducting business that don’t involve person-to-person contact. After all, this is the main thing consumers will be trying to avoid. More generally, business and government need to consider how to keep people acting normally—in other words, how to stop people feeling like they need to protect themselves so much, given that most people probably have inflated views of the risk. Information that helps people form accurate impressions is critical.

Contrary to what a good deal of health practitioners have been advising, it may be useful to allow consumers to practise even minimally effective protective behaviour, such as wearing face masks, because such activities will increase perceptions of protection, causing people to act more normally. Obviously we’d like people to practise effective protection too, such as hand washing and self-isolation when necessary, but, at the same time, a good deal of what we need to do is persuade people not to engage in drastic behaviours.

How can government help businesses overcome the economic downturn that coronavirus may cause?

Wang: Governments really need to take three steps to help businesses. First, both here in Canada and in the U.S., they need to contain the virus. If that means shutting down the country, then that’s what they need to do. So far, we’ve seen some businesses closing and others have remained open. If the virus continues to spread, this approach may not work, and more drastic measures will be required. One reason investors in America were so concerned at first was that the U.S. administration did not seem to be taking coronavirus seriously. That, of course, has now changed.

The next thing government needs to do is increase testing for coronavirus. Until we can find out for sure the number of cases, we won’t be able to get the virus under control. So the government should really fund more testing—bring back retired medical staff and set up temporary testing stations. The hospitals already have enough patients with other conditions to deal with.

The third step is financial support for businesses. Governments should be offering tax cuts and giving direct loans to small businesses to help them. We are starting to see fiscal stimulus packages from both countries but up until now what we saw was the Fed in the U.S. and the Bank of Canada cut interest rates. The problem with that strategy is it doesn’t really directly help many businesses. The biggest problem with coronavirus for most companies will be taking a hit on cash flow and a longer cash conversion cycle. Companies will have difficulty paying overheads, paying suppliers and perhaps making payments on their loans. So more direct support for businesses is what is required. If we have these three measures in place, we might be able to get over the worst of coronavirus in two months.

Can we expect a long or short economic recovery from coronavirus? 

Scott Carson: To give some strategic perspective, consider the fundamental structure of business relationships at the industry level. The basic competitive relationships among rival companies within industries are unchanged by the current situation. Businesses still compete on price, differentiation and the strategic use of resources.

What is being harmfully impacted is at the firm level. First, buyer behaviour is highly volatile, largely because of declining consumer confidence. Second, coronavirus is causing havoc with both production and transportation supply chains, requiring adjustments to current-period business plans. 

But these economic shocks are not permanent. They don’t represent structural changes to industries or a major rethinking of long-range corporate strategies. As with pandemics in the past, such as SARS in 2002-03, avian flu in 2006 and H1N1 in 2009, the duration is usually not much longer than a fiscal quarter, and the economic recovery is V-shaped—precipitously down, then rapidly back up. So, we should be confident that business activity will pick up and the economy will recover.

What will be some of the more long-term effects on businesses from coronavirus?

Louis Gagnon: If anything, the coronavirus should be reminding industry captains, such as Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, that it is simply too dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket and tie our supply chains too closely to any specific country or region halfway across the world. Money managers have known for a long time that diversification across many stocks and sectors makes portfolios less vulnerable and pays off in the long run. This is a lesson which business leaders in other sectors of the economy need to learn as well, especially those who have chosen to export their manufacturing capacity to other countries to drive down their costs. This is basic risk management. 








Principal provides important update to faculty, staff, and students

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Preventative measures at Queen’s are aimed at slowing the rate of infection to ensure the healthcare system can focus on those more seriously affected by the virus.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane has issued a message to the Queen's community about the latest measures the university is taking to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Some of the most important points address meetings and gatherings; academic programming; convocation and degrees; and faculty & staff working arrangements.

Meetings and Gatherings

  • All gatherings, including work-related activities or events, are limited to no more than 10 people.
  • Social events and non-essential gatherings should be cancelled.
  • Essential meetings should be moved online.
  • Everyone should avoid any public spaces where personal distancing of two metres or more is not possible.

Academic Programming

  • Effective immediately, graduate programs will move to remote delivery. Last week, it was announced that undergraduate classes were to be moved to remote delivery. This now means all academic programs will move to remote delivery until the end of the semester.
  • Graduate student research activities should be accessed remotely whenever possible and where not, continue with appropriate social distancing, limiting any activities to 10 people or less.
  • No more in-person classes or labs for duration of the term for undergraduate and graduate courses.
  • No in-person examinations, except for comprehensives/dissertation defences. Consult your supervisor for more information.
  • Students will still complete the academic year, gaining course credits as appropriate, and those set to complete their programs, will do so.
  • Students in Kingston, or in any of our other locations where they may temporarily reside in order to access or academic services, should go home. However, we are not requiring people to leave.
  • Any summer course offerings that are not online are cancelled.
  • Summer programming at the Bader International Study Centre will not take place.

Convocation and Degrees

  • Students will graduate and degrees will be conferred, but spring convocation ceremonies will not take place.


  • Residences, food halls, libraries, and essential administration offices will remain open. With fewer students using services, there will be some reduction in what can be provided.

Faculty and Staff

  • Human Resources will work with managers and staff to find flexible arrangements for staff and faculty affected by the closing of schools in the province.
  • Where possible, faculty and staff are being encouraged to work from home.
  • Over the next week, senior leadership will determine what services are essential.

The full message follows:

Dear Queen’s Community,

I recognize that the last few days have given rise to many questions and concerns about the continuing operation of our university. COVID-19 is spreading around the world at a rapid pace and we are working to make the right decisions to protect our communities. On Friday, you received an email from me indicating that undergraduate classes (with the exception of health professional programs) would be suspended for the coming week as we move toward remote delivery of our programs. We made this decision in step with other post-secondary institutions quickly trying to decide what might be the best preventative approach to curb the spread of the virus. We are having to make decisions in real time, in the face of an ever-changing reality that is nearly impossible to predict. Many staff are working around the clock to ensure that those decisions are made with the latest science considered and with the best advice of our experts in public health. We want to deal with this situation in the best possible way, but to some extent it is a guessing game and no one knows with any certainty what lies ahead.

Some things are certain, however. The virus will come to our campuses, and when it does so we will need to manage it. While it is inevitable that members of our community will get sick, most will have only mild symptoms. They should stay home until they are well and take all possible measures to avoid infecting others. The point is to avoid all of us getting sick at once, because if we can slow the rate of infection through preventative measures like good hygiene and social distancing, we can keep our healthcare system whole and ensure that those few who might be more seriously affected by the virus will have access to the additional medical services they require. This must always be our goal.

We need to protect our community which includes our staff, faculty and students. With that in mind, I am announcing additional preventative measures for us all. Effective immediately, and upon the advice of public health, we are limiting all gatherings, including any work-related activities or events to no more than ten people. Social events and non-essential gatherings should be cancelled. Essential meetings should be moved on-line. Everyone should avoid any public spaces where personal distancing of two metres or more is not possible.

For students, an immediate change is that graduate programs will also be moved to remote delivery. There will be no more in person classes or labs for the duration of the term for undergraduate or graduate courses. There will be no in person exams (with the exception of comprehensives/dissertation defences). Graduate student research activities should be accessed remotely whenever possible and where not, continue with appropriate social distancing. All of the university’s academic programs will move to remote delivery until the end of the semester. Despite this change in format, our expectation is that students will complete the academic year, gaining course credits as appropriate, and those who are set to complete their programs, will do so. We are working diligently to avoid shutting down operations, but we must change the way we do things.

This leads me to convocation. For the foreseeable future social distancing will be critical to containing the spread of the virus, and for that reason convocation ceremonies in the conventional form will simply not be possible. Students will graduate and degrees will be conferred, but mass gatherings of hundreds of people will likely be no less hazardous in two months’ time than they are today. As we work out alternative arrangements we will communicate them, but it seems prudent to let you know now that traditional spring convocation ceremonies will not take place.

In addition, any summer course offerings that are not online are cancelled, and summer programming at the Bader International Centre will not take place.

Moving to remote delivery of academic programming means many students will now complete courses from their homes. We are strongly suggesting that students living in Kingston or any of our other locations where they may temporarily reside in order to access our academic services, should go home. We are not, however, requiring people to leave. We understand not everyone has that option and we will continue to strive to keep required services in order to support those that must remain. However, with fewer students using these services and with much of the staffing provided by students, there will be a reduction in what we are able to provide. This is a natural consequence.

For our staff and faculty, the most important first step is to speak with your manager or Dean about your specific circumstances. Recent announcements from the province closing schools for three weeks creates pressures on parents. Our Human Resources Department is asking managers and staff to find flexibility to accommodate this strain on a significant proportion of our work force. Although the university remains open at this time, we are encouraging staff, where possible, to work remotely. In light of advice from public health for greater social distancing, all offices should think about ways to organize their work to promote this. Please also refer to communication provided by your own Faculties and Divisions about continued operations.

This is an evolving and unprecedented situation and I am asking for your patience, support and creativity as we respond to it. Missteps in this process are inevitable, but I can promise you that the leadership of the university will always be guided by the desire to do what is best for the health and safety of all our students, staff and faculty. COVID-19 will test our health care system, certainly, but it will also test our social institutions in ways that have become vividly apparent in the last few weeks. So far it has challenged our university to find new ways to do its work, to ensure that our communal goal—the education of students and the advancement of knowledge—remains in sight even while the opportunity for personal interactions vital to that mission is reduced or eliminated. This test of our institution is also a test of every individual within it. In proportion to the disaggregating demands placed on us by the virus, we need to show patience, kindness and compassion, to pursue cooperation and to support each other at every opportunity.

I am confident we will prevail.

Patrick Deane
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Principal’s statement on suspension of undergraduate classes

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Queen’s University suspends classes for week of March 16-20 in response to COVID-19.

Dear Queen’s Community,

The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving across the globe. The university recognizes that there is a great deal of concern amongst students, staff and faculty. Our experts, including Public Health officials have advised and stated that the risk to our community remains low because we have no active cases at this time and no community spread.  For purely operational reasons starting on Monday, all undergraduate classes (excluding health professional programs) will be suspended for one week after which we will communicate our plans for alternative delivery.  We need to take time to assess how our educational programs will proceed.  The university will maintain all operations.  Some students may decide to return home and that is left to individual choice.  Residences will remain open. 

With public schools closed across Canada for the next three weeks, additional pressure has been placed on the institution.  We are working on plans for staff and faculty to assist them with childcare pressures due to school closures.  The administration will continue to work daily on communications to support those still on campus here or at our satellite offices in Canada.  Public health is an essential partner and as things change, we will be in constant communication with our community to let them know of any new direction or changes to operations.  The Coronavirus COVID-19 website  is also an excellent source of information so please check it for current information.

Please note that classes and operations at the Bader International Study Centre will continue and any changes regarding that campus will be communicated directly.

Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Prevention and response to COVID-19

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Queen’s increases communication to assist campus in coronavirus preparedness.

Following the appointment of David Walker as lead of the university’s response to coronavirus COVID-19, Queen’s is focusing its efforts on increasing communication and awareness of the virus and potential impact on the community. The university is sending out a message from the Principal to all students about the virus, current prevention strategies, and information on planning underway to address the possibility of a positive case at the university. Additional resources to promote safety and prevention have been created. Up-to-date information on the illness and the institution’s response has been posted to a central Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website, and an infographic to help promote a healthy and respectful campus community is being dispersed through social media.

“The best tool to help us prepare for the potential arrival of COVID-19 on our campus is the sharing of up-to-date information,” says Dr. Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19. “As the global situation with the novel coronavirus continues to evolve, and as Canada logs new cases, Queen’s is readying its response. We hope all of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors familiarize themselves with how to best prevent infection and potential spread within our community.”

There are no identified cases of COVID-19 yet reported in Kingston and the risk on campus is low at this time. The university’s Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website also includes information about COVID-19 symptoms and response, prevention, links to public health authorities, travel advisories, and more. It will be updated daily as new developments and operational plans continue to take shape.

The newly created coronavirus COVID-19 infographic addresses common worries about the outbreak and suggests helpful tips to keep the Queen’s community safe. You can find it on Queen’s Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. People are urged to share it widely. Poster and digital screen versions of the infographic will also be displayed around campus.

Queen’s community members should contact covidinfo@queensu.ca with questions and concerns.

Queen’s appoints COVID-19 response lead

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Former Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, David Walker, to lead university’s coronavirus response.

As part of Queen's University’s continuing response to COVID-19, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane has appointed David Walker as Special Advisor to the Principal on Planning and Preparation for COVID-19.

Dr. Walker, the former dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, is a professor of emergency medicine, family medicine, and policy studies at Queen’s. He also chaired Ontario’s Expert Panel on SARS and Infectious Disease Control in 2003. Under his leadership, Dr. Walker will chair two committees at Queen’s, an operational committee and a stakeholder management committee that will inform the university’s response to this evolving public health issue.

“The time for planning for a pandemic is now,” says Dr. Walker. “We can no longer think about if the virus might come to Canada. It is here and we have to deal with it. The best way to address COVID-19 is with up-to-date and consistent messaging so people have the information they need, and know what to do should there be an outbreak in our community.”

Dr. Walker will be the point person for all matters related to COVID-19 and will work with university stakeholders with advice and instruction from local, regional, and national public health authorities. His role is to ensure the institution is able to continue its operations through prevention if possible and with proactive planning should disruption of services occur. The operational committee will meet daily while the stakeholder management committee, comprised of senior leadership, faculty representatives, students, and local community members including city officials will meet weekly in an effort to coordinate and quickly implement the university’s response to emerging issues. Prevention measures and comprehensive communication, policy updates, and contingency planning will be rolled out under Dr. Walker’s leadership. The university currently has an ad hoc committee that has been meeting daily since mid-January to address COVID-19 concerns largely overseas. This group will now become part of the operational committee as focus shifts to campus concerns.

“The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors to Queen’s are our top priorities,” says Principal Deane. “Although the risk on campus is low at this time, the situation is constantly evolving and the potential for this virus to affect our campus and the Kingston community cannot be ignored. Dr. Walker is an expert in this field and I know his leadership on this will be invaluable to Queen’s as we face this public health challenge.”

For updates regarding the university’s response to COVID-19, visit the university’s Coronavirus COVID-19 Information website.

Questions and concerns can be directed to covidinfo@queensu.ca.


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