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Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Confronting COVID-19

Connecting with students

Queen’s staff go door-to-door to share information on academic resources, wellness, COVID-19, and more.

  • Bags set up for the Community outreach initiative
    Bags were filled with information about resources available to students including from Career Services. (University Communications)
  • Bags set up for the Community outreach initiative
    Hundreds of bags were handed out by Queen's staff to students living near campus on March 15 and March 16. (University Communications)
  • Queen's staff speak to students living near campus
    Queen's staff speak to students living near campus, checking on their wellbeing and providing information on keeping the community healthy and safe. (University Communications)
  • A Queen's staff member hands over a bag with treats and information
    A Queen's student living near campus accepts a bag filled with care items and the latest updates from public health, employment resources, and wellness information. (University Communications)
  • A Queen's student holds her dog as she greets a Queen's staff member taking part in a community outreach initiative on Monday, March 15. (University Communications)
    A Queen's student holds her dog as she greets a Queen's staff member taking part in a community outreach initiative on Monday, March 15. (University Communications)

Queen’s staff from across Students Affairs were busy March 15 and 16 going door-to-door in the near-campus neighbourhood, safely connecting with students to raise awareness of measures in place leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, the latest information from public health, as well as summer employment, and wellness information.

The effort marks the third time this academic year that Queen’s staff have engaged directly with students living in nearby housing to highlight the need for everyone to continue following best practices for staying safe and healthy.

“We have received a tremendous amount of positive feedback for these community outreach initiatives. We have been delighted to see how excited students are to chat with us, get their questions answered, and receive details about campus resources,” says Lindsay Winger, Assistant Dean, Support Services and Community Engagement. “The pandemic has been difficult for our entire campus community, and we are so grateful for the support to be able to connect safely with students through this engagement. Thank you to all the volunteers and campus partners who have made this a success.”

Students responded positively to the visits and conversations. Upper-year students were particularly interested in the resources offered by Career Services as they look for summer jobs, or take the first steps in post-university life.

““Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is important, but also can be extremely isolating. This is why it is important for the university to engage with students – which creates a personal connection,” says Jared den Otter, President of the Alma Mater Society. “I know these visits are appreciated while also being an important way to share information.”

With an increasing number of cases involving Variants of Concern (VOC), students are being encouraged to be tested even if they are not experiencing symptoms. The KHSC satellite COVID-19 assessment centre located in Mitchell Hall, is regularly open to test students from Monday to Friday, 9 am-4 pm, and will be running extended hours until 8:30 pm, now through March 19, inclusive. Appointments can be booked by calling Student Wellness Services at 613-533-2506. Evening appointments (4-8:30 pm) can also be booked online.

The off-campus visits were also an opportunity to share information about the Section 22 Order by KFL&A Public Health as a precautionary measure to help limit the spread of COVID-19. This order, currently in effect March 13-21, prohibits hosting or attending indoor or outdoor social gatherings with more than five people. The order, which in place city-wide, also includes several restrictions for businesses that serve alcohol.

For more information on Queen’s University’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and for related resources, visit the Queen’s COVID-19 Information website.

Students who didn’t receive a visit can email supportservices@queensu.ca to receive the information that was distributed. 

Marking one year of COVID-19

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane shares a video message with the campus community on the first anniversary of the pandemic.

Dear Queen’s Community,

This time last year we felt the first impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university moved to remote learning and most of us began working from home. The entire world changed dramatically and now, a year later, it is necessary to reflect on what has happened over the past twelve months and to mark the significance of this anniversary. So many things are different and we cannot ignore the impact and the toll this virus has had on us all. Sadly, we are not done with it yet. But there is reason for hope. Mass vaccination will be here soon and we are doing everything we can to ensure that our community stays safe and healthy until then. As we look to a brighter future, we must acknowledge that there are still challenges ahead. We must continue to support one another, show compassion and understanding and know that working together, we will get through this. I encourage you to watch my short video that reminds us of how far we have already come and to acknowledge and thank all of you for your courage, resilience and commitment to our institution.

With gratitude,

Patrick Deane
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Video call system to reduce PPE demand

Queen’s University researcher Michael Greenspan safely improves the way patients and health care workers connect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The patient call button is a piece of equipment that is taken for granted in most hospitals. In fact, the technology behind it hasn’t been updated in decades.

But now, Queen’s researcher Michael Greenspan, Department of Electrical and Computing Engineering,  is running a pilot project at Belleville General Hospital that aims to upgrade the  call button system with some modern technology.

 “Basically, there is a computer tablet in a patient’s room, and one outside of the room for a health care worker to use,” says Dr. Greenspan. “The patient and nurse can interact safely, and it saves the hospital staff from changing into and out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

While certain patient interactions still require health care providers to be physically present in the room, many routine interactions, like ones that are currently handled through hourly or intentional rounding, can be done as effectively and more efficiently, through a face-to-face video call conversation.

 

a modern call button system being piloted at Belleville General Hospital
A modern patient call button that is being piloted at Belleville General Hospital 

The COVID challenge

One of the main challenges hospitals are facing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is a shortage of PPE, especially masks, N95 respirators, goggles, visors, and gowns.

“Even though hospitals are re-using or extending the use of some of these PPE elements to conserve these limited products, PPE shortages remain prevalent across Canada and worldwide and these shortages are likely to be a concern for the foreseeable future,” says Dr. Greenspan. “Whereas other efforts have been oriented to increasing the supply of PPE, we’ve focused on the other side of the equation, ad are working towards decreasing the demand through the use of this interactive technology.”

The research was initially funded through the Ingenuity Labs Research Opportunities Seed Fund, and then through the Ontario Centres of Excellence VIP project, which included a contribution from HHAngus and Associates Ltd, an engineering firm with a focus on health care facilities. The project involves collaborators  Dr. Jennifer Medves (School of Nursing), Dr. Dick  Zoutman (Medicine), as well as colleagues from Queen’s Ingenuity Labs. Several other students and recent Queen’s graduates are also working on the project, including an ECE MEng recent graduate, software developer and team lead Ankit Dhanda.

Beyond the pandemic

Officials at Belleville General Hospital are keeping the system in place for now. Dr. Greenspan says the researchers have developed a new version, with a number of additional and advanced features based on the feedback that they have received, and are on track to install this new version in the spring.

Plans to evolve the patient call button were well underway when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and, once it subsides, the research team is hoping to circle back to the original vision of re-engineering the call button system entirely. The original vision involved adding in a series of sensors to monitor the patient and their environment, and then processing the data with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning methods, in order to detect and predict unsafe events or conditions. The technology could one day provide a better way for health care workers to interact with and monitor patients

“We hope to not only apply a different version to a hospital setting, but expand the system even further,” says Dr. Greenspan.  “The technology could be used in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals, because the patients there are especially vulnerable and need to be protected from infection,” says Dr. Greenspan. “Overall, this technology upgrade  could lead to better efficiencies, better health outcomes, and higher patient and health care worker satisfaction.”

 

 

Public health introduces new limits ahead of St. Patrick’s Day

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green reached out to the Queen’s community informing them that, due to concerns around St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, the KFL&A Public Health’s Medical Officer of Health has implemented a new Section 22 Order as a precautionary measure to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in the Kingston community  

The Section 22 Order is effective from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, March 13, 2021 until Sunday, March 21, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. The order, which is in effect city wide, prohibits hosting or attending indoor or outdoor social gatherings with more than five persons. The order also includes several restrictions for businesses that serve alcohol.

Provost Green added that the university has confirmed with KFL&A Public Health that the five-person gathering limit does not apply to residents of your own household. For example, if you live with seven other individuals, you are permitted to gather, however you cannot add additional non-household members. If your household only has four people, you could add one additional non-household member to the gathering.

Failure to comply with the order may result in a Part 1 Summons that can carry a fine up to $5,000 under Ontario’s Health Promotion and Protection Act (HPPA), and can also be considered under the Student Code of Conduct. 

KFL&A Public Health has advised that this Section 22 Order has been established to address the following concerns:

  1. The increasing concern in Ontario due to risk of COVID-19 variants;
  2. To protect our community and keep our schools and economy safe and open;
  3. To prevent illness given that Kingston has not received the same amount of vaccine as other communities in Ontario and the time to achieve maximum immunity after a first dose of a vaccine;
  4. To minimize impact on our EMS and hospital resources during a time that typically sees an increase risk for impact.

“I’m very grateful to the Queen’s community, and to our students in particular, for your committed efforts to adhere to the Public Health guidelines over the past year,” Provost Green writes. “I know the limitations on social gatherings haven’t been easy. Let’s continue to stand strong and keep our campus community, and Kingston, safe. With the continued roll-out of the vaccine in Canada, there is hope for brighter days ahead.”

Tracking COVID immunity

Researcher Anne Ellis, along with co-investigators Stephen Vanner and Prameet Sheth, receive federal funding to study COVID transmission and immunity among students and staff working in healthcare.

Researcher, clinician, and chair in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Queen’s University, Anne Ellis (Medicine) is perhaps best known for her role as Director of the Allergy Research Unit at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre. Now, her internationally recognized expertise in allergies and allergy treatment testing is being applied to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research Pivot

Through its COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF), the Government of Canada recently announced over $220,000 in funding for Dr. Ellis to advance a new research study that will examine SARS-CoV-2 transmission and immunity among students and staff in clinical placements. The research goal is to test for SARS-CoV-2 and monitor the seroprevalence of health professional students returning to Queen’s campus, on arrival and throughout their studies.  

“A study of this size and nature is completely in our wheelhouse,” says Dr. Ellis. “The Research Unit routinely performs large-scale pharmaceutical or investigator-sponsored clinical trials featuring hundreds of research participants with significant logistics and safety measures at play. With allergy studies temporarily on hold due to COVID-19, our multidisciplinary team, including nurses, phlebotomists, technical and research staff, and graduate students, efficiently pivoted to develop this study in two short months.”

[Photo of healthcare workers]
Ellis' internationally recognized expertise in allergies and allergy treatment testing is being applied to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the support from the CITF, Dr. Ellis, along with co-Investigators Stephen Vanner (Medicine) and Prameet Sheth (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), will recruit 500 asymptomatic students from the Faculty of Health Sciences. Through their placements, students will have direct interactions routinely with each other, the general public, and ambulatory and in-patient populations at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre, putting them at greater risk of exposure to the virus. With guidance from Gerald Evans, the Chair of the Division of Infectious Diseases, researchers will test the students for active COVID-19 infection. They will also test their blood for the presence of antibodies, which would suggest they had a previous infection. Participants will also complete a questionnaire to establish associations between their test results and other factors such as demographics, physical health measurements, mental health, lifestyle factors, medical history, travel history, COVID-19-related history, COVID-19 prevention practices, exposure, and testing.

Both types of tests will be repeated on all participants three more times over eight-months to capture any changes in infection rates and antibody levels.

Measuring Antibodies

“Our study will evaluate the likelihood of the students becoming infected with the virus and developing antibodies following infection,” says Dr. Ellis. Antibodies are protective proteins produced by our immune system upon exposure to a specific threat, such as a virus or pathogen, that help our body fight off the infection. They stick around in the blood after the body has cleared the infection, providing us with some immunological protection against reinfection. “If participants previously had COVID-19 but have no detectable antibodies in their blood, this might indicate that they are not protected against future reinfection of the virus. The presence of antibodies or lack thereof is equally exciting to determine."

[Photo of a healthcare worker]

Given the recent developments and vaccine approvals, the team has made some changes to the research. “We recently added several recovered COVID-19 patients from the local community into the study to measure their antibody levels as controls to further inform this study,” says Dr. Ellis.

Dr. Ellis plans to share the questionnaire findings with epidemiologist Kathie Doliszny to gain a ‘bigger picture’ understanding of COVID-19 infection and long-term immunological impacts. The results from this research study are also expected to help shape pandemic management policies and procedures instigated by universities and public health units across the country.

COVID Immunity Task Force

In late April 2020, the Government of Canada established the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force a representative set of volunteer experts, including Chief Public Health Officer and Head of Public Health h Agency of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, from across the country who are focused on understanding the nature of immunity arising from the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and its prevalence in the general population, specific communities, and priority populations.

For more information on the COVID Immunity Task Force, please visit the website.

Planning for 2021-22 academic year

Planning for the 2021-22 year at Queen’s is underway, and the university looks forward to expanding on-campus activities in the fall term.

Decisions regarding on-campus activities are guided by the Academic Operations Group and the Campus Operations Group, and the Senior Leadership Team. These groups consider a range of factors, including advice from local public health officials, the evolution of government regulations, consultation with bargaining agents, input from student governments, international travel restrictions, forecasts on the vaccine roll-out in Canada, and the varied needs of students, staff, and faculty. With COVID-19 expected to still be active in the fall, flexible options may still be required as appropriate.

Fall 2021: As part of the hope to be back to some degree of normalcy by fall, the university is planning that many small classes, labs, and tutorials will be offered in-person, with appropriate safety protocols in place. If restrictions remain in place throughout the fall, such as physical distancing measures and class size limitations, Queen’s expects most large classes may need to be delivered remotely.

Winter 2022: Depending on the vaccine distribution timeline, government regulations, and public health guidance, Queen’s is cautiously optimistic that on-campus activities will return to normal in the winter term.

“I know this past year has been challenging, and I want to thank the Queen’s community again for all you have done to adapt to these difficult circumstances and limit the spread of COVID-19,” says Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green.

Updates on the 2021-22 academic year will be shared on the COVID-19 website as more information is available.

Research@Queen’s: Clinical trials for game-changing cancer research

To recognize World Cancer Day, Queen’s is profiling the Canadian Cancer Trials Group and its role in facilitating cancer clinical trials that lead to better outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients globally.

[Illustration by Gary Neill of petri dishes]
Illustration by Gary Neill
Discover Research@Queen’s
Did you know that the university launched a central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on how our researchers are confronting COVID-19, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

Will exercise help prevent colorectal cancer from coming back? Can a new blood test for DNA markers predict which prostate cancer patients will be helped most by experimental targeted therapies? Is it safe for young women with breast cancer who wish to become pregnant to temporarily interrupt endocrine therapy to try to have a baby? Will a new four-drug combination save the lives of more pancreatic cancer patients after surgery?

The Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), headquartered at Queen’s University, asks and finds evidence-based answers to critical questions about the best treatment options for the 225,000 Canadians diagnosed with cancer each year. Innovations proven to be effective through CCTG led clinical trials have set new standards of care that guide treatment decisions for patients today and tomorrow: curing disease, preventing recurrence, saving lives, and improving quality of life.

Continue the story on the Research@Queen’s website.

Reflecting on COVID-19 one year in

A panel of experts reassembled to discuss the pandemic so far and the policies needed going forward.

Shortly after Canada identified its first case of COVID-19 in January 2020, the Queen’s School of Policy Studies assembled a panel of four experts to discuss the novel coronavirus and the role of public policy in the fight against it. One year later, this same panel got back together to reflect on the pandemic one year in and to talk about how their understanding of the virus has changed since January 2020 and the challenges it presents for policy today.

“We thought it might be useful to look again through our policy lenses at what we’ve learned during the past twelve months and how those lessons can inform policy going forward,” said Dr. David Walker, Special Advisor to the Principal on COVID-19 and Professor of Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, and Policy Studies at Queen’s, as he opened the discussion.

In addition to Dr. Walker, the panel brought together three other experts: Dr. Samantha Buttemer, Resident Physician in Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Queen’s and a family physician; Dr. Gerald Evans, Chair of Infectious Diseases in the Queen’s Department of Medicine and Director of Infection, Prevention, and Control at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre; and Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health (Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington Health Unit) and Professor, Family and Emergency Medicine, at Queen’s.

The panelists addressed a wide variety of topics during the hour-long discussion, touching on policy as well as scientific and social aspects of the pandemic. Dr. Evans discussed how scientific understanding of the virus has evolved, and what he got wrong about COVID-19 during the first panel last year. Dr. Moore spoke about the role of public health during the pandemic. And Dr. Buttemer looked at the connection between the pandemic and inequities in Canadian society.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated the inequities in our society, and I think we need to spend some time reflecting on that and what we can do societally from a policy level to make changes so that this not the way we move forward,” said Dr. Buttemer.

At the end of the event, the panelists said they hoped to be able to reconvene in January 2022, but this time to discuss the end of the pandemic.

“Events like this one are an important way in which Queen’s can use its experts to share their knowledge about the pandemic with the community and bring attention to what we are learning as the pandemic progresses. I thank all four panelists for their involvement and the community members who attended for their enthusiastic engagement,” says Warren Mabee, Director, School of Policy Studies.

Watch the recent panel on the SPS YouTube channel. A recording of the January 2020 panel can be found on their YouTube channel as well.

SPS also co-hosts a weekly lecture series called Contagion Cultures that draws on experts from the Faculty of Arts and Science to provide context for understanding the cultural ramifications of pandemics. Learn more about Contagion Cultures on the SPS website.

Longer, stricter lockdowns most effective, according to Queen’s economist

Queen’s researcher Christopher Cotton is one of the authors of “Building the Canadian Shield,” an approach that says a longer lockdown will save more lives and cost less economically.

As we settle into the first week of the declared State of Emergency, many Ontarians are wondering what impact the restrictions will have on COVID-19 cases and our local, regional, and national economies.

STUDIO model

Though the STUDIO model, Queen’s University economists Cotton, Huw Lloyd-Ellis, Bahman Kashi, Frederic Tremblay (PhD candidate), and alumnus Brett Crowley (BSc ’18; BA’ 19), in partnership with industry partner Limestone Analytics, are helping national and international policymakers build a roadmap for economic recovery efforts. The model produces an array of projections to show what will happen to the economy in different situations, depending on how the disease spreads, and how governments, consumers and firms respond to it. Understanding how economic outcomes respond to policy choices under alternative scenarios will help governments plan their response to COVID-19 over the coming months. In addition to the model being applied in Ontario and across Canada, the team is also working with governments in Rwanda and Malawi.

Queen’s researcher Christopher Cotton (Economics) is the senior economist on the COVID Strategic Choices Group, an interdisciplinary taskforce that includes doctors, epidemiologists, public policy and industry experts, and economists. The group has modelled the epidemiological and economic consequences of various lockdown scenarios. In their recently released strategy paper, “Building the Canadian Shield,” they say their alternative — a pan-Canadian, longer lockdown, followed by a gradual results-based relaxing of restrictions — will save more lives and cost less economically than the COVID-mitigation strategies most of the country has adopted.

For the economic analysis, the group adapted the STUDIO (Short-Term Under-capacity Dynamic Input-Output) model, developed by Cotton with Queen’s economics faculty in partnership with Limestone Analytics, a Kingston-based research and analytics firm, to map economic losses from COVID-19.

The Canadian Shield approach caught the attention of decision makers and media across Canada when it was released last week. The Gazette caught up with Dr. Cotton, the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic and Financial Policy, to understand more about the modelling and the recommendations.

COVID-19 and Economic Modelling

You have been mapping COVID economic losses and economic recovery efforts since the spring. How did the combination of the economic modelling with epidemiological predictions cause you to look differently at the types of lockdowns?

[Photo of Chris Cotton]
Dr. Christopher Cotton, Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic and Financial Policy

Christopher Cotton: The STUDIO model was originally developed to help quantify the economic costs of alternative lockdown and reopening scenarios, in terms of jobs and GDP loss, at the national, provincial, and local levels. Lockdown policies are very costly for the economy and our analysis helped local policymakers understand how their communities were affected, and weigh the tradeoffs between health and economic projections. Since the beginning of the lockdowns last year, the tension between health and the economy has been front and centre in the policy discussion and our model added some hard evidence to this discussion. 

At the end of 2020, our team started working with epidemiologists who were providing longer-term projections of how the different lockdown strategies are likely to affect future waves of COVID-19 and lockdown policies that are likely to occur between now and when the vaccine is widely disseminated. We compared economic outcomes under several alternative mitigation and recovery scenarios, matching them to the long-term epidemiological and policy projections being considered by Global Canada's COVID Strategic Choices initiative.

Lockdown and Recovery

Was there anything surprising from the results of your modelling for the COVID Strategic Choices Group?

Christopher Cotton: Since the beginning of COVID, our team has been providing local economic estimates of the job and GDP loss associated with stricter lockdown policies. In many ways, our model provides policymakers evidence about the benefits of relaxing lockdown restrictions more quickly, at least in locations or sectors where it can be done safely. 

When we started looking beyond the short-term relaxations of lockdown restrictions to also consider how today’s policies affected the probability of additional waves of lockdown later in the year, the results were remarkable. It showed us just how important it is to consider the tradeoffs between economics and health over the longer term, and not just during the current wave of the disease.   

Our model allowed us to ask whether the economy is better off under an on-again, off-again cycle of less-strict lockdowns, or a stricter lockdown in the beginning of 2021, which allowed for a more-full recovery more quickly. The analysis is clear: The on-again, off-again lockdown cycle is worse for the economy than a stricter up-front lockdown that avoids future waves later in the spring.

Economic Impact

The argument for the mitigation approach (on and off-again lockdowns) has generally been that, following a lockdown, restrictions must be quickly eased to kick-start economies. Can you tell us why this is not the case?

Christopher Cotton: A quicker reopening might be good for the economy in the short run, but it makes it more likely that we will need another wave of lockdowns later in the year, perhaps multiple waves, before vaccines are available widely enough to allow for full reopening. The epidemiological projections are showing that if we rush into reopening too soon, or we don't take the current lockdown measures seriously enough, then we will have to go through additional waves of lockdowns before the vaccine is distributed widely enough to prevent shutdown. If we prioritize reopening as quickly as possible or don't take the current measures seriously, we will enter a cycle of on-again, off-again restrictions for the next eight months.  

Our economic model allows us to compare the overall costs to the Canadian economy of such an on-again, off-again cycle of lockdown restrictions, with the overall economic costs associated with a stricter, longer lockdown in the beginning, which lets us avoid additional waves of lockdowns later in the spring. We see that a stricter lockdown in the beginning is less costly in terms of lost jobs and GDP if it means no additional waves of lockdowns later. 

This is because the economic downturn associated with a lockdown doesn't disappear as soon as lockdown restrictions are lifted. Rather, it takes several months for the economy to recover after a lockdown, even a relatively short one. So, the on-again, off-again lockdown cycle is particularly costly for the economy because we start to recover, and then, even before we are fully recovered, we end up having to lockdown again and start the long recovery process over.

Pan-Canadian Approach

The “Building the Canadian Shield” strategy calls for a pan-Canadian approach to a longer, stricter lockdown. How is this defined?

Christopher Cotton: The paper outlines three major steps — the Canadian Shield approach — that the epidemiological research indicates could be taken to get COVID-19 cases under control as quickly as possible and avoid additional waves of the lockdown:

  1. Sustain an effective lockdown until COVID-19 cases are low enough that testing, tracing and isolation can work effectively;
  2. Relax restrictions only to the extent that new COVID-19 cases continue a steady decline of 17 per cent to 25 per cent per week; and
  3. Proactively assist the individuals, businesses and communities most affected by these policies.

It is important to note, however, that although the Canadian Shield approach involves strict lockdown measures today, it also recognizes that such restrictions are very costly and emphasizes the need to relax them in places where this can be done without seeing another uptick in transmission rates. The recommendations are mainly about avoiding a third wave later in the spring; which means a more cautious reopening strategy over the coming weeks and months.

Implementation and Change

What has the response been to the strategy? Has it caught the attention of decision-makers?

Christopher Cotton: Over the past several weeks, our research team’s economic analysis and the Canadian Shield proposal more broadly have been central in discussions of COVID-19 strategy at both a federal and provincial level. Not only has our analysis received a lot of media attention, but we have also engaged in discussions with or provided additional projections and analysis for policymakers. Newly announced measures in Ontario and Quebec are broadly consistent with the Canadian Shield strategy.

Our analysis is showing how the economic and health recommendations are not really at odds. Elimination of the disease and returning to normal sooner than later is better for both public health and the economy, even if the short run economic costs are high. 

Planning for post-pandemic recovery

The Queen’s School of Policy Studies is laying out strategies for building a better society in the wake of COVID-19 in a series of white papers.

Photograph of Parliament building in Ottawa
The COVID-19 Working Groups have already published three white papers on ageing well, the future of work, and the future of governance after the pandemic. (Shutterstock.)

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have rippled across every aspect of society. To confront all this change and uncertainty, the Queen’s School of Policy Studies (SPS) brought together researchers from across the university to create several interdisciplinary COVID-19 working groups to explore the impact of the pandemic and ask how we might use it as an opportunity to reshape some parts of our world for the better. Each of the eight working groups focuses on a specific topic, including arts and culture, economics, and healthcare.

After beginning their work last spring, the working groups have begun sharing their findings through a series of white papers. Three white papers have already been published on the topics of “Ageing Well,” “The Future of Work Post-Pandemic,” and “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Governance in Canada.” Significant media attention has already amplified findings from these papers, and additional publications are expected to follow from the other working groups.

“The COVID-19 Working Groups in the School of Policy Studies have given Queen’s the chance to contribute to the national dialogue on a range of pressing topics. We want to use our expertise to help Canada emerge from the pandemic with a plan for building a strong and sustainable future,” says Warren Mabee, Associate Dean and Director, SPS.

Ageing well and the future of work

Long-term care homes have been struck especially hard by the pandemic, which prompted the COVID-19 Health Policy Working Group to focus on Canada’s approach to ageing in its first white paper. “Ageing Well” broadens the perspective of the current crisis in long-term care to the forthcoming tsunami of older seniors and the critical issue of quality of life and what seniors wish.  Studies show that few want to go to long-term care, and they prefer to “age in place.” The working group suggests that Canada needs to make greater efforts to provide supports so seniors can remain in their home longer and to create a variety of other living arrangements based in the community. To accommodate the desire to live independently the white paper argues more needs to be done to prevent or at least alleviate chronic conditions such as dementia and frailty.

The pandemic has also created new urgency for planning for changes to work and the economy. Looking at issues such as labour trends, economic recovery, and income support, the COVID-19 Economic Policy Working Group explores potential long-term effects in “The Future of Work Post-Pandemic.” While some sectors of the economy may be able to return to a pre-pandemic normal, the working group shows that Canada must be prepared to address a changed economic landscape in the wake of COVID-19.

“Ageing and the economy are two of Canada’s most pressing issues. Canada will need to support the needs of 4.2 million additional seniors over the next 22 years and 82 per cent will be 75 or older.  It’s pertinent we think about the long-term implications of Canada’s next steps for seniors, and the associated costs,” says Don Drummond, Stauffer-Dunning Fellow in SPS and co-author of both white papers. “As for the economy, many worthy national initiatives under consideration would require further, massive government spending when government debts and deficits have already ballooned. These needs and desires will need to be balanced against the importance of avoiding the next crisis being fiscal.”

The future of governance

The third white paper focuses on the role of government in managing a national crisis such as this pandemic. In “The Impact of COVID-19 on the Future of Governance in Canada,” the COVID-19 Governance Working Group explores how the Canadian government can best lead the country out of the current situation. The white paper argues that government institutions function well for Canadians but will also need to be adapted for a successful recovery when the pandemic dies down. Some of the initial ideas of the working group appeared in a series of op-eds in The Ottawa Citizen and were featured in podcasts by the Institute on Governance; these ideas are refined in the final white paper

“At the heart of the paper is a recognition that governance – especially how we collectively make decisions and who is at the table – is central to the successful recovery of the country. This is an opportunity that we should not miss,” says Kathy Brock, Professor and Senior Fellow, SPS, and co-author of the white paper.

Read the white papers from the COVID-19 working groups on the SPS website. Additional publications from the working groups will be published on that website as they become available.

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