Let me begin by thanking everyone. The past week has not been easy and, as the level of uncertainty about COVID-19 has mounted, so too has the need for us to make decisions we never could have imagined making just days ago. That is true not just at the university but also for our families.
Today, the federal government announced additional measures to try to slow the pace and impact of the pandemic, including the Prime Minister telling Canadians that they should stay home. These measures are being undertaken for all the right reasons. If Canada can slow the pace of COVID-19 it can save lives. Hospitals and healthcare workers in other countries have been overwhelmed as case numbers soar and if there is a way that we can avoid that here, it is what needs to happen.
Social distancing measures requiring that as many of us as possible stay home and limiting gatherings to fewer than 50 people, create new challenges for the university. McMaster will continue to be open but our focus will be on required services that protect health and safety, that help our students complete their term, and that support essential research.
This means that all areas should ensure that any employees who can work from home are able to do so. Supervisors will help to find ways that services can be maintained online or on the phone. We may not be able to deliver services in the way we are used to, but we can still achieve great things by adapting our approaches.
We are asking that students make their plans to move out of residence. The details will be shared with residence students shortly, including directions for anyone who needs special consideration to stay in residence for an extended period of time.
The details of McMaster’s plan for completing academic programs and course evaluations using alternate online arrangements continue to unfold, and faculty are beginning to share the new plans with students.
Research happens in every corner of the university and it is always a prime consideration. The vice-president, Research and the associate deans are working together to develop guidance and business continuity plans which they will be sharing with the campus community.
I encourage everyone to focus on what we can do rather than on what we cannot do. How can we continue to help our students? How can we maintain a strong McMaster community that supports each other? How can we help our neighbours across campus or across the street from where we live?
People are understandably nervous and worried as our lives are being impacted in unsettling ways. But we are also caring and thoughtful and it is the time to show our determination to take care of each other and our communities.
This is not the time to worry about having perfect answers. It is the time to work together in the best ways we can. Thank you to everyone for all of your extraordinary efforts to date and over the weeks to come.