As November dawns, the classic, cold, Canadian weather is beginning to settle in, and with that comes the dreaded flu season. However, the talk of sick cases may have people concerned and circling back to nature’s version of a slasher-horror film character that refuses to be kept at bay: COVID-19.
While York has implemented safety procedures and has encouraged the use of masks on campus since the start of the fall semester, flu season can be a catalyst for an increase in COVID-19 cases. Since mid-September, cases have seen a steady rise with 9,634 reported in Ontario during the week of Oct. 16 to Oct. 22, according to Public Health Ontario.
In a recent article, CTV News reports the potential of an upsurge in the fall, with Ontario hospitalizations reaching a high.
“Data released by the Ministry of Health suggests there were 1,465 people testing positive for COVID-19 in Ontario hospitals as of October 5th, up from 1,265 the previous week and 1,141 on Sept. 22,” reports the news outlet. “It is the highest number of people in hospital with COVID-19 since Aug. 4 and is said to be approaching the peak of the summer wave on July 28 when 1,492 people were hospitalized.”
These concerns have found their way back to York University with faculty airing grievances through Twitter regarding ventilation issues, rising CO2 levels in classrooms and how this could play into a potential rise in COVID infections amongst students.
A second year commerce student, who wishes to remain anonymous, reached out to voice their misgivings about attending class in-person due to the uncertainty surrounding the performance of York’s HVAC systems.
“COVID-19 is airborne and still floating around […] I wish Scott Library would lend out CO2 monitors similar to what the Toronto Public Library does, so that we could check the air quality in our classrooms,” says the anonymous student. “I pay expensive school fees, why isn’t the university using this money to keep students safe? We should have reports on the air quality every month in the winter to make sure classes are safe.”
York University’s Advisor and Deputy Spokesperson in Media Relations and External Communications, Yanni Dagonas, acknowledges the concerns voiced by the York community and notes that “Facilities Services staff respond to calls about ventilation regularly [— which] isn’t necessarily COVID-19 related.”
York’s Facility Services webpage details procedures for maintaining proper ventilation and maximizing air quality.
A report published Oct. 28 by York University’s Faculty Association (YUFA) criticized the university’s alleged disregard towards ventilation in favor of “recycled air” and an “energy efficiency strategy.” YUFA urges the university to “mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 and other seasonal viruses” by ensuring the availability and accessibility to masks, providing air quality sensors, and making other efforts to maintain good air quality on campus.