Skip to main content

U of A staff ask administration to bring back campus mask mandate

A person wearing a mask walks on the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton, Alta., on Nov. 21, 2022. A person wearing a mask walks on the University of Alberta campus in Edmonton, Alta., on Nov. 21, 2022.

The University of Alberta's administration has been asked to bring back a mask mandate on campus.

The Association of Academic Staff University of Alberta (AASUA) sent a letter with the request to the board of governors' chair and president Bill Flanagan on Saturday following its annual general meeting.

"Our view was we can't go backwards now after all the hard work we've done over the last two years in fighting back COVID-19 [and] that we want our workplace to be as healthy as possible," AASUA president Gordon Swaters told CTV News Edmonton on Monday. 

The U of A has "strongly recommended" mask use in indoor spaces, as well as a number of other safety measures, since June when the provincial government dropped the last of its COVID-19 public health measures. 

Swaters said the decision to write the university's leadership was based on trends seen in classrooms.

"I'm told by my members they hear a lot of coughing in the classes. Now, I'm not suggesting every cough is the result of COVID-19 or the flu or perhaps even RSV. But it's making members apprehensive," Swaters explained. 

"People who teach, who we represent, say that their classes seem less full." 

The university does not collect student absence data, and could not say whether classrooms had grown emptier since the start of the semester. 

Swaters acknowledged his members' observations are anecdotal, but felt comfortable making a general conclusion: "It appears that people are sick."

The association also asked for science-based criteria for lifting masking requirements. 

A U of A spokesperson confirmed the school received the letter, telling CTV News Edmonton, "We will maintain guiding safety measures accordingly based on the best advice available."

Ross Neitz added the university's public health response team was monitoring the situation in the community. 

Alberta has confirmed it is seeing an early rise in season infections like influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and COVID-19. New Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mark Joffe in his first public statement on Nov. 16 said officials are expecting a "severe season." 

A week ago, interim provost and academic vice president Dr. Verna Yiu – formerly CEO of Alberta Health Services – urged the school community to get vaccinated and follow best public health advice, such as staying home if unwell

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Evan Kenny Top Stories

Stay Connected