Edmonton

Alberta's 2 largest universities delay return to in-person classes until late February

With hospitalization rates rising and record-setting case numbers and positivity rates, the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary will keep staff and students home for next few weeks.

'Unfortunately, the Omicron variant continues to spread aggressively'

The University of Calgary and the University of Alberta are delaying the return to in-person classes until the current wave of COVID-19, caused by the Omicron variant, recedes. (David Bell/CBC/University of Alberta)

Alberta's two largest post-secondary institutions — the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary — are delaying the return to in-person classes until late February.

"Unfortunately, the Omicron variant continues to spread aggressively across the country and new data forecasts the peak in Alberta for late January or early February," U of A president Bill Flanagan said in a news release Friday.

"Given these realities, we have decided to extend enhanced campus safety measures for the first half of the semester and to delay the return to in-person activities until Feb. 28."

The U of C announced it is extending online classes until Feb. 19.

Both universities moved to online learning for the first two weeks of January as the Omicron variant precipitated a fifth wave of COVID-19.

But with hospitalization rates rising and record-setting case numbers and positivity rates, staff and students will be kept home.

"We know that a return to campus as soon as possible is in the best interests of all members of the university community," Flanagan said. 

"Given what we currently know about the anticipated peak of Omicron, we have a high degree of confidence that we can safely return to campuses and our full winter 2022 schedule of in-person courses on Feb. 28."

On Thursday, Alberta recorded 62,733 active cases of COVID-19, the highest at any point in the near two-year stretch of the pandemic, but Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, acknowledged the true figure is likely 10 times that number.

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