Manitoba post-secondary schools staying open, but taking steps to prevent COVID-19 spread on campus

Some Manitoba universities won't close just yet, though school administrators say they're making moves to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and that includes urging exchange students studying abroad to come home.

U of Manitoba, U of Winnipeg, Brandon University and RRC won't close yet, administrators say

The University of Manitoba's Fort Garry campus will remain open, though the administration says it's taking steps now to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Manitoba's biggest post-secondary schools won't close just yet, though school administrators say they're making moves to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and that includes urging exchange students from the province studying abroad to come home.

Brandon University has a critical incident team that is in contact with health authorities and is mulling next steps, a university spokesperson said.

The Brandon school will remain open for the time being, as will the University of Manitoba, the University of Winnipeg and Red River College, according to administrators at the post-secondary institutions.

"Heeding the advice of public health authorities, we have made the determination that the need to act is now, while there is still a window of opportunity to make a positive impact and to the extent possible, help protect the community," reads a letter to U of M staff and students sent out Thursday by president David Barnard.

The measures come on the same day that the Manitoba government announced the first three presumptive cases of COVID-19 in the province.

The note states the U of M is implementing measures effective immediately to stem the spread, including cancelling or postponing all university-planned events involving more than 50 people.

The 2020 U Sports Men's Volleyball Championships, scheduled to take place at the U of M from Friday to Sunday, have been cancelled.

Organizers of smaller events are being told to reconsider plans to provide food, and to either host gatherings online or in larger spaces than initially planned to leverage the benefits of social distancing.

Exams and classes will proceed, according to the U of M note, though departments and faculty members have been asked to consider ways they can make more course materials available online. The university is also mulling changes to the exam schedule to reduce the number of students who convene in one space.

U of W, RRC cancelling events

At the University of Winnipeg, classes are continuing, but a few events have been postponed, spokesperson Kevin Rosen said in an email to CBC News.

The university is postponing its planned March 19 Awards Night of Excellence, the March 21 graduation powwow and the March 27 spring feast, according to the U of W website.

Red River College, meanwhile, has cancelled all public college events and large gatherings, an email Thursday said.

Classes, labs and exams are continuing, but the college is considering "alternative program delivery approaches and models that could be implemented in order to further reduce the numbers of students, faculty and staff on site."

The college has also suspended all international and domestic travel outside of Manitoba.

Meanwhile, the U of M is "strongly" urging students studying in Europe to return home, according to two separate letters sent to members of the university community.

A letter from the U of M's office of the vice-president urges students in Europe to return as soon as possible, and figure out other details later.

"Right now, the priority is your health and safety," the letter states, adding the academic implications and accommodations for leaving in the middle of an international placement will be addressed in the coming weeks.

A small group of students and faculty from BU recently returned from a Toronto conference that was attended by a man who has tested positive for coronavirus.

The university has asked those people to self-quarantine only if they begin to develop symptoms.

Brandon University, the U of M, the U of W and Red River College are posting updates online for students and staff online.


Bryce Hoye


Bryce Hoye is a multi-platform Manitoba journalist covering news, science, justice, health, 2SLGBTQ issues and other community stories. He has a background in wildlife biology and occasionally works for CBC's Quirks & Quarks and Front Burner. He won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award for a 2017 feature on the history of the fur trade. He is also Prairie rep for outCBC.