Manitoba

University of Winnipeg expands vaccine mandate to gyms, high school

Manitoba's second largest university is strengthening its COVID-19 immunization mandate: Now, high school students who attend the U of W Collegiate and anyone wanting to use recreational facilities must be doubly vaccinated.

Motivation for policy 'is to keep our people safe and so that they feel safe': interim president

The U of W beefed up its vaccine mandate Tuesday, adding high school students and users of fitness centres to the list of people who will need to show proof of immunization. (Terry Stapleton/CBC)

Manitoba's second largest university is broadening its COVID-19 vaccination mandate to include students who attend its high school campus and anyone wanting to make use of the campus sports facilities.

The University of Winnipeg announced Tuesday that eligible students attending U of W Collegiate must be fully vaccinated two weeks prior to Sept. 7 if they hope to return to class.

The same goes for students, staff and those from the broader community who hope to make use of the indoor gyms and sports facilities, in accordance with recent provincial public health orders.

The announcement comes weeks after the U of W and other post-secondary schools in the province adopted vaccine mandates heading into fall in anticipation of a fourth wave driven by the delta variant, considered twice as contagious as the original coronavirus strain.

"The sort of motivation for all of these things is to keep our people safe and so that they feel safe," said Dr. James Currie, interim president and vice-chancellor of the U of W.

Anyone doing research, studying, attending or teaching classes must go through a vaccination verification hub located at Riddell Hall until Sept. 10, with staff on hand from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The hub is closed Sept. 4-6.

Once there, students or staff must show their school or employee ID card, licence or other government-issued ID and a QR code or immunization card to receive a green sticker verifying their status, said Currie.

He said those in the process of getting vaccinated can sign a form attesting to that fact and receive a temporary sticker that can be replaced upon being fully immunized. That will expire Oct. 15, and campus access will be revoked unless the person provides proof they are fully vaccinated by then.

Rapid COVID-19 tests will not be available as an alternate option due to logistical issues, the university says.

The U of W is in the process of considering how to handle medical or human rights-based exemptions, but that process won't be ready ahead of when students head back to class.

A U of W spokesperson said people from the community participating in rec league sports operating out of university will also have to show proof of vaccination status at the entrances of the Axworthy Health & RecPlex soccer field and Duckworth Centre gym.

Additional details are available on the U of W website.

"We are firmly committed to ensuring a safe return to campus and we know that getting vaccinated is the way forward. Strengthening our vaccine mandate now will speed our return to normalcy," Currie said in a statement.

"Like all organizations, we are adapting quickly to evolving circumstances and will do our best to support affected students with changes to their academic schedules if they are not vaccinated."

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