New Brunswick

UNB biology department notified of possible COVID-19 contact

One of two people with presumptive cases of COVID-19 attended biology classes at Bailey Hall on Wednesday, March 11, email says

One of two people with presumptive cases of COVID-19 attended biology classes at Bailey Hall

A UNB spokesperson would not say if all students who attended classes in the rooms in question had been notified, citing "privacy reasons.”

Graduate students and faculty members in the University of New Brunswick's biology department have been notified that they may have come into contact with one of two people with presumptive cases of COVID-19 on campus.

In an email sent Tuesday morning, biology department chair Dion Durnford wrote that contact would have happened last Wednesday, March 11, between 9:30 a.m. and 10:20 a.m. in Bailey Hall room 22 or between 10:30 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. in Bailey Hall room 102.

"All the appropriate people that may have had close contact with the individual have been notified and are self-isolating and self-monitoring for any symptoms," Durnford wrote in the email.

"Security has also restricted access to rooms B22 and B102 as a result."

Durnford said he sent the note out because people in his department had been talking about it and security had posted notes on the doors of the classrooms.

He said he wanted to make sure people had basic information so they could make informed decisions.

"You don't want to panic people," he said.

"The risk of people being in a room after somebody else has been there is relatively low I would think, but you never know."

Durnford described one of the rooms as a regular lecture hall, while the other is a classroom with computers.

Few details 'for privacy reasons'

According to the university's class schedules, 12 additional classes were scheduled to be held in one of those two rooms on March 11, 12 and 13.

But it's not clear how many of those classes were held as planned in those rooms.

CBC News asked UNB whether all students who had attended classes in those rooms were notified or just students who had attended classes with the affected person.

Sonya Gilks, a UNB spokesperson, said they couldn't provide additional details "for privacy reasons."

"UNB continues to take direction on this matter from New Brunswick Public Health and we're working closely with them in their investigation and management of the two cases," Gilks wrote in an email.

The two presumptive cases are directly connected to the first travel-related case announced by public health last week and are being closely monitored, the university says.

Essential services only 

Soon after announcing the two presumed cases of the virus on campus, public health directed the university to close and provide essential services only.

As of Thursday, all buildings on UNB campuses and off-campus sites will be locked until further notice. 

Residences have been shut down and only students who can't leave for specific reasons, such as international travel restrictions, are allowed to stay.

In-person classes are suspended for the rest of the term, but courses will resume on March 23 through alternative delivery methods.

Vladimir Tasic wasn't surprised to hear the university has presumptive cases of the virus. The president of the Association of University of New Brunswick Teachers says he never expected the university would be insulated from the virus.

In an email sent on Tuesday morning, biology department chair Dion Durnford wrote that contact would have happened last Wednesday, March 11, between 9:30 a.m. and 10:20 a.m. in Bailey Hall room 22 or between 10:30 a.m. and 11:20 a.m. in Bailey Hall room 102. (UNB)

"What I think took a lot of people by surprise is the rapidity of how this all evolved," Tasic said.

"We're having today conversations that I couldn't even imagine on Thursday." 

Tasic said faculty members agreed with the decision to suspend in-person classes for the rest of the term, but have some concerns about academic issues, such as the integrity of online exams and existing rules around professors changing course outlines.

He expects the university's senate will offer guidelines on those issues soon.

"We recognize that there may be no easy solution at hand and we'll just have to let a discussion unfold," Tasic said.

About the Author

Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Send your tips to NBInvestigates@CBC.ca.

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