'I'm feeling a bit safer now': Students moving into UW residences welcome vaccine requirements

Students enrolled in the fall semester at the University of Waterloo began moving into residences on Wednesday, but they were required to prove they had been vaccinated against COVID-19 before stepping on campus.

Staggered move-ins are scheduled from Sept. 1 through Sept. 6.

Students had to prove they had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before arriving to pick up their room keys. Everyone who will be on campus is also required to be fully vaccinated no later than October 17.

The university launched its proof of vaccination program on Friday, asking students to prove they have at least one dose.

“So far we’ve had more than 20,000 people on our campus submit their information to us, and more than 97 per cent of them are fully vaccinated. So that’s a really encouraging sign,” said Nick Manning, associate vice-president of communication for the University of Waterloo.

Manning said staff is about halfway through collecting vaccination status information for the campus.

He said on a typical school day, about 50,000 people will come to the campus, but some virtual classes mean the numbers won’t likely be that high this fall.

“Some people are naturally a bit nervous about the return to campus but generally I think the atmosphere is positive," Benjamin Easton, president of the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association said.

Easton said the association is pleased with the school's policies but is working with international students concerned about accessing the right vaccine.

“We’re obviously making accommodations. Particularly for those international students as they arrive. We have a robust quarantine plan that’s part of our government-mandated requirements,” Manning said.

For parents and students moving in on Wednesday, they felt the current requirements are enough.

“They're both very diligent in terms of keeping distance and following the protocols and with the rules that they have for everybody needing to be vaccinated by a certain time on site we're not concerned,” said Ramu Shenoy, who was helping his son and daughter move in.

“They made some vaccine mandates, so I'm feeling a bit safer now,” Neil Shenoy said while he was moving into residence on Wednesday.

“(The) government is there taking enough precautions to make sure that everyone is safe and now it's our part to make sure we put our best foot forward too,” Love Gogna said while he was helping his son move in.

The University of Waterloo is also still running screening programs, enforcing capacity limits in classrooms, and has improved ventilation to help with public safety.

Anyone not vaccinated will need a negative COVID-19 test prior to arriving at campus.

On Wednesday, Ontario issued new guidance for post-secondary institutions that lifts distancing and capacity rules for most classrooms.

OTHER POST-SECONDARY MOVE-IN DATES

Conestoga College students started returning to residence in staggered move-in times on Aug. 21. They will finish on Sept. 6. So far, about half have moved in, with a total of 370 expected to live in residence this school year.

University of Guelph students start moving in on Friday.

Wilfred Laurier University students will begin returning to the Waterloo campus on Saturday, while students at the Brantford campus return to residence Monday.