On Thursday, Jul. 8, 2021, Queen’s University announced their plans to move back to in-person classes and activities on campus through the announcement of a new website outlining the University’s “Reopening Framework.”
Notably missing from the new website, which is designed to ease the return of in-person, on-campus activities, is the University’s COVID-19 case tracker, a prominent part of the information Queen’s had previously published on its website pertaining to the pandemic and its response to it. Formerly located at www.queensu.ca/covidinfo/casetracker, many of those who frequented the webpage were shocked to find it defunct on the morning of Thursday, Jul. 8, 2021, prompting a number of questions from the community. When asked about the COVID-19 case tracker that morning, which was dedicated solely to tracking those COVID-19 cases within the Queen’s community (both on and off campus), the University said they would be providing an update on the matter later in the day.
That update came in the form of an article in the Queen’s Gazette, the University’s online publication used for issuing press releases to the Queen’s and global communities. The article outlined the new website, which opens with the headline “Looking forward to our safe return to campus.” Part of the new site is the “Health and Safety” section, as well as a full section outlining the “Reopening Framework.” Neither section includes a COVID-19 case tracker, but rather redirects to KFL&A Public Health’s website for the latest information on cases locally.
Over the past two years, the Queen’s COVID-19 case tracker has played an integral role in the ability of the local population to understand and follow different COVID-19 issues faced by the Queen’s community, as well as how those issues impacted the general COVID-19 situation in the KFL&A region. The transparent online mechanism allowed the public to monitor COVID-19 happenings related to the University’s population, including instances of growing case numbers (which, in March of 2021, accounted for approximately 70 per cent of cases in the KFL&A region), and outbreaks – both in residence buildings, and connected to parties and/or gatherings.
Kingstonist approached Queen’s University again following the announcement of the new website to confirm that the University’s COVID-19 case tracker would not be included in the new site.
“The Return to Campus website has replaced Queen’s COVID-19 Information website,” Queen’s said in an email.
“The Return to Campus website provides current information for staff, faculty, and students on campus operations, fall planning, and health and safety requirements. As we have had no reported cases of COVID 19 in the Queen’s Community since April, we have removed the tracker at this time,” the University said in a follow-up email, when asked if the COVID-19 case tracker would return to the Queen’s website, or be present on the new one.
When further pressed on whether or not the University plans to reinstate the case tracker and why, Queen’s finally indicated that no concrete decision had been made on the matter at this point – and one will only be made pending new cases within the Queen’s community.
“We will make a determination at that time if and when that happens,” Queen’s University said in an email. “We have always been transparent about our COVID cases.”
Despite the fact the regular school term is now over, a large number of Queen’s University students remain in Kingston. Those that chose to do so over the 2020 summer indicated that they’d already signed leases and/or paid rent for the summer months, and that remaining in their housing arrangements made it easier to retain housing for the school year ahead. Just under a week ago, a large party on Aberdeen Street, which resulted in charges for three individuals, was found to have involved Queen’s University students – all three individuals charged so far in the Kingston Police investigation into the large gather self-identified as Queen’s students.
On Thursday, Jul. 8, 2021, Dr. Hugh Guan, Associate Medical Officer of Health for KFL&A Public Health, addressed concerns about the large gathering, which was illegal under the Reopening Ontario Act and under the current Stage 2 regulations mandated by the provincial government.
“We just don’t know if there was anyone with COVID [present] and, especially with a gathering of that size, there’s a potential for a COVID spread, and we won’t know until people get tested,” Dr. Guan expressed.
“I highly hope that the attendees of that gathering have been vaccinated with two doses.”
Kingstonist will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates if and when more information becomes available.