University of New Brunswick loosens mask mandate as COVID-19 surge looms

UNB says it remains a 'mask-friendly environment' and encourages anyone who wants to continue to wear a mask on campus to do so. (Lifecycle Revive/  - image credit)
UNB says it remains a 'mask-friendly environment' and encourages anyone who wants to continue to wear a mask on campus to do so. (Lifecycle Revive/ - image credit)

The University of New Brunswick is loosening its COVID-19 masking rules, effective Nov. 15.

Face masks will only be required in classrooms and instructional spaces, UNB announced in a COVID-19 update Thursday.

Students can now be mask-free in shared indoor spaces on campus, including transitioning between classes, offices and travelling through common areas, the notice says.

Plexiglass barriers may also be removed.

The changes come as Public Health officials warn of an anticipated increase in COVID and flu activity this fall and winter.

CBC News
CBC News

CBC requested an interview with UNB, but was told its "health response team spokespeople" were travelling and unavailable.

"As we continue to live with COVID-19, we encourage you to assess and manage your personal risk and make decisions to decrease your risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19," its notice said.

"UNB remains a mask-friendly environment and we encourage those who wish to wear masks on campus to do so."

The changes will remain in place for the remainder of the term, according to the notice. Officials will reassess COVID requirements for the winter term based on the epidemiology of the virus, the presence of variants and vaccination regime recommendations by Public Health at that time, it says.

The university "strongly recommends" faculty, staff and students be vaccinated and boosted against COVID and get their flu shot 'to protect the health and safety of [the] community."

Faculty, students and staff are also "encouraged" to stay home when they're sick, wash their hands frequently, and to cough into their elbow to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

STU maintains masking rules

At St. Thomas University in Fredericton, no changes are planned, at least for the rest of the semester, said spokesperson Jeffrey Carleton.

Masks are currently required in classrooms, unless someone is teaching or presenting, he said. People are also required to wear a mask if they're "moving around" in hallways or stairwells or washrooms.

Next week is reading week, when there are no classes, said Carleton. And when classes resume on Nov. 14, there are only 3½ weeks left in the semester.

"So we're going to leave our mask mandate in for the rest of this semester," and "re-evaluate" in December.

"We made similar decisions over the past two years. We found that once we started a semester, it was less disruptive if we kept the same rules in place."

Submitted by Jeffrey Carleton
Submitted by Jeffrey Carleton

STU has seen "really good" compliance, said Carleton. "We think that people were just so happy to be back on campus, back in class, back in person that for the most part they have abided by the rules."

Nobody's complaining about the masking rules either, he said. "The only feedback we've received is a few emails from students concerned that people were coming to campus if they were sick."

As a result, the university has sent out periodic reminders about the importance of staying home if you're sick to protect others, Carleton said.

Masks still mandatory indoors at Mount A

At Mount Allison University in Sackville, masks continue to be mandatory indoors, including instructional spaces, hallways, and stairwells, with some exceptions.

Masks are not required while instructing or presenting, while working alone in an office or cubicle, while seated in the dining hall or cafe, while seated in library study spaces, or while participating in athletics and fitness.

"These guidelines have been in place since the start of the Fall term. No changes are anticipated at this time," spokesperson Robert Hiscock said in an email.

Masks 'strongly recommended' at University of Moncton

At the University of Moncton, wearing a mask is "strongly recommended," but has not been mandatory during classes or in indoor common areas, such as stairwells, elevators, hallways, washrooms, study rooms, and offices, with some exceptions, since June 1.

"At this time we have no changes to our rules in relation to COVID-19," spokesperson Josée Basque said in an email.

At the Moncton campus, wearing a mask remains mandatory in the health centre, the New Brunswick Center for Precision Medicine, and in all areas of the medical school training centre.

At the Shippagan campus, wearing a mask remains compulsory in health services and in the laboratories because distancing is no longer guaranteed.

A professor may also require the wearing of a mask during consultations in his or her office.

COVID measures still in place at the Moncton, Shippagan and Edmundston campuses include:

  • Reduced room capacity.

  • Distancing.

  • Plexiglass areas.

  • Disinfection of common surfaces.

  • Hand sanitizer stations.