USask students prepare for personal learning amid COVID-19: ‘It’s still scary’ – Saskatoon | The Canadian News

University of Saskatchewan (USask) student Jeremy Storring said he was upset at the thought of returning to campus on Monday during the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He is in the final term of a computer science degree, but has a first-year class with more than 350 people enrolled.

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“Pushing us all into one room where we are not going to have social distance is not going to go well,” Storring said in an interview.

Storring has type 1 diabetes, which is an underlying risk factor for COVID-19. Although he otherwise considers himself relatively healthy, he remains concerned about the virus spreading in his classes.

The prospect of developing long COVID is particularly worrying, he said.

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“I do not have to add it to my own plate,” Storring said.

A return to personal learning should be postponed at least until after the mid-term break at the end of the month, Storring said, but the end of the term will be preferred.

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Second-year student in Indigenous Studies, Desiree Couillonneur, told Global News she needs personal instruction because it is easy to be distracted during online lessons. Requirements for distance learning led her to take a break from class before returning in the fall.

The COVID-19 situation is worrying, she said, but she trusts the measures that are in place.

“With everything (USask has) set up for protocols, I think we should do OK, but at the same time it’s still scary,” Couillonneur said.

University officials cite the plateau counts of new cases, lower levels of virus load in wastewater and increased uptake of COVID-19 vaccine-boosting injections as encouraging factors for a return to personal learning. There is a 99 percent vaccination rate among people who plan to be on campus, according to the university.

Currently, it is not necessary to attend booster shots, although it is encouraged, according to dr. Darcy Marciniuk, a respirologist and chairman of the USask Pandemic Response and Recovery Team.

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“The added benefit of a booster is real and significant,” he said, referring to the protection rate of more than 70 percent against the shot.

“We hope we never have to get to a point where we will have to mandate it, but it’s something that is always considered.”

Masks will also be required on campus and quick tests will be available for students and staff.

Physical distance is “not really achievable” with up to 30,000 people on campus, Marciniuk said. Consequently, some classes will remain remote. Staff not required on campus will continue to work from home.

Marciniuk noted that even while Omicron cases soared last month, some research and up to 25 percent of teaching and learning activities on campus continued.

Earlier this week, the University of Winnipeg announced an extension of distance education until the end of its term in April.

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