Ontario’s Universities: Committed to Supporting Students, Communities and the Province During COVID-19
April 7, 2020

As the province navigates the challenges of COVID-19, Ontario’s universities are committed to addressing the urgent needs of the province and to protecting the health and well-being of all Ontarians, our communities and the province. Whether it’s through ground-breaking research discoveries, such as, isolating the virus, supporting their local public health teams, or volunteering in our communities, the individual and collective efforts of our students, researchers and faculty play a significant role in slowing the spread of the pandemic.

Below are just some of the ways universities are working together across sectors to support the success of students, foster innovative research and help workers and communities in the global fight against COVID-19.

Ensuring the health and well-being of campus communities

From students and faculty to staff and researchers, members of every campus community have taken steps to ensure their peers are supported and that students are able to complete their terms in safe environments.

  • The sudden shift from in-class instruction to remote learning and social distancing can be disorienting for many students as they adapt to an unprecedented situation. Algoma University launched its first Virtual Wellness Party, connecting students from all three campuses. Participants also received care packages with recipes, facemasks, healing elements and more.
  • When schools and businesses across Ontario closed their doors in response to the global health crisis, the Carleton University community demonstrated its adaptability and compassion. Students and faculty connected and shared resources, from helping instructors deliver classes online to supporting students as they virtually present final-year projects.
  • As measures for social distancing continue throughout the month, the Nipissing University Student Union (NUSU) is ensuring Nipissing students stay connected. The NUSU offers a variety of online resources, including stress management guides, workshops and mental health supports.
  • To ensure the safety, health and well-being of their peers, students at Ontario Tech University have developed a Distancing Toolkit. Updated regularly, the toolkit contains ideas to keep busy and active, and encourages contributions from the student community.
  • As students across Ontario are adapting and adjusting to remote learning, Queen’s University’s Student Academic Success Services (SASS) is helping the transition through online resources and one-on-one writing and academic appointments. These initiatives include a guide for distance students and online dissertation appointments for graduate students.

Students supporting health-care workers and hospitals

Ontario’s university students are interwoven into the fabric of their communities, supporting those around them impacted by the virus. Across the province, they are demonstrating their leadership during a challenging time.

  • To support the province’s health-care workers on the frontlines in the fight to curb COVID-19, McMaster University medical students founded the McMaster Healthcare Students COVID-19 Response Team. The team provides babysitting, pet-care and grocery-run services to health-care workers in the Waterloo, Hamilton and Niagara regions.
  • An interactive online tool is helping hospitals and other health-care providers estimate their capacity to manage new cases of COVID-19. Designed by a group of PhD students and researchers at the University of Toronto, the tool examines the number of critical care resources, data on age and severity of cases and expected duration of patient stays.
  • When the Vice-President of the Kitchener Waterloo Academy of Medicine approached InkSmith with the urgent need for face shields for frontline health-care workers, company founder and Wilfrid Laurier University alumnus quickly pivoted his 3-D printing business. Using 3-D printing modelling software and a laser cutter, the company is now producing 8,000 shields per day.

Working on vaccines and treatments through ground-breaking research

University researchers are partnering on both a local and global level to help slow the spread of COVID-19, discover treatments and detection methods, and develop a vaccine.

  • A number of tools and new technologies are being employed in the race to find treatments for COVID-19. Researchers at Laurentian University are using virtual reality to better understand and visualize the virus, and examine potential molecular targets that could block a protein made by it.
  • In the fight against COVID-19, taking stock of the drugs currently available can help develop treatments. Researchers at the University of Ottawa are working to identify how the virus targets cells. At the same time, another team is screening existing medications to see if an already FDA-approved drug can then block the coronavirus from targeting these cells.
  • An important step in curbing the pandemic is the effective screening of infected patients. Kitchener-Waterloo start-up DarwinAI has partnered with the University of Waterloo to develop a neural network that uses chest radiological imaging to detect COVID-19. The tool, called COVID-Net aims to accelerate detection in a way that’s open and accessible to the public.
  • Developing a vaccine for the deadly COVID-19 virus is one of the most urgent needs. A team of researchers at Western University has set out to do just that, working to establish and test an effective vaccine, while also developing a “vaccine bank” for ready-made vaccines that can be used at the start of another coronavirus outbreak.
  • As news of the pandemic began to spread, every-day supplies, such as, hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes were in short supply. To help local health-care facilities, University of Windsor chemists teamed up with three local businesses to bring a made-in-Windsor-Essex hand sanitizer to market.

Supporting communities across Ontario

Ontario’s universities play a vital role as anchors in communities throughout the province. Whether it’s providing accommodations for frontline workers, developing much-needed products and equipment, or supporting families, our institutions recognize the importance of working together to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians.

  • A local company is making an international impact in combatting COVID-19 with kits to help test for the virus. With the help of Brock University’s Machine Shop, Norgen Biotek – founded by a Brock professor – has been able to multiply its manufacturing capacity, building kits as quickly as possible.
  • With a shortage of hand sanitizer across the country, the University of Guelph is supplying Guelph-based Dixon’s Distilled Spirits with enough glycerol and peroxide to make at least 2,000 litres of hand sanitizer. The product has been donated to health-care workers and essential services, including medical clinics, the fire department, the local OPP dispatch and more.
  • Facing a global pandemic, as well as school and child-care closures across the province, parents and caregivers are undoubtedly feeling the stress. Lakehead University has launched free courses that provide expert advice on parenting, learning at home and managing anxiety, as well as, free live and on-demand webinars.
  • To support people who may have been assessed for COVID-19 and/or are in self-isolation, the Health Design Studio at OCAD University has created a self-management and self-isolation hand-out, each in a variety of languages. The easy-to-understand tools are based on current guidelines, and are editable for hospitals and clinics to adapt to changing local needs.
  • To help provide health-care workers with the personal protective equipment they desperately need, the Creative Technology Lab at Ryerson University has partnered with Toronto General Hospital to design and prototype face shields and masks for health-care workers. The lab has the capacity to develop 75 3-D-printed headpieces, 350 casted headpieces and 425 laser-cut plastic shields per day.
  • As health-care professionals work around the clock to care and support patients diagnosed with COVID-19, Trent University is providing temporary housing for those who choose to self-isolate from their families during the pandemic. The Gzowski College residence will temporarily provide up to 100 rooms for health-care workers from the Peterborough Regional Health Centre.
  • By rapidly building much-needed equipment for frontline health-care workers, a start-up created at York University, Droplet Lab, is contributing to the fight against COVID-19. The lab designed a face shield that can be made in less than five minutes without the need for a specialized tool and at a significantly low cost.

Ontario’s universities, at every stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, stand ready to work together with our provincial government and local communities to navigate these challenges and help support our communities, businesses and province. For more information about how our institutions are providing assistance, visit our COVID-19 page.