OISE COVID-19 RESPONSE
Keeping the OISE community updated on all the latest COVID-19 information as it relates to the Institute. Please visit the University’s UTogether website for more updates and resources.
OISE Community Updates
April 28, 2022- Update from the Chief Administrative Officer
Dear members of the OISE community,
Further to the University’s update on April 26th regarding changes to COVID-related measures effective on campus as of May 1, I am writing to share details of how these changes will impact building protocol at OISE. Please note that some or all of these requirements may be reinstated on short notice should public health conditions or guidance change, and I appreciate the agility of our community as we respond to the evolving advice.
The University will continue its requirement to wear masks in settings such as classrooms and in indoor spaces where physical distancing cannot be maintained until June 30, 2022. At OISE, we strongly encourage the continued use of medical masks for those using all areas of the building given the difficulty of distancing in elevators and hallways connecting classrooms. This will be supported by signage and in our continued communications.
UCheck & Health Screening
The University will pause the requirement for daily health screening via UCheck for those attending U of T campuses and, as a result, OISE Security will no longer monitor assessments upon entry. While the UCheck application will be taken offline, the proof of vaccination module will remain available for upload of proof of vaccination for new employees and voluntary upload of proof of booster for all students, faculty, and staff. Community members are strongly encouraged to complete the Provincial Screening Self-Assessment prior to visiting campus as a tool to monitor their health and are asked not to attend campus if they are feeling unwell.
OISE-Specific Safe Return FAQs
Understanding that the community has many questions during this transition, with the support of the central Environmental Health & Safety and Facilities & Services teams, we have developed an FAQ specific to our operations at OISE with questions collected from students, faculty, and staff. This section is constantly evolving as we add more questions received from members of the community, and we invite you to check back often.
I encourage you to visit our webpage to learn more about the protocol (including Library information) in place for the Summer. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest COVID-19 information as it relates to building procedures and policies by regularly visiting the Chief Administrative Officer’s community information page at: https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/covid-19 and see the University’s updates at: https://www.utoronto.ca/utogether/
I acknowledge that we are in a time of major change and I am proud of the OISE community’s supportive response to all measures over the past two years. I know that we will continue to remain vigilant, conscientious, and respectful of one another as we move forward.
On the day of your visit, you are strongly encouraged to complete a COVID-19 self-assessment via the Provincial Screening Tool prior to coming on site. Please do not visit campus if you are feeling unwell.
While visiting the OISE building, users must wear masks, keep distance where possible, and observe all other safety protocols.
For a more in-depth FAQ on the University of Toronto’s response to the corornavirus pandemic, please refer to UTogether's Frequently Asked Questions page.
These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are specific to our operations at OISE and have been compiled with input from members of the OISE community. This section is constantly evolving as we add more questions, and we invite you to check back often.
The University’s F&S Caretaking team follows industry cleaning standards developed by the Association for Higher Education Facilities Officers. The frequency of regular cleaning will vary depending on the type of space with more frequently used spaces cleaned at a higher frequency. For more information on regular cleaning, please visit: F&S Caretaking. In addition, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University has developed and implemented the Tricampus Caretaking Strategy which outlines enhanced cleaning and disinfection for high touch surfaces such as door handles, washroom fixtures, handrails and elevator buttons.
Please check this link in May and regularly for updates on caretaking on campus: Tricampus Caretaking Strategy.
In addition, disinfectant wipes are available in all classrooms, meeting rooms, copy machines and kitchenettes in the OISE building if the community member wishes to perform additional disinfect of their work areas.
All members of the OISE community may book events and invite external participants provided all policies, advice, and protocols are followed. Event/gathering organizers should work with their Business Officers to ensure event plans are aligned with current protocol.
If catering is being provided, only boxed meals are allowed.
Event/gathering organizers are encouraged to recommend that external visitors provide vaccination/health screening attestation via the paper-based UCheck form.
The University’s procedures are outlined on this webpage: Procedures in the Event of a UCheck red screen, Confirmed Case and/or COVID-19 Symptoms. If you have any additional questions after reviewing these procedures, you can contact the EHS Occupational Health team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In 2017, the OISE CAO office commissioned an indoor air quality (IAQ) survey of the OISE building. The survey reviewed common IAQ parameters such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, temperature, relative humidity, total volatile organic compounds (TVOCs) and particulate matter (PM10). The survey took place prior to the pandemic and is reflective of pre-pandemic occupancy in the building.
The 2017 survey compared results to standards/guidelines from ASHRAE (America Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), Health Canada and CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety). All air quality results from the survey were within recommended standards/guidelines.
The University has a team of trained and licensed engineers who operate the ventilation system in the OISE building and who have the training and experience to identify issues/necessary repairs so that the system is working optimally to provide a safe indoor environment for the OISE community. Examples of regular maintenance in the OISE building are: changing air filters at a frequency per manufacturer’s instruction, visual inspections of the ventilation systems including filters multiple times per week, checking to ensure that the filters are sealed (i.e., no gaps), and checking pressure gauges.
It would be difficult to make broad comparisons between residential homes and an office building. Air quality in individual homes will vary greatly depending on the physical environment and/or activities taking place, for example, the presence of pets, chemicals used in the home such as air fresheners and cleaning products, hobbies carried out (e.g. painting, woodworking), the condition/maintenance of furnace, the quality of the filters used, etc. Similarly, outdoor air quality will vary significantly depending on the location (e.g. business/industries nearby, amount of traffic/vehicles).
The University is committed to providing a healthy and safe environment for all faculty, librarians, staff and students. Unlike a residential home, the University has a number of policies and procedures that deal with concerns such the Guideline on the Use of Perfumes and Scented Products, the Guideline – Pets on Campus to restrict the presence of pets and using environmentally friendly products for cleaning.
The University’s team of trained and licensed engineers have the experience to identify issues/repairs so that the system is working optimally to provide a safe indoor environment for the OISE community.
Standards for residential homes roughly require a complete house air change every 3 hours or 0.33 ACHs (Air Changes Per Hour). In comparison, a recent memo about the OISE HVAC system shows much higher ACHs in the OISE building:
|Measured Classrooms||8.33 ACH|
|Total Building||7.75 ACH|
Please also refer to the question “What air quality standards are met in the OISE building?” for additional information on maintenance.
The University has a team of trained and licensed engineers who operate the ventilation system and who have the training and experience to identify issues/repairs so that the system is working optimally to provide a safe indoor environment for the OISE community. As discussed above, the 2017 IAQ survey compared results to standards/guidelines from ASHRAE (America Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), Health Canada and CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety). All results from the survey were within recommended standards/guidelines.
Any employee who has concerns about air quality in their spaces should report their concerns to the supervisor (or for students, their academic department contact). The University’s EHS (Environmental Health and Safety) unit can be contacted to assess the concern and provide recommendations where applicable.
Per Toronto Public Health (Feb. 2, 2022), there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through air ducts.
In addition, each floor in the OISE building is serviced individually by the ventilation system and all return air goes through filters rated MERV 13 or higher before recirculating. Filters rated MERV 13 or higher have been shown to remove smaller particles in the air, including viruses such as COVID-19. This means that air is not recirculated between floors. For example, if your office is located on the 6th floor, air from the Auditorium is not recirculated to your office.
The OISE building has a central ventilation system that is operated by licensed engineers. This ventilation system provides air circulation and fresh air from the outdoors and is designed to provide the outdoor air supply without windows opening. The amount of outdoor air will vary depending on outdoor temperature to maintain thermal comfort. During extreme seasons (hot/cold), the % outside air supply may decrease to a minimum of 15% to maintain comfortable temperatures in the building. The % of fresh air in the OISE building is common for this type of building. During milder, transitional seasons such as the spring or fall, the building may be “free cooled or heated.” This means that the % outside air supply may increase to 100%.
In addition, as recommended by public health agencies, filters rated MERV-13 or higher have been installed. Outdoor air circulation has been maximized by disabling the demand control ventilation and performing air flushing two hours before occupancy every morning to replace indoor air with outdoor air.
Air quality will vary depending on the activities and number of occupants in the space. The transient nature of the population using and passing through classrooms could result in greater numbers and density of people in these indoor spaces compared to offices. This is the reason why the University has focussed on ventilation assessments for high density classrooms and have set an internal target of 6 equivalent Air Changes Per Hour (ACHs) for these types of spaces.
For more information on how outdoor air circulation is being maximized at the OISE building, please refer to “I can’t open any of the windows in the OISE building. What safety measures are in place to ensure adequate air circulation in the building?”
Per the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), the JHSC is notified of hygiene testing such as indoor air quality surveys so that a worker member of the JHSC can be present, if desired. The JHSC is also provided a copy of the report. This process was followed during the 2017 indoor air quality survey discussed in question “What air quality standards are met in the OISE building?”
A copy of the 2017 survey is posted here. If you wish to inquire about indoor air quality reports in the future, you can contact the OISE JHSC. A list of members and their contact information is posted on the EHS webpage.
For a summary of the 2017 indoor air quality survey, please refer to “What air quality standards are met in the OISE building?” The parameter that were measured are commonly used parameters for indoor air quality surveys.
The survey collected a combination of instantaneous (“spot”) measurements and data logging (longer term) measurements using instruments manufactured by TSI and RAE. Both companies have a long history of providing industrial hygiene testing equipment. Calibration certificates showing that the instruments were fit for use (“pass”) are included in the appendices of the report.
Locations were selected by the consultant to provide an even distribution of measurements across occupied areas. In addition, the consultant included requested locations from the OISE JHSC. Measurements took place both in the morning and in the afternoon (i.e. after several hours of occupancy). All air quality results from the survey were within recommended standards/guidelines, including carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide levels were still several hundred PPM (Parts Per Million) below the standard even in the afternoon: all but one result (770 PPM) were less than 700 PPM, compared to the standard of 1122 PPM (based on adding 700 PPM to the background/outdoor carbon dioxide levels at the time of the survey).
The purpose of the 2017 survey was to provide an overview of the OISE building indoor air quality. The parameters/methodology in the survey are typical for this type of building. In some situations, the parameters/methodology may vary depending on the purpose of the survey and the concerns expressed by the occupant. For example, an office building that is next to a chemical manufacturing plant may have different concerns that need to be investigated using different methods.
OHSA does not specify how frequently indoor air quality parameters such as carbon dioxide should be measured or under what conditions (e.g. normal occupancy) the measurement should be taken. However, the standard practice for measuring carbon dioxide in indoor air quality surveys would be to measure during normal occupancy. Carbon dioxide is naturally present in outdoor air but in office/admin environments, human respiration is an important source of carbon dioxide in addition to outdoor/background levels. To understand if there is their sufficient fresh/outdoor air, carbon dioxide should be measured during normal occupancy, rather than when the room is empty or during low than normal occupancy.
The 2017 indoor air quality survey, took place prior to the pandemic and is reflective of “normal” (i.e. pre-pandemic) occupancy in the building. The survey compared results to standards/guidelines from ASHRAE (America Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers), Health Canada and CCOHS (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety). All air quality results from the survey were within recommended standards/guidelines.
What impact(s) (if any) does this have on the air quality inside OISE? What impact does this have on the amount of outdoor air delivered to our building?
Demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) is an energy-saving control strategy that reduces the rate at which outdoor air is delivered to a zone during periods of partial occupancy. In the OISE building, carbon dioxide sensors were installed and when the carbon dioxide levels exceeds 700 PPM, additional outdoor air is introduced into the system. The setpoint of 700 PPM is well below the recommended standard which is equal to the background levels of carbon dioxide + 700 PPM, so roughly 1100 PPM depending on the background levels of carbon dioxide at the location. When carbon dioxide levels are low, outdoor air is reduced and may be reduced to a minimum of 15% outdoor air.
As part of the Tricampus HVAC Strategy, the DCV has been disabled since August 2021 in buildings with these systems, including the OISE building. This prevents a reduction in outdoor air when low levels of carbon dioxide levels (less than 700 PPM) are detected. The result is that outdoor air is maximized in the OISE building. For an explanation of how the % outdoor air fluctuates, please refer to “I can’t open any of the windows in the OISE building. What safety measures are in place to ensure adequate air circulation in the building?”
The equivalent ACH means the number of times the volume of the classroom is cleaned in an hour. A value of ‘6’ equivalent air changes per hour means a room’s entire volume of air is cleaned 6 times an hour. An explanation of how these calculations are made is provided in Appendix A of the March 2021 Classroom Ventilation Update, posted in the Tricampus HVAC Strategy.
Regarding the calculations, they were not based on assumptions about outdoor air or filtration. The calculations were made based a damper position of 15% open (as documented in the balance report) and with the Merv-13 filter in place.
What has been done to ensure that these filters are appropriately installed to ensure that air does not move around the filters and avoid filtration?
The OISE HVAC system utilizes MERV-13 filters as recommended by public health organizations. For more information, please refer to “How can I learn more about classroom/central ventilation upgrades at OISE and other UofT buildings?”
The MERV-13 filters were in place during the air audit summarized in the recent memo to the OISE JHSC about the OISE HVAC system to the JHSC.
Regular inspections are conducted by UofT’s team of experienced and licensed building engineers to ensure there are no gaps around filters.
How do we find out when the filter was last replaced/inspected?
Filters in the central ventilation system are replaced annually or per manufacturer’s instruction, whichever is more stringent.
For air purifiers units installed in classrooms by F&S, the units have a red indicator light to trigger an inspection. Caretaking checks for the indicator light daily. If the indicator light is red, Caretaking will issue a service order to Utilities who will inspect the unit and determine if the filter needs to be replaced.
If you see a red indicator light on an air purification unit, you can also contact Facilities & Services (416-978-3000). If you or the JHSC have questions about when the inspections, please contact OISE Facilities & Services or EHS.
Do public health guidelines recommend CO2 to be measured before returning to in-person activities?
For more details on indoor air quality including carbon dioxide, please refer to “What air quality standards are met in the OISE building?”
Carbon dioxide is a frequently used parameter to assess if there is sufficient outdoor air for general indoor air quality purposes. However, it is not a direct indicator of COVID-19.
Neither Toronto Public Health nor Health Canada specifically recommend CO2 levels to be measured in their guidance regarding ventilation systems. These agencies do recommend regular maintenance/inspections, maximizing outdoor air where possible and upgrading filtration where possible. The University’s Tricampus HVAC Strategy aligns with these recommendations.
Per the recent JHSC newsletters, building occupants who have questions or would like to request information the building ventilation and when inspections are done a system should contact the OISE JHSC (listing posted on the EHS webpage). EHS will assist in facilitating discussions between the JHSC and the facilities group to obtain the requested information (where the information is available).
For a review of airflow and air changes per hour (ACH) information in the OISE building, please refer to “How does the air quality in the OISE building compare to my home?”
Examples of how the University’s team of qualified engineers maintains optimal air quality standards in the OISE building are provided in “What air quality standards are met in the OISE building?”
Departments are responsible for communicating to their staff about COVID-19 policies and measures specific to their operations. You can also contact your supervisor if you have any questions. OISE community members are also encouraged to visit the UofT UTogether website and the OISE Together Hub for the latest information.
Toronto Public Health continues to recommend that plexiglass or other impermeable barriers be considered for high frequency, short duration interactions. Examples are service desks, ticket booths or receptions. If there is a concern about the placement or removal of a barrier, or the necessity of a barrier based on the tasks, please contact EHS (email@example.com).
Even though the government no longer mandates indoor masking in schools, based on the best available scientific evidence masking is still considered an important mitigation technique. Will UofT continue to mandate the wearing of masks indoors on campus after May 1, 2022?
The provincial government removed the mask mandate on March 21, 2022. The University has proceeded with caution, initially announcing the mask mandate until April 30, 2022 and then further extending the mask mandate until June 30, 2022. We encourage all community members to check the UTogether website on a regular basis for updates.
Masks will continue to be required in classrooms and in indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least two (2 metres) cannot be maintained until June 30, 2022. The University continues to recommend the use of medical-grade masks where possible: Information about masks | University of Toronto.
In addition, individuals in specific circumstances may continue to be required to wear masks in all settings, subject to changes in provincial or federal requirements, such as those who have been recently exposed to COVID-19 or to someone with symptoms.
Even in settings where masks may not be required because physical distancing can be maintained, we ask everyone to always respect the decisions of others, their comfort levels, and health needs. It is vitally important that, even with the easing of provincial measures, we remain vigilant, conscientious, and show kindness to one another.
Units/departments are encouraged to review their communication processes (e.g. emails, appointment booking systems, signage, website and other social media) to communicate this recommendation. Individual department and units should not mandate masks unless they are a high risk setting (e.g. health care). Please contact EHS if you have any concerns about your situation.
The University continues to monitor this situation. Public health restrictions may be reinstated on short notice should public health conditions or guidance change.
Have you considered sampling and continuous monitoring on each floor of the OISE building for specific types of chemical compounds and hazards (e.g., formaldehyde, mold, asbestos, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), etc.)?
Please report any health and safety concerns to your supervisor. EHS can be contacted to assess the concern and determine next steps regarding air sampling or recommendations where applicable.
The type of air sampling that is conducted is dependent on the concerns and risks present. The University has a number of programs and policies in place to address potential hazards. For example:
Formaldehyde and VOCs could be a concern in areas that have undergone new construction (e.g. new building materials, paints/coatings used during the construction, new furniture). However, this is proactively addressed by university design standards to limit VOCs for all construction and renovation projects.
Mould is naturally present in the indoor and outdoor environment. However, mould growth/amplification is associated with moisture problems (e.g. roof or plumbing leaks). Buildings are managed to prevent water issues/mould growth and procedures are in place to safely address mould growth if present (please refer to the Mould Control Program).
Asbestos is present in many buildings in Canada (e.g. schools, hospitals, residential homes, shopping centres, etc.) and naturally present in background levels of outdoor air. Asbestos has been linked with harmful illness (e.g. mesothelioma, a type of cancer) in asbestos workers such as trades workers and construction workers, due to the nature of their work, worked regularly with asbestos materials (e.g. grinding, cutting, drilling, etc.). Simply working in a building with asbestos does not mean you are exposed to harmful levels of asbestos. The University’s Asbestos Management Program outlines the processes that are in place to ensure that our buildings are safe.
Sampling is not always necessary to identify the hazards. For example, the University maintains an asbestos inventory. Combined with visual inspections, the asbestos inventory is an effective tool in identify whether damaged to asbestos-containing materials had occurred (or not).
You can also contact the OISE JHSC (contact information posted on the EHS webpage) for assistance.
As part of the University’s response to the pandemic, the Tricampus HVAC Strategy was developed and implemented by the University.
You can see a list of assessed classrooms on the Classroom ventilation webpage.
You can also review the building filtration information (e.g. Merv-13 filters) on the Central Ventilation webpage. All OISE-related buildings (252 Bloor St. W., 371 Bloor St. W., JICS) have all been fitted with MERV-13 or higher filters.
The University has continued with a number of measures for safe return to campus, consistent with public health recommendations:
Masks will continue to be required in classrooms and in indoor spaces where physical distancing of at least two (2 metres) cannot be maintained until June 30, 2022. The University continues to recommend the use of medical-grade masks where possible (Information about masks | University of Toronto).
Encouraging all community members to be fully vaccinated.
Continuing to operate our buildings to maximize outdoor air and using upgraded (Merv-13) filtration (please refer to the Tricampus HVAC Strategy).
Enhanced disinfection and provision of disinfection wipes and hand sanitizer across the campus including the OISE building – please refer to “How often are OISE rooms and high-touch surfaces (e.g. elevators, washrooms, etc.) being cleaned and disinfected?”
Providing and continually updating our Procedures in the Event of a Confirmed/Symptomatic Case or Exposure to COVID-19 and guidance on the EHS COVID-19 webpage (e.g. General Workplace Guidelines).
Community members can contribute to maintaining a safe environment by staying home when they are sick, being fully vaccinated and obtaining their booster shot where applicable, wearing a well-fitted mask consistently and practicing good hand hygiene.
We appreciate that the pandemic has been stressful and difficult on the community. The University continues to monitor this situation and is ready to pivot and reinstated restrictions on short notice should public health conditions or guidance change. Please check the UTogether website on a regular basis for updates.
Questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The wellbeing of our community is one of OISE's top priorities. This year, be sure to devote time to self-care by participating in some of our wellness events and by accessing some of our resources. Learn more about OISE’s commitment to supporting health and wellbeing in our community.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the University remains dedicated to ensuring accessible equity support and services while still upholding our commitment to confidentiality and privacy. Learn more about how UofT is supporting and building an intentionally inclusive community.