A Summary of COVID-19 Updates and Responses from the Governments and UCalgary

Keep up to date with the latest developments of COVID-19:
Faculty of Graduate Studies: grad.ucalgary.ca/covid-19-information-graduate-students
UCalgary: ucalgary.ca/covid-19
Alberta Health Services: albertahealthservices.ca
GSA Health and Dental Plan FAQ: gsa.ucalgary.ca/health-dental-services

Below is the summary of some daily updates that might affect you as graduate students and Calgarians. Please use this information as additional resource to other university and governments’ official webpages that are linked above.

as of March 26:

Government of Albera’s Update:

  • Public health orders are now enforceable by law.
  • Alberta Health has confirmed that all international students will be covered for COVID-19 related medical assistance regardless of whether or not they have health insurance coverage.

Government of Canada’s Update:

  • Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB): streamlined and expanded federal government COVID-19 benefits program to help struggling Canadians and businesses
  • New program collapses 2 previously announced programs – Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit – into one.
  • CERB will offer income support of about $2,000/month for up to 16 weeks to those who lose pay because of the pandemic (lost their jobs, got sick, are under quarantine, have to stay home because of school closures etc.)
  • Who qualifies: wage earners, contract workers and self-employed people who don’t qualify for EI
  • Online application portal to apply for CERB will be available early April. Payments will be received within 10 days of applying. Payments will be issued every 4 weeks for the period of March 13-October 3
  • Those already receiving EI or sickness benefits shouldn’t apply to the CERB
  • Canadians who already applied for EI and whose applications haven’t been processed yet, don’t need to reapply
  • Canadians who are eligible for regular EI and sickness benefits can still apply for these benefits if they are unemployed after the 16-week period covered by CERB

UCalgary Updates:

  • A Campus Community Needs Assessment website has been launched. Those who need assistance with basic needs, physical or mental health supports or any other assistance can visit the website and fill in the form.
  • UCalgary staff/faculty/student or alum who can volunteer are encouraged to register on the new COVID-19 Volunteer Support website
  • Reminder to be safe if you come to campus in person. Let somebody know where you’ll be, and how long you’ll be or bring a buddy (practice social distancing)

as of March 24, 2020

National Park Closures:

  • Effective March 25, national parks will be closed to visitors to encourage Cdns to stay home.
  • Highways through parks will stay open, but parking and vehicle access will be restricted
  • Traditional Indigenous activities within the parks will continue, but users are asked to practice social distancing

UCalgary Updates

  • All 2020 Spring and Summer term courses will be offered online
  • Kinesiology building closed effective today, March 24
  • Starting March 26, building access on all campuses will switch to summer hours (9am – 4pm).

as of March 23, 2020

Government of Canada’s Update

  • Impact of travel restrictions on international students: Federal govt clarified that exemptions include international students who held a valid study permit, or had been approved for a study permit. These individuals will be allowed for return/enter Canada.

UCalgary’s Updates

  • 3 more individuals tested positive, bringing the total cases at UCalgary to 4. Preventive measures on campus increased.
  • On March 22, a directive was sent for faculty/staff/post docs and students to work from home. Research teams encouraged to also work from home is they can.
  • Effective March 22, the Taylor Family Digital Library and vendors on campus will close.
  • Effective March 23 at 8:30am, all computer labs will shut down. Student Wellness Services and Accessibility Services will now only offer services online.
  • Students in residence who can go home are told to go home no later than next Sunday, March 29. University will continue to accommodate any student who cannot go home, including international students.
  • Final grades for the winter term: UCalgary will now give students the option to accept their final grade (GPA) or opt for a credit Received/Fail (Pass/Fail) for each of their courses in the Winter 2020 term. Students who wish to withdraw from classes and get a W can withdraw by April 15. There will be no refunds for withdrawal.
  • Parking on campus: All UCalgary parking lots will be complimentary effective March 24, 2020. Complimentary parking will remain in effect until the date that the work from home direction is rescinded. Students with semester permits can request a refund by contacting Parking Services at parking@ucalgary.ca.

Government of Alberta’s Updates

  • Select licensed childcare facilities will open next week (Week of March 23) to help provide care for the children of essential workers (e.g.: healthcare workers, workers supporting municipal utilities etc.) will be selected based on proximity to health centres, and will be limited to a total of 30 people including staff. Facilities that can open will be contacted. Parents who qualify for these spaces will be contacted via their employers. Intent is to open about 6k facilities across AB’s largest cities. All other facilities are to remain closed at this time.

as of March 19, 2020

City of Calgary’s Responses

  • City of Calgary Support For Calgarians: Utility companies have agreed not to disconnect any customers for three months. Consumers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for up to 90 days with no penalty, starting April 1.
  • Low Income Transit Pass for March is valid for the month of April. Details HERE
  • Calgary Police are moving more services online, including information checks, and have new protocols for visiting a station in person. More details HERE

UCalgary’s COVID-19 Town Hall: Highlights

  • Compensation will be announced later today for TAs and RAs working extra hours to support professors to transition to remote learning
  • TAs should be providing their students with remote learning tools and ensuring students can connect remotely
  • UCalgary will release more guidelines to support TAs and professors on addressing academic honesty concerns in an online platform. However, start in a place of trust at this point
  • Research facilities are still open, but there is no pressure for individuals to come in. UCalgary wants to provide opportunities for those who would like to do research if safe to do so
  • UCalgary is working with governments to help international students who are affected by the travel ban
  • Residences remain open, no need to vacate at this point. However, if there is a need to vacate, UCalgary will ensure everyone has a safe place to stay
  • The Landing is open to serve those living on campus alongside with other independent vendors that chose to stay open at reduced hours
  • Lot 10 and McMahon Stadium parking is complementary
  • Have discussion with your supervisors on possibilities in regard to meetings and exams.
  • Students can contact Wellness Centre for mental health support
  • Check ucalgary.ca/covid-19 for latest updates from UCalgary

Faculty of Graduate Studies’s Resources

Read here

Government of Alberta’s Updates

Providing Additional Assistance to Families and Businesses (announced late March 18). This is to top off the federal aid program already announced

  • Emergency Isolation Support: a temporary program for working adult Albertans who must self-isolate because they meet the Government of Alberta’s published criteria for self-isolation, including persons who are the sole caregiver for a dependent who must self-isolate because they meet the public health criteria, and who will not have another source of pay or compensation while they are self-isolated.
  • Utility payment holiday: Residential, farm, and small commercial customers can defer bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off from these services during this time of crisis. This will cover electricity and natural gas, regardless of the service provider.
  • Alberta Government Support for Post-Secondary Students: Advanced Education is pausing all repayments of Alberta Student Loans for 6 months beginning March 30, 2020. Interest will not accrue during this period

Banks and Credit Unions

  • ATB Financial customers impacted by COVID-19: Personal banking customers can apply for a deferral on their ATB loans, lines of credit, and mortgages for up to 6 months.
  • Alberta credit unions: Credit union members will have access to a variety of programs and solutions to ease difficulties with loan payments and short-term cash flow.
  • Charitable and non-profit groups will immediately receive an additional $60 million to support seniors and other vulnerable populations

More details here: https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=698455D70096B-DF57-A62A-778266237F3241C8

as of March 18, 2020

General Updates

  • A “sharp rise” in the number of COVID-19 cases and indicates community spread.
  • Canadians are encouraged not invite others into their homes at this time, and to work from home wherever possible.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the global economy, sending stock prices diving and forcing businesses to shut their doors as governments institute lockdowns and other social distancing measures to slow its spread.
  • Canadians are encouraged to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada
  • As of March 18, 2020, the Government of Canada will: ban foreign nationals from all countries except the United States from entering Canada.
    •  This measure does not apply to air crews, travellers arriving in Canada in transit to a third country, Canadian permanent residents, diplomats or immediate family members of Canadian citizens.
    • The GSA is unsure of what this means for international students studying in a Canadian University but currently out of the country. Students in this situation will likely have to return to their home countries and make arrangements with the University to access classes remotely. We’re waiting to see if the University comes out with guidelines to address this particular concern. 
  • International passenger flight arrivals will only go through 4 airports:
    • Calgary International Airport
    • Vancouver International Airport
    • Toronto-Pearson International Airport
    • Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport

Learn more here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/canadas-reponse.html

Government of Canada’s Response

  • Federal government unveils $82 billion pandemic aid package for Canadians: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced a massive $82-billion aid package to help Canadians and businesses cope with the global COVID-19 pandemic, including income supports, wage subsidies and tax deferrals.
  • The package includes $27 billion in direct supports and another $55 billion to help business liquidity through tax deferrals.
Support for Canadians:
  • Help for workers: 
    • Waived the one-week waiting period for employment insurance for people who are in quarantine or have been directed to self-isolate and are claiming for Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits, effective March 15, 2020.
    • Waived the requirement to provide a medical certificate to access EI sickness benefits.
    • A new Emergency Care Benefit providing up to $900 bi-weekly, for up to 15 weeks. Applications will be available April 2020. This flat-payment Benefit would be administered through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and provide income support to:
      • Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits.
      • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not quality for EI sickness benefits.
      • Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.
    • Longer Income Support for Workers for Canadians who lose their jobs or face reduced hours as a result of COVID-19:
      • Introducing an Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the CRA to provide support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment.
      • Implementing the EI Work Sharing Program, which provides EI benefits to workers who agree to reduce their normal working hour as a result of developments beyond the control of their employers, by extending the eligibility of such agreements to 76 weeks, easing eligibility requirements, and streamlining the application process. 
  • Help for students: A six-month, interest-free reprieve on federal student loan payments for all individuals currently in the process of repaying these loans.
  • Help for low/modest-income Canadians: A one-time GST credit payment by early May 2020. The average boost to income for those benefitting from this measure will be close to $400 for single individuals and close to $600 for couples.
  • Help for families with children: For those families who may require additional support, the government will increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit payment amounts, for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child as part of their May payment. 
  • Flexibility for taxpayers: Extending the tax filing deadline to June 1, 2020.
    • Allowing taxpayers to defer until after August 31 tax payments that are due after today and before September. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.
  • Help from financial institutions: Banks have been given additional lending capacity by recent government actions to support Canadian businesses and households who are impacted by COVID-19.
    • Banks in Canada have affirmed their commitment to working with customers to provide flexible solutions, on a case-by-case basis, for managing through hardships such as pay disruption, childcare disruption, or illness. 
    • Canada’s large banks have confirmed that this support will include up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages, and the opportunity for relief on other credit products.
  • Mortgage Default Management Tools: The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other mortgage insurers offer tools to lenders that can assist homeowners who may be experiencing financial difficulty. These include payment deferral, loan re-amortization, capitalization of outstanding interest arrears and other eligible expenses, and special payment arrangements.
    • CMHC is providing increased flexibility to homeowners facing financial difficulties to defer mortgage payments on homeowner CMHC-insured mortgage loans. CMHC will permit lenders to allow payment deferral beginning immediately.
  • Support for Canadians abroad: To help Canadians return home or cope with challenges they are facing while travelling, the Government of Canada has created the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad.
    • The Program will provide the option of an emergency loan to Canadians in need of immediate financial assistance to return home or to temporarily cover their life-sustaining needs while they work toward their return.
    • Global Affairs Canada is providing 24/7 consular support to Canadians abroad affected by COVID-19 through the Emergency Watch and Response Centre and through consular staff at its network of missions.
Support for businesses:
  • Helping Businesses Keep their Workers: To support businesses that are facing revenue losses and to help prevent lay-offs, the government is proposing to provide eligible small employers a temporary wage subsidy for a period of three months. The subsidy will be equal to 10% of remuneration paid during that period, up to a maximum subsidy of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer. Businesses will be able to benefit immediately from this support by reducing their remittances of income tax withheld on their employees’ remuneration. Employers benefiting from this measure will include corporations eligible for the small business deduction, as well as non-profit organizations and charities.
  • Flexibility for Businesses Filing Taxes: The Canada Revenue Agency will allow all businesses to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing on or after today and before September 2020. No interest or penalties will accumulate on these amounts during this period.

Learn more about the Government of Canada’s response here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-finance/economic-response-plan.html#individual

Government of Alberta’s Response

Information for Post-Secondary Students: As of March 15, in-person classes at post-secondary institutions have been cancelled until further notice. The government has asked campuses to remain open.

  • The government will also be working with post-secondary institutions to ensure that these extraordinary circumstances do not prevent students from being eligible for admission to post-secondary studies for the upcoming school year.
  • To help mitigate the widespread impacts of COVID-19, Advanced Education is pausing all repayments of Alberta Student Loans for six months beginning March 30, 2020. Interest will not accrue during this period.

Information for Employers and Employees

  • Changes to Employment Standards Code: Changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow full and part-time employees to take 14 days of job-protected leave if they are:
    • required to self-isolate
    • caring for a child or dependent adult that is required to self-isolate
    • To be eligible, employees:
      • will not be required to have a medical note
      • do not need to have worked for an employer for 90 days
      • This leave covers the self-isolation period recommended by Alberta’s chief medical officer. This leave may be extended if the advice of the chief medical officer changes.
      • The leave does not apply to self-employed individuals or contractors.
    • Business continuity plans: 
      • Employers should consider their business continuity plans and how COVID-19 could impact their workplace. To prepare, make plans to:
        • protect employees
        • limit spread in workplaces
        • ensure continuity of critical services if staff are ill or self-isolating
        • explore alternate working arrangements, such as:
          • working from home or remotely
          • doing work that doesn’t require contact with other people
  • Information for travellers
    • Returning Travellers
      • Returned before March 12 – Travellers returning from Italy, Iran, China’s Hubei province and the Grand Princess cruise ship should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms
        • Travellers returning from other countries outside Canada should monitor for symptoms for 14 days
    • Returning after March 12: All travellers returning from outside Canada should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor for symptoms
      • If you develop symptoms – cough, fever or difficulty breathing – stay home and complete the online COVID-19 self-assessmentDo not go to the ER or doctor’s office.
  • Changes to Government Services: Driver licenses/vehicle registrations
    • Upcoming expiry dates for Alberta drivers’ licences, vehicle registrations, other permits and certificates are being extended until May 15.
    • Vehicle registrations expire on an assigned month based on the registrant’s surname or a company name.
      • Albertans with surnames or company names beginning with B, D, G, Y will now have until May 15, 2020 to renew their vehicle registrations.
    • Driver’s licences expire on the holder’s birthday in the year noted on the card.
      • Albertans who have birthdays between March 17 and May 15 and whose cards expire this year, now have until May 15, 2020 to renew.

Learn more about the Government of Alberta’s response here: https://tinyurl.com/vmt3jk2

City of Calgary’s Response

UCalgary’s Response

  • Alternate-delivery classes begun Tuesday, March 17. Resources and support for online learning can be found here: https://taylorinstitute.ucalgary.ca/learning-continuity
  • The University remains open – – many services have transitioned to alternate delivery as many staff and faculty may choose to work from home. Learn more here about support for working from home: https://news.ucalgary.ca/news/support-working-home
  • The 2020 Budget Town hall has been postponed. No new date yet.
  • COVID-19 Townhall: There will be an online town hall about COVID-19 and how the university is responding to the evolving situation on Thursday, March 19, between noon and 1 p.m.  Students, faculty, and staff, please watch your inboxes for an invitation later today to this livestream event.
  • All events cancelled: All planned, in-person university events on our campuses are cancelled immediately. Until further notice, the scheduling of future campus events is on hold.
  • Recreation facilities closed: Effective immediately, all current Active Living and Outdoor Centre programs have been cancelled and all our recreation facilities at the University of Calgary campus are now closed.
  • Campus libraries and computer labs update: The Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL) on main campus remains open but social distancing measures are now in place. Other campus libraries will begin winding down operations’ effective March 18. Check for opportunities to access library supports remotely here: https://tinyurl.com/rqph5qx

Learn more about UCalgary’s response here: ucalgary.ca/covid-19