Queen’s to implement COVID-19 testing facilities, flu immunization program

University will strongly advise flu shot due to similarities between influenza and COVID-19

If a coronavirus vaccination is developed, the flu immunization program could be transitioned into a COVID-19 immunization site.
Journal File Photo

As planning for the fall term continues, Queen’s has committed to establishing COVID-19 testing facilities on campus and undertaking a mass influenza immunization program.

The University confirmed at Principal Deane’s virtual town hall in May it will be implementing the programs for September in collaboration with Kingston, Frontenac, and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A).

“Testing and tracing will be crucial to promoting as safe an environment as possible on campus and in Kingston,” Dr. David Walker, Queen’s COVID-19 response lead, wrote in a statement to The Journal. “KFL&A public health […] has asked the University for support in conducting both COVID-19 testing and a mass influenza immunization program." 

Currently, Kingston’s COVID-19 testing facility is located at the Kingston Memorial Centre. Walker wrote that Student Wellness Services (SWS) has the capability to provide testing, though the on-campus testing site will be remote from the SWS office. The University hasn’t decided where the testing site will be located.

Kingston currently has no active cases, with all 62 reported cases being resolved. At the time of publication, KFL&A had completed 11,190 tests with 0.6 per cent of tests returning positive.

The University will also implement an influenza immunization program on campus. According to Walker, Public Health has asked Queen’s to undertake the program, which will be covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). 

Walker wrote that influenza—also known as the flu—arrives every fall and is hard to distinguish from COVID-19. He said it’s more virulent in some years than others, but has the potential to increase public health risks. 

“[I]n vulnerable populations, [the flu] can be very serious, needing critical ICU capacity,” Walker wrote. “Thus, any measure to reduce the incidence of flu is strongly encouraged by KFL&A public health.”

He added that due to similarities in symptoms between COVID-19 and the flu, as well as the dangers both pose to vulnerable populations, Public Health is “strongly encouraging influenza vaccination” across the country.

In the event a coronavirus vaccination is developed, Walker said the flu immunization program could be transitioned into a COVID-19 immunization site.

Walker didn’t say face masks will be mandatory on campus in the fall, but noted current advice is that wearing non-medical masks helps to “protect others from you.”

“[Masks] should be used in situations where physical distancing is compromised, along with hygiene etiquette,” Walker wrote. “Physical distancing and hygiene are the critical public health measures.”

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