News  COVID-19 at McGill – March 21

The following is a daily update of how COVID-19 is affecting the McGill and Montreal community.

A compiled article with all previous updates is available here. An accessible version of daily updates and resources is available here

The Daily’s editorial statement on community support during this public health crisis is available here.

Last updated: Saturday, March 21, at 2:30 p.m.


In an email late Friday evening, McGill announced that all students in undergraduate and graduate programs can utilize the “Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory” (S/U) option for all of their classes. The deadline to use the option is May 22, at which time McGill states students’ grades will have been released.

Suspending the normal protocol, courses taken this term determined to be S/U can be used towards major and minor programs, and does not count towards the limit of S/U courses taken in their degree. As is typical for S/U, courses students use the option for this term will not count towards their GPA. In addition, the deadline to withdraw from courses is being extended to April 15, effective March 23.

McGill has also announced that all interest and late payment fines on outstanding students will be suspended until further notice. It is not clear at this time when these changes will appear on Minerva accounts.

Additionally, the University affirmed that the summer semester will go ahead remotely, and that the University continues to recruit incoming students for the fall, and is “confident [they] can deliver high-quality learning, whether remotely or in person.” As with the current semester, there will be no in-person examinations for summer courses.

As for the summer semester, McGill is suspending all international travel for academic activities, internships, student exchanges, international mobility programs, competitions or conferences. The University will also not be accepting any new international students for exchange or study abroad programs until further notice.

Addressing concerns regarding lack of availability of the McGill VPN due to heightened traffic, the University stated that IT Services are “working hard to resolve the issue and [to make] the VPN more stable.”

Earlier in the day, Principal Suzanne Fortier confirmed that spring convocation would be cancelled, but that she is working to make sure all students planning to graduate will be able to complete their degrees. Additionally, according to Fortier, the University is “exploring alternative ways” to commemorate this year’s graduates “at some point in the near future.”

In the coming week, the Student Wellness Hub is preparing to deliver limited remote services, though it is not clear at this time what services will be available. Per an email communication early Friday afternoon, the University states that they “hope to begin offering tele-health appointments” for students that have remained in Quebec and for whom other resources are not meeting their needs. To make an appointment, students can call 514-398-6017 beginning on Monday, March 23. General health questions not related to cold or flu symptoms can also be answered by a nurse via phone starting on Monday, March 23.

As McGill students mark the first week of campus closures and class cancellations, an open letter to the McGill administration began circulating Friday, addressing the University’s response to the spread of COVID-19. Penned by a “collective of staff and students”, the letter is organized into sections outlining grievances, questions, and requests for the administration; addressing aspects of the University’s method of communication; management of students in residences, students abroad, and international students; as well as academic and financial accommodations. The letter, which at the time of publication has more than 70 signatures, criticizes the administration for a “complete lack of direct student and staff involvement in the decision-making process,” and calls for the inclusion of more voices in “decisions that directly involve [them].”

On Friday, March 20, the CBC reported that a McGill student tested positive for and is recovering from a COVID-19 infection. Later that evening, McGill confirmed the report, and assured students that Health Authorities have already communicated with anyone who had contact with the student.

In Montreal, as governmental regulations stay in place, Centraide Montreal announced that it will be launching an emergency fund to help those in the City of Montreal, Laval, and the South Shore who are left vulnerable by closures and quarantine measures. The fund will support community agencies that provide services working towards breaking social isolation, as well as providing basic necessities by distributing and delivering food and prepared meals.

The Royal Victoria Hospital will provide housing and isolated care for the homeless population in Montreal who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are awaiting test results. The conversion will displace current residents of the Hospital, which has been serving as a temporary overflow shelter for two winters; Mayor Valerie Plante says the City will work with homeless advocacy organizations to find accommodation for those staying in the shelter.

As of 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 21, there are 1076 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Canada. There are reportedly 139 confirmed cases in Quebec, with 31 in Montreal.