C/O Yoohyun Park

In order to protect McMaster community members, McMaster created its own digital platform to enforce its COVID-19 precautions

On Aug. 16, McMaster University confirmed that it would be requiring vaccination against COVID-19 for all students on campus. This information was shared in a letter from the President and Provost, which also stated that an online platform would be developed to validate the vaccination information of students. 

This online platform, called MacCheck, officially launched on Sept. 7. Since its launch, all McMaster students, staff and faculty have been required to upload proof of vaccination. Further, students, staff and faculty who are accessing McMaster’s campus must answer a series of COVID-19 screening questions on MacCheck beforehand.

According to Kevin de Kock, Director of Enterprise Solutions and Applications, there weren’t any online platforms already available that suited McMaster’s needs. 

“A lot of the other applications didn’t really have the ability for somebody to go in and validate the [proof of vaccination], so it was clear to us that we were going to have to build something ourselves,” said de Kock. 

Once the announcement was made on Aug. 16 that proof of vaccination would be mandatory, McMaster was left with only a few weeks before their Sept. 7 deadline to develop a digital COVID-19 screening platform. 

According to de Kock, MacCheck’s launch has been very successful so far. With over 34,000 people who have already submitted their proof of vaccination, many students seem to understand the importance of MacCheck. 

Gayleen Gray, Assistant Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, added that, despite the initial success of MacCheck, there is still more work to be done. According to Gray, McMaster needs proof of vaccination from around 47,000 individuals, meaning there are about 13,000 people who still have to upload to MacCheck. 

“It’s really important to us that we provide people with their privacy obviously, so only authorized individuals are able to see the information, but there is an intention to, as we get closer to October 18, push harder to remind people [that] this is necessary,” Gray said. 

In the comments of a post on the Spotted at Mac Facebook page, some individuals raised concerns that MacCheck isn’t enforced on campus. 

When discussing McMaster’s approach to ensuring that the daily COVID-19 screenings are completed by individuals accessing campus, Gray emphasized the importance of creating a culture where everyone understands the importance of MacCheck for community safety. 

“What we were trying to do is get away from a policing kind of approach, where anybody at any time can say ‘show me your green check; I want to see if you’re okay to be on campus,’” Gray explained. 

“It’s impossible to police this, and the intention was never to police it, but MacCheck is meant to be your one-stop shop to prove that you’ve been cleared to attend campus,” de Kock said. 

According to Gray, the McMaster community has embraced this culture of community protection, with MacCheck averaging over 7,000 COVID-19 screenings per day. This, Gray says, speaks to McMaster’s wider culture of health and safety, as well as its culture of empathy. 

“In terms of validating whether students have or have not done that, there’s a huge amount of respect and trust that our students will do the right thing. They know that this is something that they’re required to do,” said Gray. 

Along with McMaster’s own mandatory vaccine policy, Ontario has also begun requiring proof of vaccination for those wishing to access indoor dining, athletic facilities, theatres and other non-essential services. This policy came into effect on Sept. 22. 

In order to comply with the provincial rules, McMaster’s COVID-19 guidelines have been further tightened. Students wishing to eat in the McMaster University Student Centre or access indoor athletic facilities are now required to show proof of vaccination and identification. As well, multiple food service areas on campus have limited their seating.

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