COVID-19 Concerns

Dear members of the UBC community.

In just a few short weeks, we will begin the new academic year. I appreciate that many of you have concerns about the return to campus. I have heard directly from many of you, as well as from the AMS, the Faculty Association, elected Governors and others.

I am grateful for your suggestions, and I understand and value your concerns.

I and my team have shared your suggestions and concerns with the Executive, with the Covid planning teams at UBC and with provincial officials through the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

I have been in regular communication with the Chair of our Board of Governors about the return to campus, and I have had discussions with the full Board.

Together with public health officials, we continue to monitor key COVID-19 metrics such as case numbers, hospitalization rates and progress with vaccinations.

We are working with the local and provincial health authorities to

  • deliver vaccinations on campus and via mobile units,
  • continue and potentially expand rapid antigen testing on campus, and
  • test and ensure robust and industry standard ventilation in learning spaces.

We have developed detailed safety plans for every space on both campuses and other UBC locations. Each of these involves a careful risk assessment vetted by WorkSafe BC and the relevant government ministries.

We continue to partner with government to facilitate the safe arrival of international students and to provide them with testing/quarantine and vaccinations upon arrival.

As you know, case numbers have begun to rise recently, and the highly contagious Delta variant is becoming more prevalent. Because of this, I strongly recommend that all members of the UBC community are fully vaccinated, before returning to campus.

Recognizing that some members of the UBC community may still need to be vaccinated at the start of school, I strongly recommend all members of the community continue to wear masks indoors.

We will continue to partner with the public health officer and health authorities to carefully monitor Covid cases on campus. Risk assessments are being carried out on a real time basis and are informed by public health data.

The Provincial Health Officer has the authority to issue additional public health measures such as mandatory masking, if required.

In fact, this has already occurred in the Okanagan region, which includes UBC Okanagan, because of a renewed Covid outbreak there. We have purchased a significant supply of non-medical masks so that we are ready to implement a campus-wide strategy if advised by the PHO.

Since changes to public health guidelines can only be issued by the province, I promise you that I will continue to keep the provincial government aware of concerns voiced by the community.

And we will update the community on any changes to public health guidelines that may arise in the future.

In the lead up to the start of the academic year, you will hear from me on various channels strongly recommending vaccination before returning to campus if at all possible and strongly recommending that the entire community continue to adhere to practices such as frequent handwashing and wearing masks inside. I ask you to help by sharing these messages verbally and through your social media channels.

Working together will be the best way that we can ensure a safe start to the academic year.

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor