COVID-19 Response and Planning Update, December 16, 2021

December 16, 2021

With the emergence of the Omicron variant, I’m sure some of you may be feeling some uncertainty, so I write today to provide a few updates.

In today’s update:

  • UNBC Virtual Town Hall
  • Dr. Henry’s Town Hall

UNBC Virtual Town Hall

Yesterday we hosted a virtual Town Hall to discuss our planning for next semester as part of UNBC’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions raised included topics such as rapid testing, vaccination mandates, and resources for students. We’ll post that video on our COVID-19 Response and Planning website. One question we have heard is what our employees should do if they have a confirmed case of COVID-19. If that is the case, or if you are required to isolate, follow the guidelines and directions from BC Centre for Disease Control and/or your health practitioner. Inform your supervisor and email as soon as possible providing the start date of your first day of illness or self-isolation so that we can support your return to work.

Dr. Henry’s Town Hall

Last week, I joined colleagues from across the post-secondary sector in a Town Hall meeting hosted by B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. She provided an update regarding what they are seeing in our specific sector, and answered several questions across multiple themes.

Dr. Henry indicated that diagnosis and transmission has been low in post-secondary settings. This is due, she said, to the fantastic vaccine uptake in the post-secondary sector. So thank you to all of you who have done your part for our community’s health and well-being.  Another question that arose was in regards to rapid testing; Dr. Henry indicated that these are not effective in asymptomatic communities and are not a useful prevention tool as they only provide early detection of the disease by which time transmission has already occurred.

She also answered a question I have heard this semester: Why aren’t vaccines mandatory in the post-secondary sector? Her answer was that mandates are viewed as a last resort for high-risk settings and unlike health care we are not considered to be at high risk for transmission. She is striving to find the least restrictive means to support people while balancing that with risk. She would only mandate vaccines when she has reasonable grounds to believe a health hazard exists and is needed to protect public health.

I won’t recount the entire session, but it is available online if you’d like to watch it.

In closing, please be safe this holiday season. If you are travelling, keep in mind that restrictions can change at a moment’s notice, especially for international travel. Limit your travel if at all possible, but if you must, observe travel advisories and the safety measures in your destination’s jurisdiction. Keep your gatherings small, strive to spend time with vaccinated people, and wear a mask.

We have arrived at the end of another semester, a semester that has relied upon the community’s resiliency and determination. We have had good days and we have had challenging days, yet as a community we have continued to support each other. I am extremely grateful for all your efforts to help keep our community safe. I am reminded each day it is each one of you who come together to make UNBC special. Thank you, stay safe, and enjoy the holiday break!

Geoff Payne
President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim)

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