Return to Campus Transitional Planning Update, August 23, 2021 - 3:24 p.m.

August 23, 2021

As we approach the final few weeks of planning for a new academic year, discussion continues around two major elements of community health and safety in the post-secondary sector. I have heard your concerns around both of these topics and write today to provide more information.

In today’s update:
  • Vaccinations
  • A potential mask mandate


At a news conference today, the Premier, flanked by the Minister of Health and Provincial Health Officer, presented a “proof of vaccination” program, a concept that is being reviewed and/or instituted in other provinces and countries around the world. This will mean that fully vaccinated individuals have greater opportunity to participate in discretionary activities than non-vaccinated community members.

We are examining how the new guidelines presented in today's news will impact our plans for September and we will continue to work with the B.C. post-secondary sector to develop implementation plans moving forward. While education and research are deemed essential, some elements of campus life may be considered discretionary. For example, the new program references student housing, fitness centres and gyms; stay tuned for more information about what the means for our residence buildings and the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.

As evidenced by that example, we don’t have all the answers today, but we remain committed to working with our partners in the post-secondary system and within our University community to develop sector-wide processes and procedures moving forward. This will create a stronger approach to which all institutions can adhere.

As for our current planning, I remain in conversation with our local health authority on the possibility of hosting “pop-up” vaccine clinics in the fall. This would allow those who only have one dose to finish their vaccine regiment, and would provide opportunities for those who have yet to begin to get started! International students arriving from abroad would also be able to avail themselves of this service.

It is critical that members of our community get vaccinated. The science shows us that vaccines are formidable opponents to COVID-19. The emerging Delta variant is largely being experienced by those with only one dose or none at all. It is critical that as many of us as possible be vaccinated for us to reach community immunity.

For those of you who have already been vaccinated, thank you for playing an important role in our community’s collective health. To those who haven’t, please consider doing so, not only to keep yourself safe, but to help protect those around you and further strengthen our community. For more information on how to register to receive your vaccination, visit the Get Vaccinated BC website.

A Potential Mask Mandate

Discussions around mask mandates continue across our sector, in collaboration with multiple experts’ tables, health officials, and Ministry personnel. Personally, I support a return to mandatory masks in indoor settings on our campuses. I expect an update about an updated mask policy in the coming days and will provide information and what it means for UNBC as quickly as possible once that announcement has been made.

Wearing a mask fortifies public health and reduces the transmission of COVID-19; given that many members of our community are not yet fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, I appreciate our community’s ongoing commitment to safety and public health.

In closing

There is a growing sense of excitement about the Fall semester, yet I have also heard your concerns. I remain committed to our community’s health and safety, and will continue to have conversations with as many of you as possible to ensure you feel your concerns are heard, and to help you understand what we are doing to address them.

Remember, we regularly update our Transition and Return-to-Campus from COVID-19 website with the latest updates; if you can’t find the information you’re looking for there, or if you have questions, let us know at

Stay safe, and thank you!

Geoff Payne
President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim)

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