Return to Campus Transitional Planning Update, August 25, 2021 - 2:40 p.m.

August 25, 2021

Earlier this week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, along with the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training and Minister of Education, provided the post-secondary sector with some much-anticipated guidance regarding masking and proof-of-vaccination policies for our communities. I write today to provide an update regarding what this means for UNBC.

In today’s update:

  • Mandatory Masks
  • Proof-of-Vaccination Program

Mandatory Masks

All individuals attending UNBC worksites are required to wear a mask, effective Wednesday, Aug. 25, in accordance with the PHO’s mandatory mask requirements. This includes in common areas such as hallways, corridors, elevators, classrooms and research labs as well as within the library, bookstore and Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre. Individuals working in their offices or cubicles, or behind partitions are not required to wear masks as long as they are not in close proximity to others. A more detailed description of specific requirements and examples is listed below and will be available on our Transition and Return-to-Campus from COVID-19 website.

As I referenced in my update Monday, I am listening to each of your concerns carefully. I have had many conversations with our various unions’ leadership teams, as well as with student leadership groups and individual members of our University community. I have worked with my colleagues across the province to ensure our voices are heard by the entities that develop BC’s Restart guidelines, so I am happy with this development; it demonstrates that our sector-wide response to COVID-19 is effective and continuing to support our community’s health and safety.

Wearing a mask is something all of us can do to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. As some members of our community are not yet fully vaccinated or are immunocompromised, I appreciate our community’s co-operation and commitment to safety and public health.

Proof-of-Vaccination program

The province has unveiled its plans for a proof-of-vaccination program. Yesterday, more information was provided, although details are still being finalized and the specifics will be outlined in a new Provincial Health Officer Order which is being developed. This means that proof of vaccination will be required in several of our on-campus settings starting Sept. 13, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Housing – Details are being developed by public health officials. When we know more information about UNBC Housing, we will provide that information. It will be a phased-in approach to ensure students have access to vaccines, but partial vaccination will be required by Sept. 7, 2021.
  • A variety of indoor events, such as conferences, sporting events and concerts.
  • The Thirsty Moose Pub.
  • The Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.

As for the classroom and lab setting, the PHO is not requiring proof of vaccination for several reasons, including the following:

  • Dr. Henry indicated public health experts learned a great deal last year in the K-12 system, and the in-class setting was not a high-risk setting for transmission.
  • She also indicated they want to ensure that important educational opportunities are available. The transmission risks are in communal living settings, which is why focus rests there.

In addition, we have been working with Northern Health regarding pop-up vaccination clinics on our campuses. I hope to have details soon.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, vaccinations have a dramatic effect in curbing COVID-19 transmission. If you’ve received yours, thank you. If not, please do so.

In closing

Dr. Henry mentioned that the guidelines for a return to campus require periodic review and updates to adapt to changing circumstances. Our province continues to see increased transmission, particularly among unvaccinated individuals, which is why we are seeing a need for certain measures.

Your health and safety remains our top priority, so I’m sure you share my relief regarding the recent announcements of added protective measures.

As always, be sure to visit our Transition and Return-to-Campus from COVID-19 website for the latest information and resources. If you have questions, please send them to

Stay safe, and thank you!

Geoff Payne
President and Vice-Chancellor (Interim)

Mask requirements at UNBC campuses and facilities

Non-medical masks must be worn by those who are able in all communal space on campus (except as described below) or where physical distancing cannot be maintained, including the following:

  • All indoor communal space such as hallways, elevators, stairways, atriums and high-traffic areas.
  • Meeting rooms and lecture theatres.
  • Classrooms and labs (faculty/instructors while at the front of the classroom/lecture theatre/lab can remove their mask for the purpose of teaching).
  • In all shared open suite/office space.
  • While travelling for University business in a motor vehicle or bus with more than one occupant.
  • While working in all health-care related patient settings.
  • In communal space at the Charles Jago Northern Sport Centre.
  • In communal space in the Dining Hall and while picking up meals.
  • Within Residence communal space (outside of suites).
  • Within the bookstore and the library.

 Masks are not required in some instances, such as the following:

  • When working alone in private offices.
  • When working alone outdoors.
  • Working or teaching in the field when 2-metre physical distancing can be maintained.
  • When working alone in usually shared space.
  • When working behind a plexiglass barrier.
  • When students are seated at tables and eating meals/drinking in the Dining Hall.
  • For students living in Residence within their suites.

 Directions for field crews:


  • Students and crew can continue to travel in buses and motor vehicles with usual capacity levels.
  • Masks must be worn by all those who are able when travelling together.

Health check

  • A daily health check must be performed by all crew before heading into the field; if participants are ill they are not to attend.
  • If a participant is ill, isolate the crew member, if possible, in a lone room for symptoms to be monitored, wearing a mask and enhanced sanitization practices.
  • If illness persists, consider whether symptoms require that the individual be transported out of camp and requires testing. Call 1-844-645-7811 for direction.

Pod arrangements/teaching

  • For the purpose of field crews, groups of students would be considered a pod whereby smaller groups can share cabins and masks are not required (similar to student housing). Crews should maintain the pods they have been allocated and not move between cabins.
  • Normal occupancy for meetings/classroom sessions can be maintained, but masks are to be worn (faculty/instructors while at the front of the classroom/lecture theatre/lab can remove their mask for the purpose of teaching).

Contact Information