I’m writing to alert you to a few COVID-related updates.
I hope that now that classes have started, that all is going well. I was pleased to hear from a number of you that students are generally being very cooperative about wearing masks in the classroom.
For those who haven’t yet seen it, I wanted to alert you to the clearest and most up-to-date university directions on mask wearing, and how instructors can respond to any non-compliance, at:
While the directions do note that students are permitted to remove masks while eating and drinking in the classroom, the Association is continuing to advocate that this not be permitted, except for health reasons. We hope that there will be some movement soon from the Administration on this matter of significant concern to many of our members.
We have asked whether instructors will be informed if there is a positive case in their class, and we have been told that, “notification of the instructor may not be necessary in all cases…Island Health determines who needs to be notified and who should do the notifications.” This is based on the context and a consideration of risk factors. We have also been told that instructors should not seek personal health information (including vaccination status or whether a student has COVID) from students or others because the University can only collect such information for legitimate purposes and through processes that are consistent with the province’s privacy legislation.
All of those on campus are required to declare their vaccination status through the Thrive app and commit to providing evidence of vaccination if requested. Those who do not complete the declaration, are not vaccinated, or not fully vaccinated, are required to undertake rapid testing once a week on campus. We have been told that for this testing the university is using an antigen rapid test that uses a nasal swab (vs a nasopharyngeal swab). Apparently the process is very simple – the student/faculty or staff member does their own nasal swab and then the clinic (staffed with nurses) does the rapid analysis on it. This takes about 15 minutes.
Some positive news
Given the bad news we are hearing out of Alberta, I’m pleased to share with you the latest (September 15th) BC COVID forecasts, from the BC COVID Modelling Group, which includes our colleague Dean Karlen of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. https://bccovid-19group.ca/post/2021-09-15-interimreport/ (see slides in the link).
The report notes that COVID cases are flattening out in most BC health regions, other than the North, which is very positive. At the same time, it also notes that these case numbers do not yet reflect the potential impact of the reopening of postsecondary and K-12 classes last week.
Encouraging students to vote
I’d like to conclude by encouraging you to encourage your students to vote in Monday’s election. It is unfortunate that Elections Canada has not provided the on-campus student voting options that were made available in the last election. This make it even more important to encourage students to engage in the democratic process, so they can help shape the political future of our country.
Let us hope that the curves continue to flatten in BC.
All the very best,