This week the Provincial Health Officer, the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training, and the Minister of Education announced a new Public Health Order relating to the wearing of non-medical masks in public indoor settings, for K-12 and post-secondary institutions, along with other public health safety measures.
The Order requiring non-medical masks came into effect on August 25, 2021 for all indoor public areas on both UBC campuses, including classrooms, labs, lobbies, hallways, stairwells, and elevators. The Order also applies to anyone taking public transportation, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle, and in many other settings. You can view the announcement at https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021HLTH0053-001665. Further details can be found at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/info/restrictions#masks. UBC Okanagan is subject to an additional regional Public Health Order which was updated on August 20, 2021.
We know that mandated masks and vaccines have been key concerns within our community and we have continued to express those concerns in our discussions with the provincial government. While we are aware that a significant majority of our campus community have already been vaccinated and all safety precautions are in place for September, we are working towards offering rapid testing for our community members who have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, or who choose not to disclose their vaccination status.
As a result, UBC will require COVID-19 testing for all students, faculty and staff, with exemptions provided for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19. We will implement a process for confidential self-disclosure of vaccination status for all those who access our campuses, including students, faculty, staff and visitors. More information will be shared as it becomes available. We will also open dialogue with our students, faculty and staff associations and unions on the development of this initiative and its implementation, recognizing that we need to allow for a transition period to give all UBC community members an opportunity to access vaccinations.
This measure is in addition to the previously announced Public Health Order related to the provincial proof of vaccination program which requires proof of vaccination for those living in student housing, and for discretionary activities, including indoor ticketed concerts and sporting events; indoor and outdoor dining in restaurants, pubs and bars; indoor high intensity group exercise; movie theatres; gyms, pools and recreation facilities; and indoor organized gatherings, such as conferences, weddings and parties, both on and off campus. Proof of vaccination is not required for educational activities such as attending classes, orientation activities or other post-secondary activities. You can view the announcement at https://broadcastemail.ubc.ca/2021/08/23/announcement-of-bc-vaccine-card-for-specific-activities. Find out how to access your proof of vaccination at https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/proof.
We are confident these additional measures will augment the already high number of students who have been vaccinated. A recent survey of all registered UBC Vancouver students (undergraduate and graduate; domestic and international) revealed that, as of August 16, 92% of the responding students (16,093 participated) are partially or fully vaccinated and 83% are fully vaccinated, with the majority of the remainder intending to be vaccinated before the start of classes. Similar vaccination status information will be collected for UBC Okanagan in the near future.
To all our community members, I strongly recommend that you become vaccinated before returning to campus, if you are eligible. As a reminder, in BC, vaccines are available to everyone aged 12 and older, including students arriving from international destinations, who can receive their vaccinations after arriving in Canada. You can learn more at https://immunizebc.ca.
A Vancouver Coastal Health vaccination clinic is currently operating on the Vancouver campus, on a drop-in basis. You can find details at https://srs.ubc.ca/2021/08/20/vch-drop-in-vaccination-clinic-is-available-at-life-sciences-centre. In partnership with UBC Okanagan, Interior Health is also offering free, drop-in COVID-19 vaccinations from August 30. Details can be found at https://ok.ubc.ca/covid19/vaccines.
Thank you to everyone for your continued support as we navigate our safe return to campus.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor