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Following my message on April 20, I would like to provide further updates regarding UBC’s planning for a transitioned return to campus.
As you know, we have been watching the course of the COVID-19 pandemic carefully and continue to work closely on our plans with public health officials at the provincial and regional levels. The clear indication from Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, is that there is reason for optimism and that we will continue to see positive improvements, particularly given the progression of the provincial vaccination program, ongoing public health measures, and increased understanding of the virus that causes COVID-19.
A virtual town hall was recently held, in which Dr. Henry responded to questions from senior post-secondary leaders. During this event she answered questions on subjects ranging from mask wearing to classroom safety, to HVAC systems, medical accommodations and more. I encourage you to view it athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM1UIAm6nbA.
The provincial government also recently published the COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Primer (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/post-secondary-education/institution-resources-administration/return-to-campus-primer.pdf). This document provides information about the key public health planning assumptions and safety measures necessary to safely guide our planning over the coming months. New revised COVID-19 Go-Forward Guidelines for B.C.’s Post-Secondary Sector will also be made available to the post-secondary sector in early summer for implementation by August.
The primer reflects the position of the Office of the Provincial Health Officer that we can expect to see lower COVID-19 transmission, and a significant reduction in serious cases, in the coming months. Although COVID-19 is unlikely to be eliminated from the population, it can be managed in the same manner as other common respiratory infections. It is anticipated that all adults in BC will have had an opportunity to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the week of June 21, and most will have received two doses by the end of August. International students who haven’t been vaccinated upon arrival will also have access to the BC immunization program.
As conditions improve throughout the spring and summer, it is expected that some of the more restrictive public health measures affecting our personal and professional lives will be relaxed while other prevention and control measures remain in place. Given these assumptions, we feel optimistic that UBC will be able to safely welcome our students, faculty and staff back to campus.
We appreciate that many members of our community will have questions, and some of you may be uneasy about a potential return to campus. It is important to reiterate that the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff remain our first priority. As we continue to take guidance from the provincial government and public health officials, we are also prepared to update our approach as required.
In-person teaching, learning, student housing and the student experience
The COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Primer sets out guidance to support UBC in planning for substantially increased in-person instruction and student housing occupancy. Faculties are currently finalizing the fall course schedules, assuming primarily on-campus instruction, with selected flexible options for continuity of learning where feasible, ahead of the course registration periods beginning in June. Key to this work will be our ongoing safety planning processes, and further updates will be provided.
Student engagement and campus experience is also an important component in supporting student success. Over the course of the next several weeks and months we will be sharing more details regarding the student services and programs to support a return to increased on-campus activity.
Faculty and staff — transitioning back to campus
We are developing guidance for heads and directors, supervisors, and managers to help identify and support those faculty and staff who will transition back to campus over the summer months to prepare for the arrival of students and the start of classes in September — supporting in-person instruction and other key activities and services. UBC’s research activity will also continue to increase. We will provide more details about the transition plan shortly, including ways for faculty and staff to have input into this process. We will also provide updates on how this transition will continue throughout the fall.
Faculty and staff — longer term remote work approach
As previously indicated, we are developing guiding principles to inform a new remote work approach. These are intended to support faculty and staff, recognizing that COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for UBC to be innovative in how it approaches remote work in the future, while continuing to support the student experience and academic mandate of the university. Further updates are expected in the new few weeks.
Supporting the provincial vaccination program
As a reminder, it is vital that members of our community support and promote the provincial vaccine program and I urge you to register for vaccination. Vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. As BC continues to roll out its provincial vaccination program, the provincial government has announced that employees can have up to three hours of time off, without loss of pay, to get each dose of their COVID-19 vaccine. The provincial government has also been clear that all people in BC can be vaccinated for free, regardless of length of stay or status, even if they will be here for only one dose. This includes international students.
Key to our approach for returning to campus is a robust safety planning process — in order to ensure the health and safety of our community. The COVID-19 Safety Plan process will be informed by the recent primer document, as well as newCOVID-19 Go-Forward Guidelines for B.C.’s Post-Secondary Sector. We also anticipate that the following measures will remain in place:
- Completing a daily COVID-19 self-assessment and not attending work or school when ill;
- Following handwashing and hygiene protocols;
- Continuing daily cleaning protocols in indoor settings and on high touch surfaces; and
- Requiring non-medical masks in indoor common areas, depending on the rate of COVID-19 transmission.
Thank you once again to everyone who has supported the university over the last year. Many have continued to study and work on campus and others have studied and worked remotely. Wherever we have been located, we have all been enormously challenged. Further updates will be shared over the coming weeks. As a reminder, you can find the latest updates and useful FAQs at https://covid19.ubc.ca/ and https://ok.ubc.ca/covid19/.
We are seeing a brighter road ahead, and I am confident that together we will successfully, and safely, transition back to campus for the fall academic term. In the meantime, please know that your dedication to UBC and to our commitment to pursue excellence in research, learning and engagement, and to advance a sustainable and just society, is sincerely appreciated.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor
This message was sent to faculty, staff and students in Vancouver and the Okanagan.
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