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In September 2021, UBC launched the COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program and since that time, over 83,000 students, faculty and staff have declared their vaccination status.
The COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program has helped to ensure that over 97 percent of students, faculty and staff are double vaccinated. This level of vaccination, along with other public health measures, has resulted in a very low incidence rate of COVID-19 cases, one of the lowest community rates observed within the province. Thank you to all those who have declared their vaccination status and participated in weekly rapid testing.
The evolution of the virus and the presence of the Omicron variant now indicates that a different public health and safety approach should be taken. In recent weeks, we have seen changes in public health guidance and the lifting of some Public Health Orders, as the wave of the Omicron variant, which now accounts for almost 100% of cases, is subsiding in BC.
Current scientific evidence, including BC data, indicates that COVID-19 vaccination (two doses), continues to be highly effective at preventing severe illness, but has significantly lower effectiveness at preventing transmission of the Omicron variant. Vaccine effectiveness however, after a booster dose, has been shown to be 60% effective at preventing transmission of Omicron. Further details can be found at: https://covid19.ubc.ca/Letter-from-VCH.pdf and https://covid19.ubc.ca/Letter-from-David-Patrick-Sally-Otto-Dan-Coombs.pdf.
This means that regular rapid testing of asymptomatic individuals under the UBC COVID-19 Rapid Testing Program no longer has utility. In light of this, and supported by the UBC Board of Governors, the current Rapid Testing Program will be discontinued. However, we strongly recommend everyone be vaccinated and receive their booster dose, which minimizes the severity of illness and transmission to others. You can learn more at: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/booster.
As of March 1, 2022, the university will no longer require regular rapid testing or vaccine declarations except as needed to comply with the relevant Public Health Orders described below. Other safety measures, including the requirement to wear masks in indoor, public spaces continue as long as required by Public Health Orders. In addition, UBC will issue free rapid testing kits to students, faculty and staff who are on campus. Information about how to access the kits can be found at:
- UBC Vancouver https://srs.ubc.ca/athometestkit
- UBC Okanagan https://ok.ubc.ca/covid19/testing-reporting/
As we see increased activity on our campuses, it is vital that we continue to support those measures which are helping to keep our community safe. As a reminder, all members of the UBC community are required to follow the COVID-19 Campus Rules (https://srs.ubc.ca/covid-19/ubc-campus-rules-guidance-documents/) which includes doing health screening checks before attending campus and wearing masks in indoor, public spaces. These rules will continue to be reviewed and updated as public health guidance changes.
Members of our community under Public Health Orders
Although UBC is standing down the weekly rapid testing program, some members of our community are still bound by Public Health Orders that require proof of vaccination — these are students in residence and students and employees who are based within health care settings (“care locations”). You can learn more at:
- UBC Vancouver COVID-19 Residence rules: https://vancouver.housing.ubc.ca/residence-life/health-safety/covid-19/
- UBC Okanagan COVID-19 Residence rules: https://okanagan.housing.ubc.ca/covid-19-residence-rules/
- UBC Bulletin regarding faculty and staff in health settings: https://ubctoday.ubc.ca/news/november-11-2021/covid-19-important-update-faculty-and-staff-based-health-care-settings.
Public health partners continue to monitor the situation regarding COVID-19, its variants and the distribution of booster doses across the province. Should there be any changes to public health guidance, UBC is well positioned to reinstate rapid testing or introduce other safety measures, should they be required.
This is a collective effort and we all play a vital role in supporting the UBC community. Please do your part by getting your booster dose and following public health guidance as required. Thank you for supporting a safe environment at UBC.
Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal, UBC Okanagan
This message was sent to faculty, staff and students in Vancouver and the Okanagan.
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