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Post-Secondary

Many people are going back to in-person learning on campus this fall. Campuses across B.C. will have effective prevention measures in place to keep them low-risk for COVID-19.

Last Updated: November 12, 2021


Public health has issued Return to Campus Public Health Guidance, which details the communicable disease prevention measures recommended for all campuses. 

These include:

  • Strong promotion of vaccination
  • Strong promotion of staying home when sick
  • Effective ventilation systems
  • Regular cleaning
  • Promoting and enabling regular hand cleaning
  • Use of non-medical masks
 

In addition to the Return to Campus Public Health Guidance for Post-Secondary Institutions, there are Provincial Health Officer Orders applicable to Post-Secondary Institutions. These include:



Public health will continue to support campuses to remain low-risk for COVID-19 through:

  • Opportunities for everyone eligible to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine
  • Contact tracing for every case of COVID-19
  • Ensuring COVID-19 testing is widely available
  • Recommending regional measures when there is greater risk in a community 

Some B.C. post-secondary institutions have proposed implementing programs of self-declaration of vaccination status by faculty, staff and students, accompanied by routine asymptomatic screening of unvaccinated individuals to help address concerns and uncertainty expressed from their communities about the return to in-person learning. This document outlines a practical approach to implementing post-secondary institution-led asymptomatic point-of-care COVID-19 screening programs:


COVID-19 Rapid Testing Considerations for Post-Secondary Institutions

 
The Return to Campus Public Health Guidance aligns with, and is complementary to, the COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Guidelines. Learn more about post-secondary studies during COVID-19.


Prevention Measures

Proof of Vaccination

Getting two doses of COVID-19 vaccine is the most effective COVID-19 prevention measure.

All students and staff and faculty will need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination through the BC Vaccine Card to access non-essential or discretionary services, businesses, and events on campus. These include:

  • Indoor ticketed sporting events with more than 50 people
  • Indoor concerts, theatre, dance and symphony events with more than 50 people
  • Licensed restaurants and cafes and restaurants and cares that offer table service (indoor and patio dining) 
  • Pubs, bars and lounges (indoor and patio dining)
  • Gyms, exercise and dance facilities or studios including these activities happening in recreation facilities.
  • Indoor adult group and team sports for people 22 years and older
  • Indoor organized events with more than 50 people. For example, organized parties, conferences, trade fairs and workshops
  • Indoor organized group recreational classes and activities with more than 50 people. For example, pottery studios, art classes or choir rehearsals.

Proof of vaccination will not be required if accessing these services is part of a formal education program. 

People living in post-secondary housing, including students, staff, faculty and others also need to provide their vaccination status. 

Visit the B.C. Government’s information on proof of vaccination.


Testing and Contact Tracing

Testing is available to all students, faculty, and staff. Find out when and where to get a COVID-19 test

Contact Tracing: Public health follows up on every person who tests positive for COVID-19. This process is called contact tracing. Contact tracing helps to identify people who came into close contact with the virus who may be at increased risk for COVID-19.
Public health will tell close contacts if they need to take specific actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like self-isolation or self-monitoring.

Gatherings & Events

The Provincial Health Officer Order on Gatherings & Events limits the size and type of non-educational gatherings and events. It applies to activities like parties, concerts, social or special interest clubs, and other activities that aren’t provided as part of an educational program. 

This Order does not apply to educational activities, including lectures, tutorials, labs, and formal study groups that are part of an educational program. These activities should be implemented in line with the public health Return to Campus guidelines.

Cleaning and Ventilation

Ventilation systems should be effectively maintained as per WorkSafeBC requirements and ASHRAE standards for indoor air quality to ensure they are working properly.

Educational spaces, public spaces, and high touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected daily.


What You Can Do

Follow your institution's guidance for communicable disease prevention on campus and all applicable public health orders and recommendations. 

Get vaccinated

Vaccines are the most effective way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 on campus. Two doses provide effective protection against infection and serious illness from COVID-19, including variants of concern. Vaccines are available to all faculty, students, and staff, including international students and their families. 

All faculty, students, and staff are encouraged to get two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Wear masks when recommended

Masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces throughout B.C by people 12 and older.

For post-secondary institutions, masks must be worn in indoor public areas, including but not limited to:

  • indoor areas of post secondary institutions, including lecture theatres, classrooms, and other indoor instructional settings. 
  • indoor common areas of buildings open to the public, including on-campus housing and office buildings.

Masks can be removed in these spaces temporarily:

  • When identifying a person
  • When eating or drinking in a designated location
  • When participating in physical activity
  • When communicating with a person for whom visual cues, facial expressions lip-reading or lip movements are essential
  • When engaged in an educational activity that can’t be performed when wearing a mask (e.g., playing an instrument)
  • When behind a barrier (e.g., a divider or cubicle) or in a room by oneself 

Masks can also be removed by staff or students delivering a presentation or lecture if there is two metres of space or a physical barrier between them and others in the room.

Masks are not required for workspaces such as office areas, research labs or shared offices that do not service the public, or for meetings and seminars in small meeting rooms. 

Masks do not need to be worn by those with certain health conditions or impairments, or by those who are unable to put on or remove a face covering without the assistance of another person.

Learn about effective mask use.

Stay home when sick

Spread out and provide personal space

People are encouraged to spread out within the available space for indoor activities. 

Personal space is the distance from which a person feels comfortable being next to another person. Everyone has had different experiences with the pandemic, which impact how they’ll interact in-person. When possible, provide others with the personal space they are comfortable with. 

Clean hands

Clean your hands often. This means washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer. 


FAQs


B.C. is a highly immunized population. Most eligible people have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Because so many people are vaccinated and there are effective prevention measures in place, we can return to regular activities on campus and keep the risk of spreading COVID-19 low.  


During times of increased community transmission and within communities with low vaccination uptake, Medical Health Officers from the regional health authority may put in place local public health Orders or recommendations for additional prevention measures on campus. These are based on local epidemiology and are proportional to risk. 


The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Campuses have prevention measures in place that prevent COVID-19 from spreading. These include regular cleaning of surfaces, frequent opportunities for hand cleaning, and having people wear masks indoors. 


We know these measures are effective at preventing COVID-19 from spreading because they have worked well in settings that have similar activities, like schools, offices, and retail businesses. These measures combined with high vaccination rates in students and staff will help protect people who aren’t vaccinated yet.

 

Vaccines are the most effective prevention measure available. The best way to protect those who can’t be vaccinated is for everyone eligible to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. This is especially important for adults who interact with children under 12. 

 

As long as there is COVID-19 in our communities, people might come to campus when they can spread COVID-19. This is called an exposure. With prevention measures in place and our high levels of vaccination, exposures are less likely to lead to further spread.

 

Everyone should practice personal prevention measures, like staying home when they feel sick and following regional and provincial public health orders and recommendations.


 

B.C.’s Restart is a four-step outline of how B.C. can safely get life back to normal. 


When the COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Guidelines were developed, it was anticipated that B.C. would move to Step 4 on September 7th (at the earliest). Because more people need to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine and case counts have not declined enough, B.C. will be in Step 3 at the start of the fall term.


On-campus life, including in-person learning, recreation, and social activities can return in Step 3 because most people on campus have two doses of COVID-19 vaccine and there are effective prevention measures in place. These include Provincial Health Officer Orders for Gatherings & Events and B.C.’s vaccine card. 


COVID-19 will continue to circulate this year and in the years ahead. With a highly immunized population - both on campus and off - we can return to on-campus instruction with a low-risk of COVID-19 spreading.


The best way to protect you and those around you from COVID-19 is to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

 
Public health follows up on every person who tests positive for COVID-19. This process is called contact tracing. Contact tracing helps to identify other people who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Public health may ask these people to take specific actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, like self-isolation or self-monitoring

Public health will also work with post-secondary institutions to ensure protocols on place to manage COVID-19 cases on campus. 

If someone who attends or works on campus tests positive for COVID-19:
 
  1. Public health officials ask when their symptoms started and where they’ve been. This helps public health know if they were able to spread COVID-19 on campus.
    • If they were able to spread COVID-19 on campus school,  this is called an exposure. Public health begins contact tracing. 
    • If they were not able to spread COVID-19 on campus, public health still makes sure anyone who may be a close contact outside of campus is notified.
  2. Contact tracing helps determine close contacts of the person who tested positive. These are usually family and friends who spent a lot of time around the person who tested positive. 
    • Public health notifies close contacts through a phone call or letter. They will be told to self-monitor or self-isolate. The name of the person who tested positive is not shared.
  3. People on campus who are not close contacts don’t have an increased chance of catching COVID-19. They are not contacted by public health and can continue to participate in all of their regular activities.


 

Viruses change over time and can lead to new versions, or variants. When changes lead to a variant that can spread more easily, cause more serious illness, or impact vaccine effectiveness, it is called a variant of concern (VoC).


The delta variant is a VoC because it spreads more easily between people and results in more cases than other versions. For adults, delta may lead to more serious outcomes than other versions of COVID-19, especially for those who have not received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Children continue to be at low risk for serious outcomes from COVID-19, including delta. As of August 2021, the delta variant is the most common COVID-19 variant in B.C.


While the delta variant is more likely to cause infections, the vaccines used in B.C. are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death against the delta variant, especially after two doses. Everyone eligible is encouraged to get two doses of COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves and those around them.


On campuses, most people who are eligible will have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. There are also additional effective prevention measures in place. This means that the risk of COVID-19 spreading is low. If it does spread, it will rarely lead to serious outcomes.


 

Many different types of gatherings and events can be held on campus, but there are different requirements depending on why they are being held and what types of activities will take place.


The PHO Gatherings and Events Order sets limits on certain types of gatherings and events in B.C., including those on campus. This is focused on non-educational (i.e., non-essential or discretionary) activities, like parties at an event hall or arena, concerts, ceremonies or fairs. Full details are included in the Order. 

Educational activities that are part of a formal education program (including things like lectures, labs, seminars, workshops, demonstrations, presentations, formal study groups, tutorial events and orientation events facilitated by the institution) are not included in  the Order. They should be implemented in line with the Return to Campus Public Health Guidance


 

Educational activities are not restricted because they are low-risk activities for COVID-19 transmission, based on evidence to date and local public health experience with similar activities across workplaces and schools last year. 


Educational activities are also important for pandemic recovery within the school community and across society.


 

Socializing and meeting new people is an important part of the post-secondary experience. This includes participating in recreational activities like intramurals, joining special interest clubs, and going on dates. 


These activities are important for physical and mental health, and can help you to feel part of the on-campus community. You can participate in the activities that make campus life great while keeping your risk of COVID-19 low by getting vaccinated and following the prevention measures in place on your campus.


It’s normal to feel nervous or anxious as you start to participate in in-person activities that haven’t happened for a while. Start with the activities you’re most comfortable with, and add in more as your personal comfort and public health guidance allows.


Remember that everyone has had different experiences with the pandemic, which impact how they’ll want to interact in-person. For example, some people may be comfortable shaking hands when you meet, while others might prefer a wave. The best thing to do is ask others what works for them, and share what works for you.


Make the decisions that are best for you, and respect the personal choices others make about socializing and participating in recreational activities.


 
  • Young people in BC who have two doses of COVID-19 vaccine are very well protected against COVID-19. There have been no COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. this August for people aged 19 to 29 who have both doses.
  • COVID-19 has disproportionately affected young people's social and mental health. Young adults are twice as likely to report worsening mental health during the pandemic than adults above the age of 65.
  • While the Delta variant is more likely to cause infections, vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and death against the delta variant. Youth who are unvaccinated may experience more serious illness from the delta variant compared to other variants of COVID-19.
 

BCCDC provides a number of tools and resources that share the latest data on COVID-19 in B.C.


The COVID-19 dashboard provides the latest information on cases, recoveries, deaths, hospitalizations, and testing. It is updated Monday to Friday. 


The data summary is a summary of COVID-19 related indicators that help inform the pandemic response in B.C. It is released weekly or bi-weekly. 


The situation report provides an in-depth look at COVID-19 epidemiology, underscoring data and key trends. It is released weekly.


The BCCDC COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard outlines vaccination progress in B.C. communities. It is based on where people live, so may not reflect the vaccination progress of the people on postsecondary campuses in those communities. It is updated weekly. 


Find these and more on the BC COVID-19 data page. 


 


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