Health and safety remain top priority for return to colleges and universities: Province

STUDENTS, faculty and staff at B.C.’s colleges and universities are being supported to come back together for in-person learning this fall with added health and safety measures ordered by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer.

A new mask mandate for college and university campuses follows the announcement that B.C. will be introducing a proof-of-vaccine requirement for some non-essential services, including on-campus.

“In response to rising COVID-19 cases and as students return to in-person learning on campus, I am issuing a new mandatory mask order for all indoor public areas on campus,” said Henry on Tuesday. “It’s vitally important for post-secondary students that we resume in-person learning to support young people’s well-being, and with these added measures and increasing vaccination rates, we are confident we can do so.”

The mask order will apply in all indoor public areas on campus including lobbies, hallways, stairwells, elevators, classrooms and labs.

“I know how challenging the past 18 months has been, and I am grateful for the work Dr. Henry and her team are doing to help guide post-secondary institutions as they make their plans for a safe return to in-person learning,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “The pandemic has been difficult on students, faculty and staff at B.C.’s colleges, institutes and universities, and with these added measures we can continue to move forward and come back together safely.”

Post-secondary institutions have been following public health advice in the measures they put in place at their campuses. In July 2021, a team of experts from the post-secondary sector, regional health authorities, the BC Centre for Disease Control and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer released COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Guidelines, noting that the guidelines would require periodic updates to align with evolving public health guidance.

The guidelines are being updated to reflect the new mask order and the proof of vaccine requirement. The guidelines will be updated by the start of school and will be posted here: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/post-secondary-education/institution-resources-administration/studying-during-covid-19

As part of the new provincial vaccine requirement, accessing some non-essential services on campus will now require a proof of vaccination. This will apply to on-campus indoor venues, including but not limited to gyms, nightclubs, restaurants and a variety of indoor events, such as sporting events and concerts. Students who are living in on-campus housing will also require proof of vaccination. Further guidance is being developed in the coming days in consultation with public health, including which types of student housing facilities will be subject to this requirement. This will come into effect on September 7. As these guidelines evolve, public health will continue to work with post-secondary institutions to ensure all students, faculty and staff have quick and easy access to immunization.

Under the guidance of WorkSafeBC, institutions have developed communicable disease prevention plans to reduce the risk of all respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Post-secondary institutions may implement their own proof of vaccine requirement as a part of these plans. However, they will be responsible for working with public health and doing their own due diligence.

Quick Facts

* B.C.’s vaccination coverage is among the highest in the world.

* As of August 23, 83% of eligible people have received one dose and 75% of eligible people are now fully vaccinated.

* Vaccine clinics are being planned on campus in partnership with local health authorities.

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