Masks to remain optional at UBC going into fall term

UBC will continue to not require masks in the fall term.

Instead, UBC is recommending that community members wear masks. President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono and Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UBC Okanagan Lesley Cormack announced the mask policies in a broadcast message published Thursday afternoon.

“This approach reflects advice from our internal experts and public health guidance, as well as discussions with student leaders, Deans, Senate Planning Committee and unions, and is in alignment with other BC public post-secondary institutions,” Ono and Cormack wrote.

In an August 17 report, the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group — which includes six UBC professors — said the BA.5-driven Omicron wave has crested in BC and across Canada, but noted that cases remain high and that protective safety measures such as mask-wearing could reduce case numbers.

The university lifted its mask mandate earlier this summer after continuing to require masks when the province lifted its mandate in March. Notably, the Life Sciences Institute announced it would keep a mandate in place, despite the university's decision.

The AMS also lifted its mask mandate in the Nest shortly after UBC. The student society has not announced plans to reimplement a mandate ahead of fall classes.

UBC’s announcement comes as several universities across Canada say they will extend or reimplement COVID-19 safety measures for the fall term. The University of New Brunswick will require masks in classrooms, the University of Toronto will require vaccines in student residences and Western University will require masks and booster shots in classrooms.

Many community members have been calling on UBC to reimplement a mask mandate ahead of the start of fall classes via social media in recent weeks.

Along with recommending mask-wearing, Ono and Cormack reminded community members to wash their hands regularly, complete a daily COVID-19 self-assessment and get vaccinated if they have not already.

“UBC will continue to monitor the situation regarding COVID-19, and is well placed to adjust its approach should circumstances change. Wishing you a safe and successful start to the academic year,” Ono and Cormack wrote.

This article was updated at 11:02 a.m. on Friday, August 26 to remove mention of Mount Royal University. A previous version incorrectly said MRU was requiring masks in the classroom when it is only recommending them. The Ubyssey regrets this error.