COVID-19 at UBC: Fourth wave transmission at a new low two weeks into classes

The UBC area currently has one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 prevalence in the Lower Mainland, according to new data released by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

The latest data release has revealed a daily case rate of just three new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents, a steep drop from the 13 seen the previous week. Furthermore, the testing positivity rate is now at less than one per cent.

Meanwhile, 96 per cent of residents aged 12+ have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 83 per cent have received their second dose.

These are among the lowest numbers seen at UBC during the fourth wave despite them being released two weeks after the beginning of in-person classes, indicating that the return to classrooms has not resulted in significant COVID-19 transmission among those living on campus. However, those living off campus are not included in this data.

Despite the low numbers of COVID-19 currently, numerous student and faculty leaders have voiced their concerns over UBC and the Provincial Health Office (PHO)’s approach to the pandemic so far. Most have complained about the lack of data provided concerning on-campus transmission and the lack of symptomatic testing facilities.

The topic made an appearance at a recent Board of Governors meeting, in which a Senate motion was brought forward to mandate vaccines on campus. While no decision was made, Board member Dr. Anna Kindler called for safety and transparency concerns to be addressed, suggesting that the PHO has been more empathetic towards those choosing not to get vaccinated than those at high risk.

According to the university, 63 per cent of UBC community members have disclosed their vaccination statuses, despite the deadline to do so having already passed.

Few details on how vaccination statuses will be verified have been released, but it has been confirmed that unvaccinated students will undergo regular rapid testing at Ponderosa Commons. VP Finance and Operations Peter Smailes reported that both programs will be launched within the next couple weeks and that the university expects to conduct roughly 3,000 tests a week.

A student-led website tracking COVID-19 exposures on campus has been launched, although not all reports have yet been verified. It’s unclear so far whether the university, PHO or Vancouver Coastal Health will create such a system.