Coronavirus update: May 21, 2020 - 5:30 pm

May 21, 2020

Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts and questions with me as we adapt to change during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Today I’ll address a couple of the frequent themes that have come our way. 

In today’s update:

Return-to-campus planning

Now that the Provincial Health Officer has outlined B.C.’s Restart Plan, sectors across the province, including the post-secondary sector, are developing plans regarding future operations. UNBC’s paramount, guiding principle is ensuring the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff. We will continue to adhere to recommendations from WorkSafeBC and the Provincial Health Officer. 

Accordingly, we will adopt a phased and scaled approach for employees to resume a safe, gradual return to on-campus operations. It will not be quick, nor will it be ad hoc; rather we will develop a coordinated approach that keeps risks low and manageable. 

This means that not all departments, programs, personnel, and services will “return to campus” at the same time. The advantage to a deliberate, gradual re-entry is that it can be adjusted to avoid disruption as the pandemic goes through successive “waves” and allows time for personnel to adjust to new conditions, including returning to more restrictive measures should the PHO require it. 

Before any decision is made to return faculty, staff, or students to campus, UNBC is ensuring that safe work protocols are addressed, physical distancing requirements are met, maximum gathering size is not exceeded and the use of common areas is reduced. We are preparing a guide, including principles, that will help ensure safety for people returning to essential face-to-face services and their physical reintegration into space on campus. Departments and programs will conduct a risk assessment of their areas based on that guide to prepare a return-to-campus work plan that supports the health and safety of all of us. For the time being, employees who are working remotely will continue to do so.

I know this is a challenging process, and that various announcements of businesses and offices “re-opening” may have caused some expectations that we are ready to fling open the doors. I’ll re-emphasize that your safety is top of mind, and we want to ensure we are doing all we can to manage this process responsibly.

Campus service availability this September

We’ve had several questions about a variety of services that are traditionally available to students. Some, such as food services or the Northern Sport Centre, are unanswerable today. Yet we do know that many areas, such as Career Services, Co-operative Education, the Academic Success Centre and Student Life will all be open in September. Service delivery may look different but we are working to ensure services and supports are easily accessible, and that they make sense for students regardless of how courses are delivered.

When we have news to share, we will do so through updates such as this, and by posting the information here on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.

Thank you!

Geoff Payne,
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor

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