Coronavirus updates

March 27, 2020 - 5:30 p.m.

We’re through another week and I continue to be impressed with the UNBC community’s response. We received a couple of thank-you notes from staff at Northern Health who said they were brought to tears by our Personal Protective Equipment donation yesterday. Please know that the work you are all doing is having an impact in Prince George and across the North!

In today’s update:

  • Supporting our International Students
  • Flattening the Curve
  • The Role of Post-Secondary Institutions

Supporting our International Students

We know there are a number of international students still in our community who are unable to get home. We also know that the usual supports from family may be difficult at this time, so we have provided some additional information for international students on our website. Please visit that site often as updates are added regularly. In the meantime, if you are an international student who has questions or concerns regarding your visa, medical coverage, or financial supports, reach out to the international department at ie@unbc.ca

Flattening the Curve

I watched with interest the news conference highlights from our Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. She shared some modelling information that indicated that physical distancing efforts are helping in our quest to flatten the curve. That said, it’s critical to reinforce that we can’t be complacent. We must continue to adhere to her directions and do all we can to promote public health. I appreciate all you do to share factual information on social media and in your personal networks. It is having a positive impact. Stay home, continue to practice physical distancing, and be supportive of one another!

The Role of Post-Secondary Institutions

I know there has been much discussion as to why we are not closed, given our adherence to guidance from the Provincial Health Officer. Post-secondary institutions play a critical role for our communities; we have been asked by the provincial government to be ready to respond while ensuring the essential nature of the work of our institution is maintained. I take the health and safety of our community seriously and am committed to working with each and every one of you as we continue to operate while adhering to physical distancing. I appreciate the efforts of everyone across our University community on this.

All of my updates are being posted on our website, so if you feel you missed one, you can always go back and read them. I do not plan to send updates over the weekend, but we will continue to monitor issues and I will be in touch should the need arise. I hope you enjoy some downtime over the weekend. Thank you!

Geoff Payne,
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 26, 2020 - 5:00 p.m.

A shorter update today. We continue to monitor the situation and work with groups across campus to ensure we are meeting needs and delivering on expectations. I am always open to hearing from you.

In today’s update:

  • All Contributions Help
  • Repeating the Message

All Contributions Help

It can be easy to think that only the grandest gestures are helpful during times of crisis, yet even very straight-forward contributions make a difference. We’ve been asked as a post-secondary institution to respond as we can to requests from public health agencies. For example, we recently provided Personal Protective Equipment to Northern Health, including face masks, isolation gowns and nitrile gloves. We’ll continue to work with various public health agencies and ministries to support a united response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Repeating the Message

Many of us watch the Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, provide her daily update, and as she reiterates her messages, so do I. Please remember to practice physical distancing to the very best of your individual circumstance. Set up healthy routines in your remote working situations. And please, continue to demonstrate patience and kindness in your dealings with others. Our entire University community is responding wonderfully on all fronts and clearly shows our commitment to each other and those around us!

Thank you again for sharing your questions and concerns, and for all you do to support our response.

Geoff Payne,
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 25, 2020 - 5:30 p.m.

I’m helping raise some awareness today on a couple of IT-related topics. Thank you all for continuing to read these updates and providing me with feedback; I do really appreciate it.

In today’s update:

  • Fraud Awareness
  • Working Remotely – Equipment Needs

Fraud Awareness

Working remotely means you may be using different tools to communicate. With that, the potential exists for scammers to try to take advantage of you. UNBC was inundated with “spoofing” emails yesterday – messages that appear to come from an individual working at UNBC, but are actually not. Please be careful when reviewing your e-mails, especially on devices such as your mobile phone that only display a sender’s name, not the full e-mail address. (You can usually see the sender’s real e-mail address if you click on the name.)

Be sure to pay attention to the warning that now appears on all e-mails originating from outside UNBC. And, if you have any doubt, verify with the sender of the email (through a different method of contact than what is listed in the spam e-mail) that they are indeed trying to reach you.

Working Remotely – Equipment Needs

You may have been instructed to take your work computer home in order to work remotely. It is important to remember that these computers are to be used only for UNBC work. Please do not let others in your household use them or use them for personal activities.

This was an urgent situation and we had to act quickly. As a result, we may not have gathered information necessary for the equipment’s maintenance and security. Your supervisor or an ITS representative will ask you to provide some basic information about the computer you have taken home. You can access the form in the working remotely section. Please note that you will not be asked for your password or other sensitive information as a part of this process.

If you have questions, send them to unbccommand@unbc.ca, visit this website, and follow UNBC’s official social media channels for the latest information and updates.

Thank you again for your continued support and encouragement. I appreciate all your efforts and understanding and please take care of yourselves and those around you!

Geoff Payne,
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 24, 2020 - 5:00 p.m.

A shorter update today, but with some very important updates for our students, faculty and staff.

In today’s update:

  • Research Activities Update
  • Options for Dropping Courses
  • Service on our Campuses

Research Activities Update

This would typically be the time of year that research activity would increase at our research-intensive University. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however, has added uncertainty to many of our research plans.

While our campuses remain open and research activity can continue, the strict directives around physical distancing must continue. If our researchers can suspend on-campus operations, I strongly encourage you to do so and to undertake work that can be done remotely, such as literature reviews, manuscript development and so on.

If you do wish to continue, our Acting Vice-President Research, Dr. Kathy Lewis, provided some guidance by email this morning. We’ve added some of that content to our website as well.

Options for Dropping Courses

We are allowing undergraduate students who would like to drop a Winter 2020 semester course the option to do so without academic penalty. There will be no financial refund associated with this, however, as students have a choice to complete the term through alternate methods of delivery offered by UNBC.

Students may request an exceptional drop from Winter 2020 semester courses by using their UNBC email account and providing their student number, full name, and the course(s) they wish to be dropped to the Registrar’s Office at studentinfo@unbc.ca. Emails sent from non-UNBC email accounts will not be accepted. Graduate students who are concerned about their Winter 2020 registration should contact grad-office@unbc.ca from their UNBC email account.

With this option though, I urge students to fully understand the potential ramifications this decision can have, such as impacts on student awards or funding, meeting pre-requisites for future courses, degree program progress, as well as international student visa status.

Service on our Campuses

As mentioned in my update yesterday, many units on our campuses have moved to appointment only to ensure physical distancing and limiting face-to-face meetings. Signs will be posted on the doors of the units highlighting contact options and how to arrange appointments as needed. We encourage people to call or email ahead in arranging assistance.

Please continue to go the website on our home page as updates are added regularly.

Thank you all again for your continued efforts as part of UNBC’s response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in supporting our University Community.

Geoff Payne,
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 23, 2020 - 5:30 p.m.

I trust you were able to find time to recharge over the weekend. We have a big week ahead of us as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic evolves, but I know our community is ready for the challenge.

In today’s update:

  • The May Semester
  • Social Distancing
  • Service Changes
  • Take care of yourselves

The May Semester

I’ll offer my continued thanks to our faculty and students for adapting so wonderfully to alternative forms of course delivery and assessments. Naturally, we are all looking ahead to see what the future holds. At this point, with every indication signaling that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis will be a part of our lives for some time to come, we are moving all courses for the May semester to alternative forms of delivery and assessment. I know this presents challenges, but given the evolving situation, this was the best decision at our disposal to ensure that we are doing our part as a community to slow the spread of the virus, while supporting our students in their educational journey.

Social Distancing

Over the past week, the request from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) has been clear: practice social distancing to help contain the spread of the virus. We’ve also seen reports of people not adhering to that direction. Please follow the evolving guidelines from the PHO. We will make some decisions in the coming days to further limit face-to-face interaction on our campuses. We are asking students and employees to avoid gathering, and if you are on campus, respect that two-metre buffer.

Service Changes

Due to the reduced number of people on our campuses, direction from public health officials, and in an effort to promote social distancing, we’re making a number of changes to in-person services including Food Services, IT support, the Registrar’s office, and the Library, among others. Be sure to check our website for details on how to access services, as we’ll be updating this information frequently.

Take care of yourselves

I would like to end today’s update with a request to take care of yourself and those around you. We are all experiencing a range of physical, emotional and behavioural reactions to this situation. What we feel or how we react is normal in distressing situations; increased anxiety, disbelief, sadness compounded by self-isolation can be difficult. As social beings, we need connection to others and working from home with little face-to-face contact is unfamiliar. The UNBC Coronavirus (COVID-19) website has handouts and reference links you may find useful. Don’t hesitate to contact our EFAP provider (Homewood Health) or Shelley McKenzie, Director of Health & Wellbeing.

Thank you, as always, for your patience and understanding as part of UNBC’s outstanding response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Geoff Payne,
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 23, 2020 - 2:30 p.m.

I am sharing some news that will come as a relief to many. The provincial government has provided direction for the public sector, including universities, that says that compensation and employment continuity will continue for our employees.

This is the key excerpt in the memo I received from the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat:

For the immediate term of March and April . . . It is important to maintain employment and compensation continuity for employees whose work would not have otherwise been interrupted save for the pandemic response. Unless previously contemplated and planned as part of normal operations, or unless it is clear the specific circumstances cannot be mitigated, employee layoffs are to be avoided during this period.  This direction will be reassessed before the end of April and Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat (PSEC Secretariat) will provide updates as they become available.

We appreciate that circumstances and challenges vary by employer and sector. With this direction comes the expectation and recognition that employers will need to work collaboratively with their employers’ associations and the PSEC Secretariat team, funders and line ministries, unions, and other stakeholders to address the challenges and opportunities for modified service delivery, staff redeployment to productive work, and planning for the orderly return to services post COVID-19.

You may have questions regarding this, and we will provide more information once we have worked with a number of groups on campus, including our union leadership teams. 

Remote Working

Thank you for taking steps to work remotely in response to my March 18 update. For those who haven’t, please identify and set up remote work plans. We are not in a period of “business as usual,” and I want as many people as possible working remotely as quickly as possible. If you are at work, keep that two-metre buffer top of mind!

Critical On-Campus Operations

So far we have taken significant steps towards reducing face-to-face contact. We’re providing course delivery and assessment through alternate delivery modes, and a large number of our academic, research and administrative services are being delivered remotely.

Moving forward, however, I anticipate we will move to a phase in which we will only deploy the most critical in-person services and people to maintain our physical locations, student services, and academic mission. Last week the EOC team requested information regarding which units may require employees to continue coming to our campuses; if your unit hasn’t provided that, please do so at unbccommand@unbc.ca

Employment and Wage Continuity

As I mentioned above, we will discuss this matter further over the next couple of days, as some extraordinary circumstances may exist that require individual attention. In the meantime, please do not initiate any layoffs or reduce pay without checking with Human Resources.

Thank you again for all you are doing to support UNBC’s response during this unprecedented event. I continue to be amazed by all members of the UNBC community!

Geoff Payne,
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 20, 2020 - 5:10 p.m.

It’s the end of an unprecedented learning and work week at UNBC. Our community continues to respond in remarkable fashion. Be sure to visit our website frequently for the most recent updates.

In today’s update:

  • Course registration
  • Daycare closure
  • Parking
  • A Herculean effort, 2.0

Registration

Due to current operational realities, we will open registration for September 2020 and January 2021 on May 15, 2020 (we usually open registration in early April).  Students will have access to view the schedule on May 1, 2020 to complete registration planning. Further details will be provided closer to those dates. We look forward to welcoming as many of our current students back next year, along with a whole host of new ones.

Daycare closure

We received word today that the daycare at the Prince George campus is closing. I recognize this adds yet another stress-point for many of you. Please work with your Chair or Unit Lead to evaluate your situation. We are providing flexibility for alternate work arrangements and schedules, so I hope we can navigate this challenge as well.

Parking at the Prince George campus

Effective today, we are suspending parking fees at the Prince George campus. I realize that many of our employees now work remotely, and that there is an inequity for those employees still coming to the campus. We’ll have more details on that in the coming days, but I thank you for raising your concerns.

Herculean effort 2.0

Yesterday I acknowledged the work of our faculty and the CTLT for their work in supporting our students. Today, I thank the administrative employees who are doing tremendous work to support our mission. I know all of you continue to make extraordinary efforts to support our University community!

I plan to pause the daily updates over the weekend, but if there is news to share, I will do so. I hope you find time to recharge – and remember to practice social distancing to help us flatten the curve!

Thank you,

Geoff Payne
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 19, 2020 - 6:00 p.m.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to have an impact around the world and we are coming together as a community to address the situation. Be sure to visit our website frequently for the most recent updates.

In today’s update:

Social distancing

I must stress the importance of social distancing. We all need to heed the guidance provided by the Provincial Health Officer. Give yourselves that two-metre buffer between people, and if you are ill, I strongly encourage not meeting with people or coming to work to respect people’s health and safety. We can slow the spread and help flatten the curve.

Working remotely

Many of our employees are now working remotely. I thank you for developing plans so quickly and enacting them.

For those who remain on campus, if you are working alone or in isolation, I encourage you to follow our working alone procedures: check in with security when you arrive and your estimated duration of work. They will check in on you. We must know where you are in case of an emergency.

A Herculean effort!

I am overwhelmed by the transition we have made to alternative modes of course delivery and assessments. Our faculty have done a tremendous amount of work in a very short timeframe in order to ensure our students finish the semester successfully. I am seeing active conversations around campus and online in which our faculty are sharing advice, tips, and tricks to further enhance our students’ experience online. Our faculty have demonstrated undeniable leadership in putting students first, for which our community is grateful.

I also commend our Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. From webinars to tailored solutions, the team has outdone themselves in providing exceptional support and service to our faculty and students.

Please send your questions to unbccommand@unbc.ca so we can coordinate our efforts as we focus on maintaining a safe and healthy environment.

Remember, let’s all be kind to one another, patient as we pursue solutions to challenges, and charitable in our thanks for those who are striving each day to meet the challenges we are faced with. 

Thank you,

Geoff Payne
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 18, 2020 - 5:00 p.m.

We continue to work collaboratively as a community in our planning and reaction to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Our campuses remain open. Be sure to visit our website frequently for the most recent updates.

In today’s update:

Working remotely

This week, UNBC employees will move towards working remotely, wherever possible. I am authorizing Chairs and Unit leads the flexibility to develop and implement plans that are right for the unit. Plans should consider operational needs, technical requirements, and our employees’ individual circumstances.

  • We are not requiring employees to work from home, although this may change depending on guidance provided by Northern Health, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), and the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.
  • For some, working remotely will not be feasible, as we have operations that are essential in maintaining our physical locations and student services. We remain committed to the health and safety of those who remain on campus, which is why we will continue with our efforts around enhanced cleaning and measures to support social distancing.
  • IT Services has prepared information that will be helpful in supporting those of you who will work remotely
  • Your Chair or Unit lead will also provide information regarding privacy and security considerations.

This measure supports social distancing on our campuses in an effort to reduce the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). Our focus remains on maintaining a safe and healthy environment while providing support to our students.

Exam Dates

  • In order to eliminate scheduling conflicts for our faculty and students, ANY final exams must be held on the date they were originally scheduled. Any questions please contact your Chair or the Registrar.

Student Services

  • We continue to offer student services; housing, food services, the library and other critical services are in place.
  • We may adjust service levels, but we will communicate further with students as the situation evolves.
  • I’ll repeat my request from yesterday. If you are a student living in housing, we strongly encourage you to move out of UNBC residence as soon as possible. The more we can reduce points of contact between people to ensure the health and safety of our community, the better.

Emergency planning and communications

We are addressing this situation based on the best information we have and on guidance from public health agencies and various government ministries.

  • We have activated our Emergency Operations Centre, which allows us to make decisions in a coordinated and swift fashion.
  • We send communications out late in the afternoon, as we like to hear from the Provincial Health Officer, who holds daily briefings at around 3 p.m., before sending an update.
  • Please send questions to unbccommand@unbc.ca so we can coordinate our efforts.

The fluid and rapidly evolving nature of this situation has placed enormous stress on many of us. Please be patient, support your friends and colleagues, and be kind to one another. 

Thank you,

Geoff Payne
UNBC President and Vice-Chancellor


March 17, 2020 - 5:30 p.m.

Given the ever-changing situation with regards to Coronavirus (COVID-19), we continue to follow guidance provided by Northern Health, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), and the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in our decision making. Our decisions are made in an effort to reduce points of contact between people and to promote social distancing.

As my commitment to provide regular information to the University community, here are the latest updates:

  • We are ending face-to-face classes as of the end of day today, March 17. Faculty will continue to work with chairs and students to move to alternate modes of delivery. We have some flexibility for small-group activities that are in line with recommendations from the Provincial Health Officer.
  • Final exams will not be conducted in a face-to-face format. Faculty, Chairs and Deans will work on alternate modes of assessment and communicate with students.
  • We are reducing hours in the library.
  • We’re working towards a set of work-from-home principles for our employees and the logistics that go with that. I am asking supervisors to work with employees to develop plans, identify needs, etc. We will continue to adjust our plans based on guidance provided by Northern Health, the PHO, and various provincial Ministries.
    • The exception to this is those who are immunocompromised, are caring for those who are immunocompromised, or have travelled internationally and are required to self-isolate.
  • For students in Housing, we strongly encourage you to move out of UNBC residence as soon as possible. The more we can reduce points of contact between people to ensure the health and safety of our community, the better.

This situation is fluid and rapidly evolving. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Thank you.

Geoff Payne,
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 16, 2020 - 7:30 p.m.

In addition to my update this afternoon, I wanted to send a special announcement this evening. Effective tomorrow, based on guidance provided by the Provincial Health Officer, classes of greater than 50 people can no longer occur in a face-to-face fashion. Professors may choose to delay or re-schedule work to accommodate the short notice. I will ask our faculty to communicate with you regarding their plans.

I truly understand your frustration as we implement the guidance we receive from public health agencies as we move to alternate modes of delivery.

I thank you for your patience and understanding during this rapidly evolving situation.

Geoff Payne
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 16, 2020 - 5:30 p.m.

Once again, it’s worth starting this message with a thank you to the entire University community. When we made the decision to move to alternate modes of course delivery and assessments, I recognized the burden this places on our faculty, students and staff. Yet the response has been inspirational. I’m hearing from faculty who are challenging themselves to find new ways to provide instruction, and I’m hearing from students who understand we are doing this in the interest of public health. Many of our classes have transitioned already and I am fully supportive of not waiting until Thursday where appropriate. Our administrative staff have responded wonderfully to support this process as well. The way our community has come together to support one another is what makes UNBC so special.

The world around us is changing rapidly. We’re seeing heightened travel restrictions, changes to service levels and a very real impact on our daily lives.

Here at UNBC we are no different. We continue to be in contact with and follow guidance provided by Northern Health, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), and the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in our decision making. We continue to assess the situation and make decisions as needed for our University.

So on that front, a few updates for you:

  • Our campuses remain open. Services such as the library, food services, and student housing remain open. Some service levels may need to be changed, or have already changed (such as food services) in order to support public health.
  • Although our students are encouraged to move out of residences if possible, many students are unable to, so our residences remain open.
  • Human Resources is working on updates regarding working from home. At this stage, we are not requiring that people work from home, but we are looking into accommodations for the immunocompromised, people who care for the immunocompromised, and those who are returning from travel who need to self-isolate.
  • In addition, the Northern Sport Centre Ltd. Board of Directors (a partnership between the City of Prince George and UNBC) has decided it is in the public interest to close that facility given the nature of activities that take place there and to promote social distancing. This decision aligns with the closure of other recreational facilities in Prince George.

In closing, I thank our students who are demonstrating leadership and understanding as we navigate uncharted waters. We know this has been a challenging year, but we are forever grateful that you are part of the UNBC community.

Please reference our website often as we are making regular updates.

Thank you again for your continued support and collaboration.

Geoff Payne,
President and Vice-Chancellor


March 14, 2020 - 3 p.m.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a fluid, rapidly evolving situation. Your health and safety is my top priority. In consideration of that, we are actively planning for all contingencies across the University, including transitioning away from face-to-face classes and exams. 

At this time, we ask faculty and staff to actively transition classes to alternate delivery models, as the last day of face-to-face classes will be Wednesday March 18. This self-imposed date may move earlier but it will not move later. We will complete the semester, including assessments and exams, using alternative service delivery models.

If faculty need assistance regarding virtual delivery, or support for other course-delivery alternatives, the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) is available to provide additional levels of support. If you have any questions, please contact your Program Chair, Dean or Anne Sommerfeld, Director of the CTLT. I also ask that faculty clearly communicate their plans to their students.

I understand that some situations, such as labs and practicums, present a challenge. We do have some flexibility regarding in-person attendance in these cases, based on guidance from public health officials. To facilitate this, faculty can work with Program Chairs, Deans and the Safety and Security office to ensure a safe learning environment for all involved. Faculty must approve their plans for these exceptional circumstances with the Deans. 

Our campus remains open. We will continue to follow guidance provided by Northern Health, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), and the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Services such as the library, food services, Northern Sport Centre, and student housing will remain open. Some service levels may need to be changed, or have already changed (such as food services) in order to support public health.

We are taking these steps to ensure the safety of our UNBC community and are seeking alternate methods of ensuring we meet learning outcomes while continuing to serve our students in the best possible manner. Please continue to visit this website for information.

Our community is responding in an exemplary fashion and I thank you for your continued support.

Thank you,

Geoff Payne
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 13, 2020

UNBC continues to plan and respond to the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Earlier today I sent a message that was reflective of where we were as an institution at that time. Late this afternoon, I received word that some of the other Universities in B.C. are transitioning on Monday March 16 from face-to-face course delivery to alternative modes of course delivery.

I am fully aware that the context in the Lower Mainland is decidedly different from our location in northern B.C., yet I am equally aware that we must plan appropriately in the face of this situation.

As I referenced earlier today, we are working with our academic leadership, program chairs and faculty to determine best methods for transitioning to alternative modes of course delivery.

We are making these decisions based on guidance that has been provided to me by Northern Health, the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), and by working with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

I know that many members of our university community are concerned about the impacts of COVID-19. We will continue to evaluate the situation over the weekend and adjust our response as needed.

We will post the most recent information on this website. Please continue to follow the personal health precautions from the Provincial Health Officer that I outlined in my message to the University community today.

I am thankful for your patience and your efforts as we continue to navigate an unprecedented situation for our community.

Sincerely,

Geoff Payne
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 13, 2020 Update

I’ll start by thanking the entire UNBC community for the work you are doing to not only respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, but to continue providing an exceptional post-secondary experience for our students in challenging times.

The situation is changing by the day, if not the hour, so answering every question immediately is a challenge. That said, we continue to add content to this website and will continue to do so as the situation unfolds.

It’s important to understand that many decisions we may have to make will not be ours to make alone. We are working in collaboration with public health agencies and various government ministries to ensure that the response from the post-secondary sector is coordinated and consistent across the province.

Today, I’m providing some key updates for you in a number of areas. Some of these are relevant to employees only, and some are relevant to students as well. I’m providing this update for all members of the community so you understand the University’s response and planning efforts.

Travel

Yesterday the Provincial Health Officer announced that people who choose to travel outside Canada will be asked to stay away from school or work for 14 days upon their return. UNBC departments such as Human Resources, Safety and Security, and International, will reach out to affected students, faculty and staff to provide guidance. In addition, the University is going to temporarily discontinue approval of all new university-sponsored outbound international travel. For those with already approved international travel plans that have not yet occurred, the university strongly discourages the continuance of that travel. The safety office and supervisor will work with those identified to ensure an informed decision is made.

As for domestic travel, again, we strongly encourage that you cancel all non-essential travel. Please review our website for more information and links to items such as current travel advisories.

Course delivery

As of today, UNBC continues to offer in-person courses at all our campuses. However, our academic leadership will work with program chairs, faculty and the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology to investigate options for moving course content to an online platform. More details will be provided in the coming days, including information on how we support faculty in this process, and how we support students who are unable to access online delivery for any number of reasons.

Gatherings and events

Yesterday the Provincial Health Officer also announced that event organizers are to cancel events or gatherings larger than 250 people. Fortunately, we have no planned events of that size that we know of until Convocation, but we are looking at that event and developing contingencies for a worst-case scenario.

Health and wellness

We can all contribute to helping prevent the spread of this disease:

  • Pay close attention to advice coming from public health agencies.
  • As outlined in BC Centre for Disease Control guidelines, wash your hands regularly.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough, and cough into your elbow.
  • Avoid traditional greetings, such as handshakes or hugs.
  • Practice social distancing – keep your distance from other people when practical.
  • Those with pre-existing medical conditions should work with their supervisor and human resources to develop plans.
  • For our employees, we are preparing more information regarding sick time, working from home and other measures, and will circulate that in the coming days.

In closing, I ask that as a community we come together to support the institution’s response. If you see an area you can provide expertise or help, offer it. If you have questions, reach out to your supervisor who can collect them and send them on to our coordinating committee. Perhaps, most importantly, I ask that we be patient and kind during what is a stressful situation. Some units are taxed right now, and may not respond to questions or requests as quickly as normal. As always, advice, suggestions and constructive feedback are always welcome!

Thank you again for all your hard work.

Geoff Payne
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor


March 11, 2020 Update

The global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, is a rapidly changing, fluid situation. UNBC takes the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and other community members very seriously. I am providing the following update on our planning and response.

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared that the COVID-19 outbreak can be characterized as a pandemic. However, the Provincial Health Officer has indicated that the public health risk associated with COVID-19 remains low. To date there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in northern B.C.

At UNBC, we continue to follow advice provided by provincial, national and international health authorities and organizations. We are working closely with other post-secondary institutions in British Columbia as well as a number of provincial ministries in regards to the planning and management of the crisis.

We are taking the outbreak seriously. In order to facilitate effective planning and to mitigate the risk, the University has struck a committee composed of senior leaders from across the institution to plan for the response if an outbreak were to occur in our community.

We will continue to update this website as the situation progresses. We will also communicate via email and social media when there is new information to share.

Preventing the spread of an infectious disease is a team effort and I thank everyone in our community who is working to ensure we have an excellent plan in place.

Everyone at UNBC has a role to play to prevent the spread of infection. I encourage everyone to take similar precautions to those you would take to prevent the spread of a cold or the flu, especially the practice of good hand hygiene, wash your hands with water and soap. Recognize that the symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, muscle aches and difficulty breathing whereas influenza also presents with the symptoms of sore throat, runny or stuffy nose.

This section of the website provides more specific precautions you can take, as well as up-to-date information on travel health notices and links to other important information.

If you have questions or concerns that are not currently addressed here, please contact safety@unbc.ca.

Thank you,

Geoff Payne
Interim President and Vice-Chancellor