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UBC president announces support for mandatory vaccines, masks for September semester

The university will also have rapid testing and vaccination clinics at both campuses
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The University of British Columbia’s president is in support of mandatory indoor mask-wearing and vaccination come the fall semester.

While many have expressed frustration with the B.C. government’s lack of action reinstating mandatory mask-wearing, the University of British Columbia has voiced support for both mandatory masking and vaccination.

Santa Ono, UBC’s president and vice-chancellor wrote a letter to members of the UBC community addressing the implementation of mandatory non-medical masks and vaccines for those returning to campus in September. Ono writes the use of both precautions will be critical to allow the university to start the term with confidence.

“The Provincial Health Officer has mandated vaccination for all working in long term care facilities, I think we should do the same, at least in high-density residences and high contact circumstances such as Varsity athletics and theatre/music,” the letter reads, highlighting the surge in cases driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The letter goes on to announce that both rapid testing and vaccination clinics will be available at both campuses, details on which will be coming shortly. Ono also promised the university is working to ensure the commute to campus is as safe as possible while also addressing concerns about the ventilation of classrooms, labs and other indoor spaces.

“I can assure you that we are doubling our efforts to ensure university spaces meet or exceed guidelines set out by WorkSafeBC, the BC Centre for Disease Control and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers,” Ono writes.

Masks optional in B.C.

As for the rest over the province, most new COVID-19 infections in B.C. continue to be in the Central Okanagan, and that is why it is only that part of B.C. that has a mask mandate for indoor public settings, according to Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry.
In a daily press briefing on Aug. 6, Henry stated: "In no way did we ever say that is not appropriate [to wear masks in public settings.] I have said repeatedly, and continue to say, people must, and should, wear masks in indoor public spaces, particularly when you're around people, if it's crowded indoor spaces, where we know this virus can be transmitted. That remains the recommendation that remains in place, that remains what people should be doing, and it is mandated in the Central Okanagan right now."

Many businesses across the province continue to require that all customers wear masks, but because it is not a public health order, they have more explaining to do to customers for why they are requiring the measure. 

With files from Glen Korstrom