COVID-19 Update – PHO Strongly Recommends Continuing on-Campus Instruction for January 2022 + Rapid Antigen Testing in BC

Please note the following COVID-19 updates for December 22, 2021:

December 2021 Guidance from BC’s Provincial Health Officer – Continuation of On-Campus Instruction for January 2022:

On Tuesday, December 21, 2021 the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), Dr. Bonnie Henry, informed (see attached letter) all public post-secondary institution presidents of the strong recommendation by public health experts in B.C. to continue with on-campus instruction as planned for PSIs in January 2022.  

  • Rationale:

o  Experience in BC and internationally show educational settings as low risk for COVID-19 transmission.  Transmission in educational settings on campus continues to be uncommon.

o  Experience with all variants of concern reflect similar patterns of risk:

·  High risk settings being homes and unstructured or informal social settings.

·  Low risk settings being educational settings, including large classrooms, and workplaces with safety measures in place.

o  Structured educational settings do not amplify transmission.

o  Previous move to online post-secondary education in 2020 and 2021 was associated with significant negative consequences for post-secondary students.

o  There is no evidence that moving to online post-secondary instruction will decrease interactions in households and unstructured social settings.

·       Recommendations:

o  Maintain in-person instruction on post-secondary campuses and ensure students continue to have in-person access to their instructors.

o  Return to Campus Public Health Guidance , COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Guidelines and institutional safety plans have been very effective at preventing COVID-19 in a variety of settings across B.C.

o  For non-educational activities, such as social gatherings of students and/or staff, seek virtual alternatives, and continue to comply with the PHO Order for Gatherings and Events.

Given the importance of maintaining in-person and on-campus education of post-secondary students, Public Health leadership will work with PSIs to provide guidance, support and assistance to ensure that students are able to continue learning in place.

Rapid Antigen Testing in BC:

An accelerated roll-out of rapid antigen testing strategy (December 2021 – January 2022) was announced December 21, 2021 as part of the broader announcement regarding strengthened COVID-19 measures for a safer holiday season.  The testing strategy  includes:

·       Case/Contact/Cluster Management – testing multiple people who may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 (e.g., events with exposure)

·       Post-Secondary Education (students, faculty and staff) – 500,000 tests for rapid testing of symptomatic students, faculty and staff, students etc.

As the roll-out for rapid testing progresses more information may become available to PSIs.

Return-to-Campus Guidelines (RTCG):

The RTCG will be updated to include the December 2021 guidance from BC’s Provincial Health Officer in the coming days.  Expect to see a separate sector communique later this week with the updates.

Thank you for the important role you play in supporting the provincial COVID-19 response. Please share this update broadly within your respective institutions.

COVID-19 Resources: