COVID-19 at UBC: Mask and vaccine mandates on the agenda amid fourth wave surge

New data from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has revealed that UBC’s Vancouver campus has not been spared from the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest COVID-19 dashboard update has reported a daily average of eight new cases per 100,000 UBC area residents between August 6 and August 12, with a testing positivity rate of three per cent. While these rates remain much lower than elsewhere in the province, this change represents a two case daily increase from last week.

This increase fits with the trend seen across the Lower Mainland, with almost all neighbourhoods reporting increases in cases and positivity rate.

The local hotspot is the Northeast False Creek neighbourhood, which encompasses Science World, the stadium district, Yaletown and part of Chinatown. This densely populated area experienced a daily case rate of 18 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last week.

Between this past Thursday and Friday, BC reported 717 new cases of COVID-19, continuing the exponential increase in spread seen over the past month. This is the highest that cases have been since the decline of BC’s third wave in May.

Transmission remains at its highest in the Central Okanagan region — home to UBC’s Okanagan campus — which reported 62 daily new cases per 100,000 residents in this latest update. However, the nearby Nelson, Castlegar, Creston and Enderby regions all have similarly high case rates, as do the Nechako and Hope regions.

Sharp increases in case numbers have been the trend across Canadaas vaccine uptake has plateaued.

In Ontario, more than 82 per cent of cases have been in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals. While the BC government has not been consistently releasing such data to the public, the similarities between the two provinces indicate that the proportion of unvaccinated to vaccinated cases is likely to be similar in BC.

According to the latest dashboard update, just 68 per cent of UBC residents aged 12+ have received their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, among the lowest coverage in the Lower Mainland. First dose coverage remains at 82 per cent.

Concerns over spread at UBC have led to calls from students and faculty for the university to implement mask and vaccine mandates for when students return to classes in September. Other Canadian universities have taken such measures, including the University of Toronto and McGill.

While UBC administration has long held a position of total compliance with public health measures, President Santa Ono recently confirmed in a video that he personally supports such mandates and that the university would discuss the possibility of their implementation with the provincial health office.

Dr. Bonnie Henry will reportedly address this issue sometime in the coming week.