COVID-19 at UBC: Limited PCR data shows lower case counts as BC enters new phase of the pandemic

Limited PCR data from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) shows a drop in test positivity in the UBC community health area to 14 per cent. This figure is down from 35 per cent last week and the record high of 56 per cent in January.

From March 11 to 17, the UBC neighbourhood recorded just three new cases of COVID-19, down from seven cases last week. However, these are just cases recorded on PCR tests. Positive rapid tests are not included in this data, despite rapid tests being the main form of testing that students can access.

Based on the test positivity rate, approximately 22 PCR tests were performed during this time period. BCCDC data only includes publicly funded PCR tests which are restricted to individuals who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised or work in a high-risk setting.

In the absence of widespread PCR testing, wastewater surveillance can be used as an early warning system to measure the level of COVID-19 in the community. The Iona Island treatment plant is roughly responsible for UBC, Vancouver and YVR Airport. Based on data reported by Metro Vancouver, the concentration of COVID-19 at the Iona Island plant dropped from approximately 46,000 last week to 23,000 this week. Additional information about wastewater surveillance is available from the US CDC here.

Vaccination coverage is unchanged with 98 per cent of UBC residents ages 12 and older having received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. UBC residents are defined as people with a permanent address in the UBC community health area, notably excluding commuter students.

Booster coverage for adults 18 years and older in the Vancouver Westside health area is 67 per cent, the third highest in the province. However, for the 18–29 age group, booster coverage is lower at 53 per cent across Vancouver Coastal Health and 39 per cent provincially.

On Friday, The Ubyssey reported that rapid test distribution sites run by UBC and the AMS are out of test kits and will be closed until further notice. The university has nearly exhausted its supply of 70,000 5-pack rapid test kits, but it is working with the Ministry of Health to determine if additional kits can be procured. A limited number of rapid tests remains available through the Graduate Student Society for all students and in some student residences for residents of those buildings only.

Researchers from the UBC-led COVID-19 Modelling Group are projecting that the second Omicron wave will likely be smaller, with a peak in late April to early May. The group continues to advocate for voluntary safety measures such as high-quality masks, improved ventilation and avoiding large crowds.

With COVID-19 metrics consistently improving, the Government of BC announced a timeline to end most public health measures. While the provincial mask mandate ended last Friday, UBC announced it will continue to require masks in public spaces until the end of the semester. The AMS is also continuing to require masks in the Nest.

Proof of vaccination will no longer be required under provincial order starting April 8. However, businesses may continue to require masks and proof of vaccination at their discretion.