COVID-19 at UBC: Case numbers remain low on campus as calls grow for more data

The rate of COVID-19 remains at its lowest point since spring this week, according to new data released by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC).

The new data — covering the week of October 5 to 11 — revealed that there were on average two new cases per 100,000 UBC area residents each day, down from four last week. Meanwhile, a zero per cent testing positivity rate was recorded, suggesting that the precise rate can be measured in decimal points.

The BCCDC also reported that 96 per cent of residents aged 12+ have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 93 per cent are fully vaccinated. However, a disclaimer has been added indicating that these numbers have been adjusted to account for out-of-town students arriving since March 2021.

However, this week’s numbers come with some questions.

The regions of Princeton, Kettle Valley and Kootenay Lake have reported no new cases this past week despite previously reporting high case rates. Kettle Valley previously reported 60 cases per 100,000 residents, representing a seemingly impossible one week drop.

The BCCDC has been dogged by allegations of unreliable data in recent weeks. The bureau recently reported a 99 per cent vaccination rate at UBC, far higher than anywhere else in the province, as well as an impossibly high 101 per cent vaccine coverage in Kitimat. Public health officials walked back on the former report after backlash.

All this is to say that this week’s numbers, while plausible, are subject to skepticism.

UBC itself has come under fire in recent weeks for its lack of transparency regarding COVID-19, as well as its approach to student safety.

On-campus data remains very limited, and public health has treated such data as unreleasable due to student privacy concerns. However, numerous students, faculty and AMS Councillors have disputed this, arguing that it’s very possible to inform students of possible exposures without sacrificing confidentiality.

Furthermore, UBC has recently been criticized for failing to follow up with students and staff that have not yet declared their vaccination statuses, a task that was meant to be completed weeks ago.