COVID-19 at UBC: UBC community health service area records record-high positivity rate

The UBC community health service area has begun 2022 by recording its highest rate of COVID-19 test positivity since the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) began releasing this data.

As of January 10, the BCCDC’s COVID-19 dashboard reported that 40 per cent of publicly-funded tests among UBC area residents were producing positive results, a higher rate than any during the pandemic.

According to the dashboard, this equates to 20 total cases of COVID-19 among residents between January 6 and 10, although case numbers are likely to be an underrepresentation of COVID-19’s spread due to the province’s lack of testing capacity. Notably, this data only includes cases detected by PCR tests and not rapid tests.

Only 20 new cases being reported alongside a 40 per cent positivity rate suggests that just 50 PCR tests were performed on symptomatic UBC area residents, despite the region having thousands of residents. The nearest PCR testing site is located in Downtown Vancouver, roughly 50 minutes from campus by transit.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry has recommended that individuals experiencing either mild or no symptoms avoid seeking testing, likely resulting in case numbers being undercounted.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have increased province-wide in the past week, reflective of the lag between case increases and the prevalence of severe symptoms. However, the province has reported that the majority of hospitalized patients have been sick with the Delta variant rather than the Omicron variant. The majority of patients have also been unvaccinated.

The rate of hospitalization due to Omicron remains undetermined.

Ninety-seven per cent of UBC neighbourhood residents aged 12+ are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 82 per cent of residents aged 70+ have received their booster doses. No booster data has been made available for younger age groups.

However, the BCCDC has released suspect data on numerous occasions, including impossibly high vaccination rates. Additionally, each data release only includes those with an address in the UBC community health area, excluding commuter students, faculty and staff.

UBC has announced that classes will remain online until at least February 7, a two-week extension from the January 24 return to classrooms that had previously been announced.

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) has come under fire in recent weeks for its testing capacity due to a lack of available staff. The on-campus public rapid testing distribution site — located in the Life Sciences Building — suddenly closed on January 10 before reopening the following day.

UBC announced that PCR testing will be available on campus sometime in January, but no further details have been released. VCH’s on-campus rapid testing distribution will remain in place until January 23.