On-campus COVID-19 testing to potentially expand to symptomatic individuals

A COVID-19 testing site for symptomatic individuals may be coming to campus, according to UBC President Santa Ono.

During the special session of Senate on September 10, Ono said that there have been ongoing discussions within UBC about establishing a COVID-19 testing site on or near campus for symptomatic individuals.

“I’ve been speaking with Rae Ann Aldridge [ — the executive director at UBC Safety & Risk Services — ] about that, so I’m sure those conversations are occurring,” he said.

UBC currently offers a rapid testing program at IKB as part of a clinical study, but it is only available for individuals living, working and studying at UBC who are asymptomatic for COVID-19. This testing site, which opened on August 31, has also had a few accessibility issues, such as several instances of closing at the last minute and an overall lack of awareness within the UBC community.

Meanwhile, the nearest COVID-19 testing site for people with symptoms is approximately 50 minutes away from campus by bus. Without access to a testing site on campus, symptomatic individuals could possibly spread COVID-19 to others around them during the commute.

Clara Sui, a third-year student living on campus, visited a COVID-19 testing site off-campus as a safety measure when she came down with a cold. Although her results came back negative eight hours after she got tested, she was worried about taking the bus to the testing site since she does not have a driver’s license.

“I think with such a large campus and cold season looming around, it would be more time-efficient and safer for the general public to have a testing centre — even a mobile one — on campus or around Point Grey,” said Sui.

“I would have gone to IKB if I wasn’t symptomatic.”

In a written statement to The Ubyssey, Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC, said that UBC has been speaking with Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) about the possibility of opening a new COVID-19 testing site on or near campus, but didn’t provide any further details.

“Ultimately it is the health authority that determines where testing sites are located,” said Ramsey.

In a written statement to The Ubyssey, Rachel Galligan, communications director at VCH, said that VCH strives to offer timely and accessible COVID-19 testing to residents across Greater Vancouver. However, she did not share any specific information about plans for establishing a testing site at UBC.

“There are a number of considerations when selecting COVID-19 test collection sites, including their suitability, availability, and accessibility,” said Galligan in her written statement. VCH sent a similar statement to The Ubyssey last November when the same issues were raised.