Student Housing confirms multiple COVID-19 exposures in first-year residence

Student Housing has alerted multiple floors in Orchard Commons and Totem Park residences of potential COVID-19 exposures.

On March 9, Andrew Quenneville, associate director of Residence Life, sent an email to first-year residents to inform them of potential exposures of COVID-19 of four floors of first-year residence buildings, but did not specify which buildings or which floors.

“These letters have been sent because a community member has tested positive and other community members may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus,” Quenneville wrote.

Quenneville added that Vancouver Coastal Health would only share “as much information about the cases and exposures as is needed to ensure people get the public health direction they need.” He recommended that students seek a rapid test.

The university began providing rapid COVID-19 tests in first-year residence in February.

“As we know, a critical factor with COVID-19 is that it can be transmitted by people who actually never develop any symptoms. There’s no way of knowing the exact number of positive cases in any community at any given time,” Quenneville wrote.

A March 4 email sent to residents of the fifth floor of həm̓ləsəm̓ house in Totem Park by Vancouver Coastal Health informed residents of a COVID-19 exposure between March 1 and 3. The email was not verified by the university, but was sent to The Ubyssey by two separate students.

“Please be reassured that the current COVID safety plans in our schools, when followed correctly, are very effective in preventing transmission. Public Health is working closely with the school to identify any close contacts among staff or students,” the letter read, saying that any close contacts would be contacted directly.

Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, declined to confirm or deny that cases were present in first-year residence in an interview on March 8. He said that responsibility falls to Vancouver Coastal Health.

He further declined to comment on whether the university would inform more than just the specific floors of potential cases or exposures.

“We assist if Vancouver Coastal Health asks us to do so, but we defer to Vancouver Coastal Health,” Ramsey said.

Vancouver Coastal Health could not be reached in time for publishing.

— with files from Tina Yong