UBC released some of its fall COVID-19 guidelines. Here’s what you need to know.

UBC has published information about its COVID-19 protocols for returning staff and students in the upcoming fall semester.

The document was released shortly before the province released its July 31 edition of the Go-Forward Guidelines for post-secondary institutions.

Here’s what students returning to campus in the fall — whether remotely or in person — can expect.

Face masks

At this time, UBC is not mandating students or staff to wear non-medical masks on campus.

The decision is a notable difference from other Canadian universities who are requiring mask usage such as the University of Toronto. Closer to home, Simon Fraser University has asked all visitors to wear masks.

“We are in consultation with Vancouver Coastal Health in this regard and are following the direction of our health care partners,” said UBC spokesperson Matthew Ramsey, in an emailed statement.

Under the Go-Forward Guidelines, wearing a non-medical mask is stated as an issue of personal choice.

The University of Toronto announced it would distribute 250,000 free polyester masks to students staff and faculty following a similar announcement from Western University in London, Ontario. UBC will be handing out face masks for visitors who wish to use them, but only 25,000 will be available.

“The university has ordered and will distribute 25,000 non-medical, reusable cloth masks in the coming weeks … and UBC will continue to advocate for physical distancing as the primary method of prevention of the spread of COVID,” wrote Ramsey.

Residence capacity

Based on current trends, UBC is expecting a 50 per cent occupancy rate for residences across both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

First-year housing will be at approximately 20 per cent occupancy, upper-year winter housing at 50 per cent and year-round housing at 80 per cent, Andrew Szeri, provost and vice-president academic, said in a written statement.

According to the Q&A document, work between Student Housing and Community Services (SHCS) with WorkSafeBC and Vancouver Coastal Health “has determined that 100 per cent of the housing inventory can be made available if demand warrants.” But demand for first-year and upper-year winter housing is half of full capacity due to increased online instruction this fall, the document said.

UBC plans on following provincial health guidelines on self-isolation for new students that might arrive. For anyone coming from out of the country to live in a shared space, there will be a requirement to self-isolate for 14 days.

“SHCS is setting aside self-isolation spaces within residence and has partnered with four off-campus hotels to support self-isolation need,” wrote Szeri.

While UBC plans to charge students a fee for self-isolation packages, the University of Toronto will provide students private accommodation at a hotel or residence with meals and transportation included.

Class instruction

Very few classes will take place in-person this upcoming semester.

Sections meeting in person will take place in spaces that fit three times the occupancy limit for what would be normally used.

As for classes that will have face-to-face instruction, instructors will not be expected to teach online. Instead, different support options will be facilitated through the Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology.

University communication

Under the guidance rules of provincial health authorities, the disclosure of any information regarding on-campus COVID-19 cases will remain private.

This comes after what the report called “wide-spread dissatisfaction” directed at the university for not disclosing COVID-19 cases earlier this year.

UBC maintains that the disclosure of such information is made “limited and specific” under BC’s Public Health Act.

“Public Health may contact us for assistance in any contact tracing required for COVID cases, but to protect the privacy of the individual this information cannot be made public,” wrote Szeri.

“If there was a significant outbreak, as Dr. Bonnie Henry does currently, there would be disclosure of an outbreak and the potential for exposure by Public Health.”