UBC's vaccine disclosure, rapid testing policies leave out one group on campus: visitors

Guidelines around visitors to campus remain unclear as UBC enters its third week of in-person classes.

UBC has announced a slew of new COVID-19 related restrictions in the last few weeks — from mandatory rapid testing for those who are unvaccinated, to a requirement of vaccination in residence. On August 24, the Provincial Health Officer required non-medical masks in all indoor public areas, including classrooms and labs — and introduced the BC Vaccine Card the day before.

However, visitors to UBC’s campus won’t be required to disclose their vaccination status, nor undergo rapid testing, under UBC’s current policies.

Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Vancouver Media Relations, confirmed that visitors won’t be covered by UBC’s current plans.

“Keeping track of the visitors was found to be so complex and difficult that it bordered on impossible to achieve in the current system,” Ramsey said. “And in reality, the BC Vaccine Card provides a level of assurance for the UBC community that people who are coming onto campus to take part in discretionary activities will need to provide proof of vaccination in order to do so.”

The Ministry of Health provided little further information, emphasizing that mandatory non-medical masks and required proof of vaccination in university residences is a part of the prevention plan regarding visitors.

Ramsey emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated.

“The university understands people have concerns, the university completely gets that, which is why we have embarked on this proof of vaccination and rapid testing program,” he said.

However, one area of campus life that this could affect is the student society.

The issue of visitors not being part of UBC’s program came up at AMS Council on Wednesday night, when the AMS stated that it would not have a vaccine mandate for its own employees due to legal concerns. Some of the AMS’s employees are not UBC students and therefore, are not included in UBC’s vaccination disclosure program.

Graduate Student Society representative Julia Burnham expressed concern that might mean some AMS employees were not vaccinated and would not be mandated to undergo rapid testing.

AMS President Cole Evans said that the student society was under the impression that the program would eventually be expanded to include visitors and everyone on campus.

“We'll need to get clarification from UBC on whether that's something that they are going to eventually implement … or whether we’re going to have to do something ourselves potentially,” he said.