Upper years left out of UBC rapid COVID-19 testing program

UBC’s COVID-19 tests for students and staff in first-year residence aren’t available for upper-year residences, raising student concern.

In a statement to The Ubyssey, Rae Ann Aldridge, executive director of UBC safety & risk services said that the rapid screening program in first-year residence is only supposed to be a pilot.

“The rapid screening program was always intended to be a small-scale pilot in order to determine the feasibility of a broader program,” she said. “By starting small, we are able to collect all the relevant feedback and information in order to evaluate the potential for a broader program or even to expand the pilot.”

She added that the university implemented testing in first-year residence because of the increase of first-year students moving into residence in January 2021, the density of first-year residence, the number of test kits UBC received and the number of volunteer nursing students who will administer the tests.

Hania Malik, a fourth-year political science student living in Ponderosa, said that testing is needed in upper-year residence.

“Rapid testing is a good idea,” Malik said. “But I think that it is important to have that in upper-year residences too because a lot of the time, your residence is shared residence.”

Currently, only connected single units are available in first-year residence, while shared units are available in upper-year residence.

Last weekend, RCMP fined students in Fairview Crescent over $5,000 for partying. Student housing had also sent an email warning students of the consequences of holding large gatherings.

UBC could potentially expand the testing program to other residences, but that’s reliant on feedback collected from the pilot.

It is not intended to replace testing for students and staff who are experiencing symptoms and who believe they may have COVID-19. Aldridge said that the pilot program offers tests for asymptomatic individuals to keep residents and staff safe.

However, Malik said that on-campus testing for students who need it could be helpful. She knew some students who have had tests done off campus.

“I think it was a big hassle for them to go, because then the roommates of course get worried,” she said. “And it’s just more stressful with the situation of COVID, and going to school during COVID is stressful enough already.”

The closest testing site to campus is an urgent primary care centre downtown — 50 minutes away by bus.

Aldridge encouraged anyone who is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to use the B.C. COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool and to seek out information regarding testing through Vancouver Coastal Health.