Virtual town hall focuses on safe return to campus
“Vaccination” was the word of the day as Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and her team answered questions posed by student leaders at a virtual town hall hosted by Thompson Rivers University.
In partnership with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, the recent town hall connected B.C.’s top public health official with the Alliance of BC Students and the British Columbia Federation of Students, Indigenous student associations and student unions from 25 public post-secondary institutions.
Following on the heels of BC’s Restart plan, Henry spoke about how vaccine effectiveness has reinforced confidence in a full return to campus for post-secondary institutions in the fall.
“We are in a different place now than we were a year ago and even a few months ago,” Henry said. “Post-secondary institutions have an important role in caring for students, of learning and getting social connections back again. We’re watching globally and going slowly. I am confident that with the vaccines we have and their effectiveness, we’re going to get through this pandemic.”
The town hall, the second of its kind, was held to give post-secondary student leaders an opportunity to discuss public health guidance in the COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Primer released in April and to prepare for in-person learning in September 2021.
At the town hall, one student asked, “Will everyone have to wear masks on campus?” Another wanted to know about social clubs and activities. Others asked about how future outbreaks might be handled, while others wanted to know about the rules for international students and quarantine.
The public health officer and her deputy emphasized the importance of students having access to their historical vaccination records and that vaccinations would be made available on campus. They also emphasized the low risks of structured, seated environments like university lecture halls and classrooms, that Canada has safely welcomed international students throughout the pandemic, and how B.C. has a particularly robust system for managing outbreaks of a variety of diseases over many years.
“Helping students feel comfortable is going to be one of our biggest jobs,” said Dr. Réka Gustafson, deputy provincial health officer, acknowledging that everyone has different comfort levels about returning to campus. “We’ve all been through a fundamental experience together. We’ve asked you to think about COVID-19 in everything you do, every single day. We had to. But now we need to help people build a shared understanding of what has changed. And immunization has fundamentally changed the risk and the equation.”
Henry encouraged students to spread the message of the importance of getting vaccinated and to continue practising all they have learned over the past year to stay COVID-19 free, such as following campus safety plans, performing a daily health check and staying home when sick, wearing masks as required, following handwashing and hygiene etiquette, and following public health orders and guidelines on and off campus.
Later this month, COVID-19 return-to-campus guidelines will be released, providing updated public health guidance for a safe return to campus as the province continues BC’s Restart plan.
May 28 Town Hall with post-secondary student leaders:
BC’s Restart plan: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/info/response
Register for your vaccine now:
Or call 1 833 838-2323.
If you’re a B.C. resident, get secure access to your health information through Health Gateway:
Latest vaccine Information:
Visit the BCCDC dashboard: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/covid-19/data
Information about returning to post-secondary:
International students and studying in Canada:
Free mental health support for post-secondary students: https://here2talk.ca/home