UVic Response to COVID-19 (coronavirus): Message from President Cassels

Dear members of the UVic campus community,

I am writing to update you on the University of Victoria’s efforts to be prepared for the COVID-19 virus, and to share additional information from campus leaders on this issue.

Along with others, our community is concerned about the global progression of the COVID-19 virus and the impact on our work, research and study at UVic. The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus is our highest priority. Though we continue to believe the risk of transmission on our campus is currently low, last week I activated the university’s emergency response protocol and established the Emergency Operations Centre to start planning for a response to an outbreak of the virus on campus. We are also working with our local, provincial and federal partners to address the impacts of COVID-19 based on the best available public health expertise and recommendations.

I would like to thank our colleagues across campus who are working hard to share information with us, implement preventative measures on campus, and plan for a broader response when required. Members of the UVic community have a history of supporting one another during times of need, and I am confident that we will continue to pull together over the coming months. I thank you for your patience and assistance as we work through this evolving and complex situation.

Jamie Cassels, QC
President and Vice-Chancellor


Update on UVic's response to COVID-19

From Kane Kilbey Associate Vice-President, Human Resources and UVic Emergency Operations Centre Director

As you are aware, the COVID-19 virus continues to grow and spread across the globe. While UVic has no confirmed cases, the number of cases worldwide is changing quickly, surpassing 100,000 cases across 108 countries as of March 9. We are working closely with public health officials and coordinating our efforts with the government’s pandemic response plan.  For the latest number of confirmed cases in British Columbia, please visit the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) website. On March 6, following the tragic outbreak of COVID-19 in a North Vancouver nursing home, the provincial health officer challenged all of us to take the measures that we can to do our very best to protect the citizens of British Columbia from a virus that does not recognize geopolitical boundaries. Of particular concern is the capacity of the health care system to absorb widespread outbreaks.

In response to the ongoing and global spread of the COVID-19 virus, the university has established two working groups to address complementary aspects of our COVID-19 preparations.

  • An academic Response Coordination Team (RCT). The RCT has been active since Jan. 29, 2020 and will continue now with a focus on academic continuity planning, including strategies to support disruption to normal course delivery and exams, as well as support for students whose academic programs have been disrupted by the outbreak.
  • The activation of an Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). The EOC has developed and reviewed scenarios to respond to cases of disease on campus and/or in the local community.  When there are cases of the virus affecting the community or UVic, the EOC will shift from planning mode to response mode and work closely with public health officials.

As part of our response to the evolving COVID-19 situation, a website has been created at uvic.ca/covid19 to provide the university community with the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, including tips for staying healthy, information for travellers and other helpful resources for students, faculty and staff.  Watch for posters, digital signage, social media, Ring articles and other more targeted updates from the university.

The EOC has also introduced new measures for daily cleaning and disinfecting of objects and surfaces in high traffic and high use areas. These include door handles, push buttons, hand rails, light switches, water fountains, washrooms, change rooms, gym equipment, computer labs and table/countertops in common areas.

This past week the EOC received several questions and concerns about pending events and travel. As you may know, UVic expanded the list of areas where university-sponsored travel and activities are temporarily suspended; the list includes China, Italy, Iran and parts of South Korea. We are in the process of developing further guidance on outbound international travel and university-sponsored events (i.e., conferences, athletic activities, etc.) that attract a large number of international travellers to the campus or the Victoria region. Information about these new measures will be posted on our COVID-19 website in the coming days. Finally, the EOC continues to monitor and review plans for inbound international summer session programming and inbound international student exchange programs. More information about these programs will be coming soon.

We have also been receiving questions from our community members asking what they can do to contribute to our collective efforts to mitigate the effect of this virus. Here are some recommended actions that individuals can take to make a difference:

  1. Follow good personal hygiene practices. The most important thing you can do to prevent COVID-19 and other illnesses is to wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your face. Practicing proper cough and sneeze etiquette (cough and sneeze into you elbow or use a disposable tissue) will also help to prevent the spread of illness.
  2. Stay informed. Follow updates on our COVID-19 website. This site is constantly being updated with new information. Only follow trusted external sources on COVID-19 such as the BC Centre for Disease Control and HealthLinkBC. Watch for COVID-19 scams including phishing emails posing as disease centre alerts, information on the spread of the virus, expert protection advice or offers of “cures.”
  3. Plan ahead. We are fortunate not to have any cases in our community at this time. For individuals, this is a good time to develop alternative plans for child care in the event of temporary school closures and to be reconsidering vacation and Spring Break destinations. For unit leaders, please take this opportunity to develop and review contingency plans in your area. For faculty and instructors, now is a good time to prepare for a situation that could disrupt and/or suspend class schedules, in-person meetings and final examinations. Faculty and instructors should now be considering what aspects of the course are most essential in the event that completing all missed work becomes impossible or unreasonable; faculty and instructors should also consider alternate means of assessment to in-person examinations.
  4. Please stay home if you are sick, even with a cold. Instructors have been advised that medical documentation of illness is no longer required from students for absences of less than two weeks. Our COVID-19 website provides helpful guidance if you have flu-like symptoms, been exposed to an affected region, or been in close contact with someone who has CODIV-19. If you are concerned about the intensity or duration of your symptoms, please contact your doctor or call HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1, a free provincial health information and advice phone line.

The safety and well-being of our campus community and the health of our broader community is our top priority. As such, our response to the COVID-19 virus will continue to evolve in the coming weeks. Please watch for future updates.

Visit the COVID-19 website.