Update: March 7, 2020
Next steps as B.C. plans to restart safely
From: Camosun College COVID-19 Response Coordination Team
Together, we have weathered the first and hopefully most extreme phase of the pandemic response, guided by the best possible advice from B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Island Health and many others.
A big question on a lot of peoples’ minds is what would it look like to bring small groups back to campus? The college’s COVID-19 Response Coordination Team is working through potential scenarios and requirements, and will be working with the ministry as part of a sectoral working group in the days and weeks ahead, but one thing is clear: it won’t be an overnight flip of the switch but rather a slow change of the dial. A gradual and safe return to the classroom and workplace needs to be well planned.
The possibility of a gradual return to campus became clearer on May 6 when Premier John Horgan outlined the next steps for B.C.’s pandemic response as the curve of coronavirus infections has flattened and hospitalization rates have remained low. Assuming this continues, the provincial government intends to lift restrictions in four phases that will slowly allow more social and economic activity, while minimizing the risk to the public. We know provincial approval will be required for any return to campus.
The Province’s four phases are:
- Phase 1: Where we are today including non-health essential service providers.
- Phase 2: Cautious expansion in “mid May” of small social gatherings, the resumption of elective surgeries and regulated health services, allowing public access to most parks for day use, and the safe re-opening within mandated parameters of more non-essential businesses.
- Phase 3: Opening up of additional businesses and services between June and September 2020 if transmission rates remain low or in decline. Students in post-secondary education will be most likely be returning to school in September with a “mix of online and in-class” learning.
- Phase 4: Essentially a return to the ‘old normal’, which requires a vaccine, effective treatments, or community immunity. Until then, “B.C. won’t be hosting large events, or gatherings.”
The Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training is developing a sectoral COVID-19 safe operating plan in collaboration with the public post-secondary sector. The Sector Plan Working Group includes all 25 public post-secondary institutions in B.C. as well as post-secondary institution experts in occupational health and safety to assist with the development of the plan, which will guide the college in completing the work outlined in the Go-Forward Strategy.
The Go-Forward strategy contains Provincial Health Officer guidelines, including ones specifically for the post-secondary sector. We don’t yet know the details of what these will entail, such as the reference to routine daily screening. It will be up to the working group to define. Post-secondary guidelines are:
- Routine daily screening protocol for all staff and students.
- Routine and frequent environmental cleaning.
- Clear policy for students and staff who have symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing not to attend classes, extra curricula activities, sports or work.
- Increased use of online learning balanced against the need of social interaction for learning and development.
- Early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days for international students.
The Sector Working Group will also be developing practice standard requirements in key areas such as retail spaces (such as the bookstores), health clinics (such as dental, massage therapy and athletic & exercise therapy), office workplaces, child care centres, education and research, food services, indoor and outdoor recreation, outdoor spaces and on-campus personal services.
Given the nature of the college, with its many functions, there are additional recommendations from the Go-Forward Strategy that will apply. Core guidelines for personal self care and implementing safe organizational practices will need to be followed.
In addition to a sector plan, specific plans for a gradual return for some students and employees to Camosun’s campuses in the fall will need to be submitted to the Province for approval.
We are looking at a range of strategies for ensuring the health and safety of those students and employees who need to return to campus in September.
Among the many steps needed, we have begun to secure the necessary equipment such as personal protective equipment, non-medical masks, plexiglass barriers and enhanced cleaning supplies. We are also identifying methods to maintain a safe work and study environment, reducing potential spread of the virus, implementing safe traffic flows on campus and in buildings, and ensuring physical distancing. Establishing protocols for meeting rooms and classrooms is another consideration. Facilities Services will be working with each of our Schools and departments so faculty and staff feel safe in their working areas.
We will continue to keep you posted as more operational information becomes available. The timing and approaches of any of the planned phases may change if circumstances shift. All of our students and employees should all be proud of the work we have collectively done to help flatten the curve. Going forward, our actions will continue to be guided by the advice of B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer and the provincial government. We remain committed to the best practices and safety measures that have been successful at keeping us all safe.
Thank you for your continued commitment to the college, supporting students and being there for each other. In the meantime, please stay safe and keep healthy.
Camosun College COVID-19 Response Coordination Team
COVID-19 Safety Plan
The most current copy of the college’s COVID-19 Safety Plan is available here.
- BC Centre for Disease Control
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- World Health Organization
- Travel & Tourism Canada
- COVID-19 Stigma Guide
- Ministry of Health BC COVID-19 symptom self-assessment tool
- How COVID-19 is affecting IRCC
- For non-health related COVID-19 questions (e.g. supports, programs, etc):