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Masks, vaccination proof needed for B.C. post-secondary gatherings

Vaccine required for student housing, masks for classes and events
University of B.C. Okanagan campus and other post-secondary institutions are preparing for in-person instruction this fall. (UBC photo)

The B.C. government’s rapidly increasing COVID-19 restrictions mean students returning to colleges and universities this fall must show proof of vaccination to move into student housing and to attend sports and other group events.

Vaccine requirements for simply being on campus are up to each post-secondary institution, but masks in classes will be required as the province is reimposing its mask mandate for all public indoor areas as of Wednesday. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said students in health sciences programs are required to be vaccinated because they take part in practicums in the health care system.

Henry and Advanced Education Minister Anne Kang said mask rules for post-secondary classrooms are still being worked out, but masks will be required for classroom and laboratory settings. Henry emphasized that risk of COVID-19 transmission is lower in classrooms, compared to communal living spaces and gathering in pubs, fitness facilities and indoor sports events.

“In response to rising COVID-19 cases and as students return to in-person learning on campus, I am issuing a new mandatory mask order for all indoor public areas on campus,” Henry said Aug. 24. “It’s vitally important for post-secondary students that we resume in-person learning to support young people’s well-being, and with these added measures and increasing vaccination rates, we are confident we can do so.”

Kang said universities and colleges retain the autonomy to determine vaccination policies on campus. Henry said vaccines will not be required for all students returning to campus, but as employers, post-secondary institutions can determine their own policies for vaccination and testing of faculty and staff.

B.C. public health authorities and WorkSafeBC are updating their health and safety guidance for all post-secondary institutions, with new measures taking effect as of Sept. 7.

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