About 30 UVic students in varsity programs and in the Gustavson School of Business have tested positive for COVID-19 following two off-campus social events held last weekend. Island Health has considered these cases a cluster but not an outbreak.
Dr. Richard Stanwick, the chief medical officer for the Vancouver Island Health Authority, confirmed today that these are Delta variant cases and that there have been no hospitalizations as of yet. More students are coming forward to be tested and Island Health will continue to track the number of infections.
A UVic statement released on Dec. 9 says that those students exposed to the virus have been contacted by Island Health. Students not contacted by Island Health are not considered to be at risk.
Those students who attended the exposure events will have their exams changed; all other students’ exam schedules will remain the same. UVic is asking students experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who feel unwell, to ask for academic concession for their exams. Academic concession can be granted without medical documentation due to the pandemic. According to Island Health, key COVID-19 symptoms include fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing, and a loss of sense of taste or smell.
“As COVID-19 continues to circulate in the broader community, there will be cases among members of our campus community,” said the university in the statement. “It is our ongoing reality and why our UVic safety plans and protocols follow guidance from the Public Health Officer.”
In an email to the Martlet, UVic commented they don’t know of any on-campus exposures or transmissions that resulted from these weekend gatherings.
“We hope that by sharing what we are doing under the guidance of Island Health, you are reassured to know that the university and local health officials are taking all precautions required to mitigate the spread of infection,” said UVic in the statement.
“We are dealing with a highly vaccinated population,” said Dr. Stanwick about the UVic students, adding that 97.2% of UVic students who responded to the university’s vaccination survey are fully immunized. “So this is a population that did what we asked of them … and obviously did an assessment in terms of their risk of basically participating in a social event.”
When asked about the upcoming holidays, Dr. Stanwick said that being fully vaccinated is the best protection against COVID-19. He added that students should assess their risk levels and, for people that are immunocompromised, exercise caution with large events. However, Dr. Stanwick also recognized how difficult the pandemic has been on young people and how essential social interaction is for mental health.
“Your best protection, if you’re really wanting to travel to engage in social activities [is] to follow in some of those regular precautions we’ve been recommending all along in terms of handwashing and staying home if you’re sick,” Dr. Stanwick said.
There are currently 664 active COVID-19 cases in Island Health and 2 994 active cases in B.C.