The University of Victoria is shifting some students’ exams online after the university experienced a spike in positive cases of COVID-19.
Island Health confirmed to CHEK News on Thursday afternoon that it is “aware of an increase in COVID-19 cases among people who attended an off-campus event” but has not declared an outbreak at the institution.
The University of Victoria provided a further update late Thursday night, stating the cases were linked to “two off-campus social gatherings.”
Neither Island Health nor the University of Victoria (UVic) revealed a specific number of cases, citing respect for patient privacy.
In a statement to CHEK News, UVic acknowledged the “last few days have not been easy” for some of its students and the institution is partnering with the local public health team to support their students through illness during the exam period.
“As COVID-19 continues to circulate in the broader community, there will be cases among members of our campus community,” the statement reads. “Our safety plans and protocols follow guidance from the PHO and we work closely with Island Health on any cases that impact our community.”
The university noted the cases were contracted from two off-campus social gatherings and “primarily impact a specific set of students in our business school and varsity programs.” As a result, UVic has moved exams for those students online, while the rest remain as scheduled.
A letter was sent out to UVic business students Wednesday night, notifying them of the positive cases on behalf of Saul Klein, dean of the university’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business.
The letter also advises the students to self-monitor for symptoms and limit their social contacts over the next few days as Island Health conducts the contact tracing process.
As of Thursday afternoon, no other communication had been issued to the larger campus community. That’s because Island Health takes care of communicating possible COVID-19 exposures.
Documents on the BCCDC’s website direct post-secondary administration not to notify faculty, staff or students about cases, unless asked to by the local medical health officer.
“Since COVID-19 transmission is uncommon in educational settings, in most cases, public health notifications to the campus community will not be required,” reads a paragraph in the Return to Campus Public Health Guidance document.
On Thursday night, after CHEK’s story was published, the University of Victoria posted a notice on its website alerting the community to the increase in COVID-19 cases at the school.
“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,” the notice reads.
A group of faculty associations have signed a petition calling on the Ministry of Health to begin posting COVID-19 exposure, cluster, or outbreak event notifications that have occurred at a post-secondary campus.
The petition has more than 1,200 signatures and is signed by several on-campus unions and faculty associations, including the University of Victoria Faculty Association.
“The current approach, of not providing this information beyond the small group directly impacted, does not allow for peace of mind,” said Lynne Marks, president of the University of Victoria Faculty Association, in a statement.
Marks added the information is needed to ensure their members — and all members of the campus community — feel safe in their workplace. She noted the information should be made available without compromising individual privacy
The University of Victoria is encouraging any students who are unwell or unable to write any exams at the scheduled time to submit a request for academic concession to defer some or all of their exams until the beginning of next term.