COVID-19 Contact tracing


Last updated: September 22, 2021

Contact tracing is the process used by public health authorities to identify individuals who have come into high-risk contact with a person infected with COVID-19. The public health authority contacts these individuals and provides health direction. Notification of COVID-19 cases, and potential exposures, within our community is managed by public health authorities, not by UBC. If UBC is asked by public health authorities to assist in notifying our community members of a confirmed case, we will do so by assisting in the distribution of materials prepared by those public health authorities. Only those identified through contact tracing as “needing to know” will have access to this information.

Managing COVID-19 cases and potential exposures at UBC Vancouver

At the start of Winter Session, Term 1, news circulated that a handful of students had informed faculty members that they had tested positive for COVID-19. Indeed, we have received reports from time to time, over the course of the pandemic. Fortunately, Public Health has been able to manage these situations well, and they have not evolved into major clusters of cases. With more people on campus there may be heightened sensitivity to the numbers because we learn of them in our classes. However, we have had cases since March of 2020, and the dominant mode of transmission then, as now, has been contact in social settings – not the classroom.

What steps are taken by Public Health and UBC?

At UBC, with over 80,000 students, faculty and staff, it is very likely that positive COVID-19 cases and small clusters of cases amongst members of our community will occur, as with other communities of this size. We can minimize this by continuing to remind people of the public health orders in place and reinforce the importance of vaccination, staying home when feeling sick, and conducting daily health self-assessments.

Cases of COVID-19, in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region, continue to be predominantly associated with transmission in social settings. Classroom settings are considered to be lower risk; but for all COVID-19 cases on campus, there are steps taken by Pubic Health to limit transmission:

  1. Public Health follows up every person who tests positive for COVID-19 within 24 hours (they are notified by the lab within hours of the test being completed). They take a detailed history from the person to identify their close contacts during their infectious period. Public Health then reaches out to those close contacts to provide specific actions to prevent spread, such as self-isolation or self-monitoring, depending on the contacts’ vaccination status. A close contact is generally someone who has been near a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes when health and safety measures were not in place or were insufficient.
  1. In the case of an infected person having been on campus, those who were not close contacts do not have a substantially increased risk of acquiring COVID-19 in the Public Health assessment. They are not contacted by Public Health and can continue to participate in all of their regular activities.
  1. On occasion, Public Health reaches out to UBC for assistance with notification of cases. This occurs when institutional action is required; for instance, when Public Health is not assured that they have a complete list of all direct contacts. Public Health reaches out to the institutional contact who will be able to assist (for example, UBC Student Housing leadership regarding a case attending a residence event). UBC will not be contacted or informed about every case occurring amongst students, faculty or staff members.
  1. In a more serious outbreak or cluster situation, Public Health has many tools at its disposal. For example, it may direct UBC to limit access to buildings, move classes on line, close laboratories, or undertake other measures, depending on the nature of the situation.

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Response to COVID-19 reports

Do I need to contact anyone if a UBC student, faculty or staff voluntarily discloses they have COVID-19, or have been instructed to self-isolate by Public Health?

Student Disclosure

If a student informs you that they have been confirmed to have COVID-19, these are the steps that you should take:

  • Inform Student Health Services, Dr. Marna Nelson at of the case(s).
  • Ensure that the student(s) are provided with concessions and support as required to continue learning whilst unable to attend class.
  • Follow all instructions from Public Health, if directed by them (in most cases, you will not be contacted because Public Health has made all necessary notifications directly).
  • In the case of a more concerning exposure, Public Health may direct UBC to move to on-line delivery to support isolation of a class. All contemplated course delivery changes must be discussed with the Department Head/School Director.

Some faculty have expressed concern that they have an obligation to inform others of news that there may have been an exposure, irrespective of Public Health’s management of the situation. In this situation, these are steps that can be taken:

  • If there is a need to provide general information to the class and if the student has given permission to do so, refer the matter to your Department Head, School Director, or Administrator to provide any general information that may be appropriate.
  • Department Heads, School Directors, and Administrators are invited to contact Safety and Risk Services at for more information and guidance.

Faculty or Staff Disclosure

If a faculty or staff member informs you that they have been confirmed to have COVID-19, these are the steps that you should take:

  • Inform Human Resources as appropriate:
  • Ensure Faculty and Staff member(s) are provided with support as required.
  • Follow all instructions from Public Health, if directed by them (in most cases, you will not be contacted because Public Health has made all necessary notifications directly and there is nothing more to do).

As a reminder, students, faculty and staff who are asymptomatic can participate in the research rapid testing clinic in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. Information about the clinic, appointment booking, and hours of operation can be found on:

Symptomatic students, faculty and staff must undergo PCR testing at a Vancouver Coastal Health designated site ( Student Health Services and the UBC Hospital Urgent Care can also complete PCR testing albeit with limited capacity. The wait times for the Vancouver Coastal Health collection centres can be found here:


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Claims reporting

Do reports of COVID-19 cases have to be put in CAIRS?

Contact Safety & Risk Services at 604-822-2029 or email and a safety expert will provide guidance on any immediate follow-up measures.

How to file a claim for time loss?

If a worker reports that they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace, please contact Workplace Health Services by emailing Aidan Gregory, WSBC Claims Associate ( Aidan will provide guidance on reporting a claim to WorkSafeBC and following up with a UBC HR Advisor or Faculty Relations Senior Manager.

For more information, please visit  UBC Human Resources- Managing Employees During COVID-19.

For WorkSafeBC COVID-19 Claims Information, please visit the WorkSafeBC website.

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Other relevant Information

For information on UBC’s seven institutional safety plans, please visit ‘COVID-19 Safety Plans‘.

For Campus Rules, please visit ‘UBC Campus Rules & Guidance‘.

For information on the vaccination declaration, please visit the COVID-19 Rapid testing‘.

For information on the use of non-medical masks, please visit ‘COVID-19 Return to campus FAQ‘.

Please email questions to

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