Last updated: May 2, 2022
In this section
As of May 1, 2022, UBC is transitioning from COVID-19 Safety Plans to a Communicable Disease Prevention Framework in alignment with the BC Centre for Disease Control, WorkSafeBC, and Public Health Guidance for Post-Secondary Institutions. This means the university will replace the seven institutional plans, with a Communicable Disease Prevention Framework to cover all UBC activities. Learn more.
This page contains useful frequently asked questions (FAQ) and resources to help you navigate your return to campus. Please note that individual Faculties are also providing updates.
For the latest university-wide updates and additional FAQ, please visit covid19.ubc.ca.
For UBC Okanagan, please visit ok.ubc.ca/covid19.
When is a face covering required?
- Face coverings or masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces (see the section on Indoor Public Spaces for a definition) by anyone 5 and older.
- ‘Face covering’ means either of the following that covers the nose and mouth of a person, does not include a small or large clear plastic face shield:
- a medical or non-medical mask;
- be made of three layers of fabric, including two layers of tightly-woven fabric, with a filter or filter fabric between layers;
- if there are two layers with a pocket for a filter, use a filter
When is a face covering not required?
- Workspaces such as office areas that restrict access to students or the public
- Research labs or shared offices that restrict access to students or the public
- Meetings and seminars in small meeting rooms
- Persons behind a barrier that separates them from other people, like a divider, cubicle, or in a room by themselves
- Instructors and other presenters when behind a barrier or two metres away from students
- Children under the age of 5 years old
- A psychological, behavioural or health condition
- A physical, cognitive or mental impairment
- An inability to put on or remove a face covering without assistance of another person
- A need to remove their face coverings to communicate with a person for whom visual cues, facial expressions, lip-reading or lip movement are essential
- In areas not controlled by UBC, follow signposted guidance and instructions given by the proprietor.
- The requirement to wear face coverings does not include indoor space when used at UBC for private events (i.e. events are invitation only), are not for instruction of UBC students, and are not available to the public (i.e., weddings, private receptions, and private room rentals by third parties). However, attendees of such events are required to wear face coverings when in public indoor space in the building where the event is held, such as lobbies, hallways and public bathrooms.
When can a face covering be temporarily removed?
- For the purpose of identification
- While seated and consuming food or drink at a designated location or classroom
- While participating in an exercise activity or sport at a fitness or sport facility
- While engaging in an educational activity that cannot be performed while wearing a face covering, for example, while playing a wind instrument
How to address a situation when a face covering is not being worn?
- Don’t assume that someone is intentionally breaking the rules. Even with the best intentions, people are bound to forget or misinterpret policies, and there could be others who just don’t know.
- See UBC Respectful Engagement Guidance: Non-Medical Masks and Following Campus Rules on the ‘Campus Rules & Guidance Document page, and follow the Campus Rules document for strategies to approach someone
- See the COVID-19 Campus Rules for directions on ensuring compliance
Where can I find additional information on the best face covering for my situation?
Health Canada provides advice on COVID-19 mask use in community settings. Please visit the Government of Canada COVID-19 Prevention and risks page.
How to clean and dispose of a non-medical mask?
Cloth masks should be changed and cleaned if they become damp or soiled. You can wash your cloth mask by:
- putting it directly into the washing machine, using a hot cycle, and then drying it thoroughly
- washing it thoroughly by hand if a washing machine isn’t available, using soap and warm or hot water
- allow it to dry completely before wearing it again
Non-medical masks that can’t be washed should be disposed of properly in a lined garbage bin. Replace your mask as soon as it gets damp, soiled or crumpled. Don’t leave discarded masks in shopping carts or on the ground where other people may come into contact with them.
For more information, please visit the Government of Canada COVID-19 Prevention and Risks page
What is a medical mask and are they recommended?
A medical mask (surgical or procedure mask) must meet established performance standards in Canada. UBC strongly recommends the use of medical masks as a face covering when possible. Medical masks, like other face coverings, must fit comfortably over the mouth and nose with no gaps around the face. To improve the fit of medical masks, they can be folded, knotted, worn with a mask fitter, or worn with a cloth mask overtop.
There are different levels of medical masks that denote their minimum performance and filtration standards. In North America, ASTM F2100 Levels 1-3 are most common. The chart below highlights the standards of each level.
|Test||Typical Canada/US ASTM F2100||EN 14683|
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Type HR|
|Bacterial filtration efficiency, %||≥95||≥98||≥98||≥98|
|Differential Pressure mm H2O/cm2 (Pa/cm2)||<5.0||<6.0||<6.0||<5.0
|Submicron particulate filtration efficiency at 0.1 micron, %||≥95||≥98||≥98||Not Required|
|Splash Resistance/Synthetic Blood Resistance, mmHg||80||120||160||120
|Flame Spread||Class 1||Class 1||Class 1||N/A|
|Microbial Cleanliness (cfu/g)||N/A||N/A||N/A||<30|
Respirators: N95 and KN95
What is Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is equipment that is manufactured to a specified design standard and issued by employers to protect employees from specific hazards. As indicated by WorkSafeBC’s hierarchy of controls—elimination, substitution, engineering controls and administrative controls are more effective in minimizing the risk of the hazard to the employee. PPE is the least effective method of protecting employee health.
What is a respirator?
Respirators are one type of PPE used for respiratory protection from airborne contaminants where contaminant concentrations may exceed occupational (workplace) exposure limits. Inline with the seriousness of the potential health effects of inhalation hazards, conditions of respirator usage for workplace safety is closely regulated by WorkSafeBC. Incorrect selection and/or use of PPE may actually increase your risk of exposure despite a perception of protection.
What is an N95 respirator?
An N95 respirator is a tight-fitting respirator that is used to protect against particulates that are above the limits set for health protection in occupational (workplace) settings. They usually have a cup shape, flat fold, or duckbill shape. Respirators can filter small particles when they fit closely over the mouth and nose with no gaps around the face. Respirators are certified by national agencies such as the Canadian Standards Association. At UBC, specialized equipment is used to test the seal and quantify the level protection provided to an individual by a specific make, model and size of respirator. In British Columbia, fit testing is a legal requirement for all tight-fitting respirators worn in an occupational (workplace) environment. Since fit testing is make, model, and size dependent, each time a purchase of a different model is made (for instance due to supply chain issues) the individual wearing the respirator must be re-fit tested before use.
What is a fit test and is it required for an N95 respirator?
A fit test is the process of verifying the seal of the respirator to an individual’s face and confirms that it will provide the protection promised by the manufacturer. Provincial laws require tight fitting respirators to be confirmed to seal to an individual’s face through a fit test if they are used to protect against contaminants that are above the limits set for health protection in occupational (workplace) settings. Accordingly, 3M, the main manufacturer of N95 respirators seen on campus, recommends that a fit test is done before a respirator is provided to an individual in their technical data sheets. Please note that UBC will only fit test NIOSH stamped N95 models, as these are the only ones that meet the legal requirements for required usage in occupational (workplace) situations.
When worn in a non-occupational or public setting, N95s are not required to be fit tested. A well-fitting respirator should be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments. Because respirators are meant to provide a tight seal to the face, facial hair significantly decreases their effectiveness. Masks with exhalation valves or vents allow infectious respiratory particles to spread outside the mask. These masks do not protect others from COVID-19 or limit the spread of the virus.
Are there any risks associated with wearing an N95 respirator that is not fit tested?
A non-fit tested N95 respirator cannot be assumed to provide the same level of protection as a fit tested N95 respirator as the seal with the individual’s face has not been verified. Non-fit tested respirators cannot be worn while performing a required workplace activity where there is a risk of exposure to a harmful airborne substance, as they do not provide adequate respiratory protection. This is both a hazard to health and illegal.
In a non-occupational or public setting, non-fit tested N95s may be an effective face covering when worn correctly and consistently.
Is an N95 respirator recommended for protection against COVID-19?
UBC continues to take direction from Public Health on COVID-19 prevention measures and controls. The Provincial Health Office continues to support the use of well-fitted, tightly woven 3ply cloth masks for the larger community accessing public, indoor spaces in combination with other health protection layers. The university has purchased a supply of 3ply cloth masks that meet the standard outlined by Public Health. Units are encouraged to contact firstname.lastname@example.org with numbers requested and to arrange for delivery.
Can I purchase and wear a N95 respirator for my own protection against COVID-19?
UBC recommends the use of medical masks as a face covering when possible. In public settings, N95 respirators may be an effective face covering when worn correctly and consistently.
What about using a KN95 respirator for protection against COVID-19?
Unlike N95 respirators, KN95s are not certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH). KN95 Respirators are not stamped or otherwise labelled with the manufacturing standard nor independent performance certification mark. This renders it impossible to verify the manufacturing standard used to construct it. There is significant variation in the price, quality, and appearance of KN95 respirators between manufacturers. Experiences by the Occupational Hygiene Community echo UBC’s findings: certain KN95’s are difficult to fit test quantitatively resulting in high (up to 80%) failure rates. This suggests a need for caution in the sourcing and use of these respirators.
To ensure that respirators have been approved in Canada, look for a TC-84A-####n number stamped on the mask, or for products marked as meeting the CSA Z94.4.1, GB 2626-2019, KMOEL–2017-64 or EN 149-2001 standards.
Capacity limits, physical distancing, and signage
Are there capacity limits to spaces on campus?
- Limiting the number of people within indoor public spaces is no longer recommended by public health or required by WorkSafe BC. People can be encouraged to spread out within the available space and normal room occupancy limits should not be exceeded (where applicable).
Is physical distancing required?
- Physical distancing (consistently maintaining 2 metres between people) is no longer recommended in indoor public spaces by public health or required by WorkSafe BC.
- People on campus can be encouraged to spread out within available space and to consider and respect others’ personal space (the distance from which a person feels comfortable being next to another person).
Is directional signage required?
- Post-secondary institutions are not required to manage the flow of pedestrian traffic within buildings or confined areas, or post occupancy limits for spaces such as elevators or washrooms.
Is any COVID-19 signage required?
- Post-secondary institutions must post at all building entrances that face coverings must be worn in all indoor public spaces. To access updated UBC digital and print signage, please visit ‘COVID-19 digital and print signage’.
Indoor public spaces
What is considered indoor public space?
- According to the UBC COVID-19 Campus Rules, a ‘public area’; means:
- An indoor space provided for the common use of all students, faculty and staff of UBC, including lobbies, hallways, public bathrooms, classrooms, or laboratories;
- A vehicle supplied by UBC for the transport of students where more than one person is present in the vehicle; or
- An indoor space when used for events open to the public (whether by purchasing tickets or otherwise) including theatre productions, indoor sporting events, indoor musical events and public lectures; and
- Any indoor space where use of face coverings is required by UBC through means of signage or otherwise.
- This does not include indoor space when used at UBC for private events (i.e. events are invitation only), are not for instruction of UBC students, and are not available to the public (i.e., weddings, private receptions, and private room rentals by third parties). However, attendees of such events are required to wear face coverings when in public indoor space in the building where the event is held, such as lobbies, hallways and public bathrooms.
As of April 11, completing the online training module ‘UBC Go Forward COVID-19 Safety Planning Training’ is no longer required.