Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 Infections

The below frequently asked questions provide information about the notification and contact tracing processes carried out by public health authorities, and how UBC may assist them in certain circumstances.

What is the notification process for confirmed cases of COVID-19?

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.

 

What is contact tracing?

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.

 

What is UBC’s process for contact tracing?

Contact tracing is carried out by public health authorities. UBC does not carry out contact tracing. If the public health authority determines that there may have been high-risk contact with individuals who cannot be reached by direct contact notification, more widespread notification to identified groups may be carried out. (To maintain personal information privacy rights, the public health authority will only disclose limited information about a confirmed case in the campus community when sharing the information is required to support effective contact tracing.)

 

What are the stages involved in contact tracing?

When carrying out contact tracing, public health authorities follow these steps:

  1. A person tests positive for COVID-19 and they become a “case”;
  2. The lab completing the testing informs the public health authority and a public health nurse is assigned to interview the case to identify people they’ve spent time with. People with prolonged close contact with the case during their infectious period are “contacts”;
  3. The public health authority gets in touch with the contacts and asks them about symptoms of COVID-19;
  4. Not every contact needs to be identified: only those who could have been exposed to the case’s respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing or speaking – this takes close and prolonged contact;
  5. The public health authority maintains the case’s privacy. A case can choose to tell others about their diagnosis but should not do their own contact tracing and nor should others (e.g. employers);
  6. Contacts with symptoms are sent for testing. If they test positive, they become a ‘case’ and the process repeats;
  7. Contacts with no symptoms are asked to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days after their last contact with the case (while they may be in the incubation period of the infection).

 

When would a public health authority recommend the closure of a facility?

For a public health authority to recommend or order closure of a site or facility to prevent infection transmission is a rare step, reserved for circumstances in which direct management of cases and contacts is not sufficient to limit transmission. The public health authority would communicate closely with UBC administrators on any recommended closures related to COVID-19.

Who do I contact if a public health authority reaches out to me in my capacity as a UBC supervisor/manager/instructor of an employee or student?

If you are a supervisor/manager/instructor, public health authorities may reach out to you in that capacity to assist with contact tracing. If you are contacted by a public health authority, please reach out to your Student Health Services (Student cases), Faculty Relations Advisor (Faculty cases) and Human Resources Advisor (Staff cases) and cooperate with the health authority’s information gathering and notification processes. Visit hr.ubc.ca for local contact information.