Messages to SPPH Community Regarding COVID-19

Update – March 20, 2020

As we transition from our vibrant and social workplaces to remote work arrangements, there are questions, concerns and adjustments. How will we be able to do our work with childcare and schools closed? What if our jobs are difficult or cannot be done from home? How do we find and maintain the balance between taking care of the physical health of our community and ensuring we maintain the health and the social connection we, as individuals, need?

There aren’t any simple answers and we are in a changing situation. The transition will take some time.  We look to the Canadian and British Columbian governments as well as UBC to keep us informed. Those guiding us are working hard to make evidence-based decisions. We can all support their efforts by following the advice of experts and by practicing patience and understanding. More than ever, we are all called upon to be patient and kind to ourselves as well as to others as we navigate these new challenges.

It is natural to feel anxiety or stress in a time of change and uncertainty. If you are having difficulty, I strongly encourage you to seek help through the resources available to many of you through our extended benefits plans. Individuals can check their coverage by employee group. For students, counselling services are being offered by phone. Check here for more information.

In 1918, physician and then-President of UBC Frank Wesbrook addressed the student body, saying, “It is human nature to translate it [Tuum est] as ‘It is your own’ which is to eliminate any idea of obligation…. It is very gratifying to me to know that there is an increasing tendency on the part of the students to translate it as ‘It’s up to you.’” It is up to all of us.

B.C.’s Minister of Health Adrian Dix echoed this sentiment yesterday. “It’s not too late to join the fight,” he reminds us. It is up to all of us to care for ourselves, our loved ones, and for the broader community by reducing transmission and the spread of this virus and “flattening the curve”.

Please take care of yourselves and one another by checking in and talking to your loved ones by phone, text, or email, especially those who are elderly, immunocompromised or live alone.

As you are there for your loved ones, let’s be here for each other and count on SPPH being here for you. Our staff members and faculty continue to work diligently from home, and are only a phone call or email away should you need assistance in adjusting to working remotely. Your normal staff contacts remain available to help troubleshoot as we all navigate these new circumstances. So please reach out, ask for help, and stay happy and safe.


As before, for up to date information:

One of our students shared with me today a quote from Malcolm X:

“When I is replaced by We, even Illness becomes Wellness”






Professor and Director

School of Population and Public Health

Update – March 16, 2020

The last couple of days have seen some important new developments in British Columbia’s and UBC’s responses to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 epidemic. Here is an update to keep you in the loop in terms of these recent developments as well as some thoughts on how they relate to us at SPPH.

What are the remote work guidelines?
On Monday, March 16, UBC announced a three-week pilot to enable remote work. UBC and SPPH remain open for work. However, starting this week, those faculty, staff, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and student employees who are able to work from home should consult with their manager, research lead, or principal investigator (PI) to determine remote working options. Our administration team led by Shannon Charney, Director of Administration and Operations, is working with staff, faculty who supervise staff, and university authorities to develop remote work options and communicate those as required. More information will be forthcoming before the end of the day tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17. For those who are working from home, please see the updated ergonomics guide for remote work.

Are there resources for working from home?
Please visit the SPPH Working Remotely page for detailed information about how to setup core SPPH services on your device.

What classes are being delivered online?
On Friday, March 13, UBC announced that all classes would transition to online education starting today, March 16. Classes are not cancelled, but students should not attend in-person classes for the rest of this term. Our education team, led by Prof. Charlyn Black, Associate Director, Education, will work with Term 2 instructors to develop online education options. Students will hear from their instructors as to actions being put in place.

Has anything else been put on hold?
Effective immediately the Faculty of Medicine has placed a hold on all clinical experiences for medical students in Years 3 & 4 on clinical rotations and electives and health professional students on clinical placements. The faculty will be reassessing this decision in 10 days.

Should anyone else stay home?
For anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms, including cough, sneezing, fever, sore throat, and/or difficulty breathing, please do not come to work. For anyone who has returned from travel outside Canada since this Thursday, March 12, you must adhere to Canada’s policy to self-isolate for 14 days. If you attended the Pacific Dental Conference from March 5-7 in Vancouver, you must self-isolate for 14 days. Today, Canada announced new restrictions on non-Canadian visitors to Canada. Please take note of these in relation to travel of your family and friends and do your best to make sure they adhere to any guidelines. We all need to follow the best evidence-based advice to enable effective social distancing to inhibit the growth of this epidemic.

Who should I contact at SPPH when I have specific questions?
In order to better focus our efforts, please use the following as primary contacts on different areas of concern:

For students seeking information on your courses – contact the primary instructor or teaching assistant
For matters related to education – Prof. Charlyn Black (
For matters related staff concerns or school operations – Ms. Shannon Charney (
For matters related to research concerns – Prof. Craig Mitton (
For faculty-related matters – Prof. Mieke Koehoorn ( or Prof. Peter Berman (

Is there any other information we should know?
On Monday, March 16, the BC Provincial Health Officer has issued an order to prohibit all gatherings over 50 people. This has changed from the limit to 250-person gatherings implemented last week.

Stay-tuned for further messages from the School of Population and Public Health, the Faculty of Medicine, and UBC. And as before, please do consult the appropriate public authorities for the latest information:

UBC: Link here
Vancouver Coastal Health: Link here
BC Centre for Disease Control: Link here
Government of British Columbia: Link here
Government of Canada: Link here
World Health Organization: Link here

 Stay healthy and let us all contribute to effectively managing this public health challenge.

T’UUM EST! (and all of us together)





Professor and Director

School of Population and Public Health

Update – March 13, 2020

As we are all increasingly aware, our local environment and the world at large is confronting the spread of a new infectious disease – COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus. To date, we in British Columbia have benefitted from the calm leadership and measured guidance of our public health officials and government.

It is natural to feel anxiety or have questions in a rapidly evolving situation, and at this time we would encourage anyone looking for more information to seek out reliable resources including Vancouver Coastal Health, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Government of Canada, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

These trustworthy and evidence-based organizations are asking all of us to take specific measures to reduce and prevent the spread of infection. At this time, we are encouraged to:

  • Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow
  • Increase the physical space between yourself and others (“social distancing”)
  • Stay at home if you are sick
  • If you have health concerns, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1

British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has been providing the public with daily updates on COVID-19. I encourage our community to keep abreast of recommendations from the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada, including travel advisories and participation in large groups. It is important that we take these recommendations seriously for the safety of not only ourselves, but also for those in our community who may be at increased risk of becoming ill.

I want to thank our population and public health colleagues who are leading the research and public health practice underway to address this current challenge. This is an important aspect of what we do at the School of Population and Public Health, and we should all be proud to be a part of this effort.

For up-to-date information about UBC’s operations, please check the website.

Thank you for your continued understanding.




Peter Berman

Director, School of Population and Public Health

Building Access, Working Remotely and Facilities services curtailment

The majority of buildings on campus are now on holiday closure/temporary closure mode, and hospitals have moved to designated entrances, sign-in lists, etc.

Remote operations continue to be advocated for all employees whom are not deemed ‘critical’ for campus operations

A) We have now been advised that only designated critical/required employees/faculty are allowed to be on site (SPPH buildings/locations on campus) including those with approved exemptions already in place

  • This is referencing non-research positions only (we are capturing research positions through the exemption process)
    • This does not currently apply to those whom have submitted research exemption requests 
    • This does not currently apply to hospital/critical care locationsIndividuals are only deemed to be crucial to be on site if they are required to ensure the health, safety or security of people, animals, research or operations
  • I am collecting a list of anyone that falls under these parameters and are requesting access to our SPPH building/locations on campus
  • The email that was sent out earlier today noted the following:
    • A full rationale must be provided:
    • Name of person(s) and position title (where applicable)
    • Building, office/work location
    • Phone number for contact
    • Rationale for on-site access
      • please also include the days of week, timelines/duration as well i.e. Monday/Tuesdays, 9 – noon, until April 9th
      • Supervisor contact information/phone number; please ensure you include your supervisor in your emailed request

B)  We have minimized our building access and reduced facility services — our campus building is now supporting curtailed operations, with swipe-access entry only in effect

  • This applies to our external swipe access doors that are normally programmed to be open to the public
    • Perimeter doors of the building will be locked until further notice
    • Contact lists and our website directory link have been posted in highly visible areas on both entries to the building as well as our main first floor access doors for those on site
  • Services will be limited to basic safety and regulatory requirements – this includes reduced custodial services
    • In order to protect the safety of those that remain on campus, Campus Security for the Vancouver Campus is enhancing security procedures and processes on campus

      Anyone needing to be on site is requested to have their UBC ID on display or ready to show when accessing campus buildings

      For questions, please contact me or Campus Security at 604-822-2222

  • Please note that for those of you whom have emailed me with your requests to access the building for the occasional one-time pickups of material, etc. I do hope to have more information on that by end of day tomorrow from UBC leadership
    • At this time, please continue to obtain pre-approvals from your supervisors where applicable, and email me with your requests for access.
    • All new requests for building access should be addressed to the Director, Admin & Ops (

C) Campus mail delivery to our SPPH location has been temporarily paused until April 6th

  • Due to the temporary closures of UBC buildings, Campus Mail is offering on-site pick up from 8:00am-3:30pm at their Vancouver location
    • If you have critical/urgent mail or parcels to pick up, arrangements can be made to pick up mail from the distribution centre if necessary by:
  • The pause may be extended based on future assessments — we will keep you posted
HR/Finance Updates
A)  As of last Friday, the Public Sector Employers’ Council Secretariat provided  information and direction to UBC regarding compensation and employment continuity for public sector workers in response to  the COVID-19  emergency situation

It was confirmed that for March and April “…all public sector employers will maintain compensation and employment continuity for employees“:

  • We understand that they (Public Sector Employer’s Council Secretariat) will continue to find ways to support us in this exceptionally difficult time for our staff, faculty and students
  • They’ve committed to work with the unions, and UBC HR Central will provide updates in as timely a manner as possible
  • The official memo was sent out on March 23rd (Interim  Vice-President, Human Resources, UBC) and is attached for your reference
Should you have anyone that has no work that can be assigned to them during this period of working remotely, please send me the following by March 31st:
  • Name of person(s) and position title (where applicable)
  • Employee Group/Bargaining Group
  • Building, office/work location
  • Phone number for contact
  • Details/Rationale

Should you have anyone on hourly payroll that has decreased and/or hours of work eliminated during this period of working remotely:

  • the recommendation is to take the average of hours worked in the month of February or a previous month  that reflected normal operations and submit those average hours for the upcoming pay period
  • Please contact Christine Kerr or Taryn Lowther if you require further guidance

B)  Responding to COVID-19:  Sick Leave Provisions

In response to the current situation, the university has established a temporary approach to providing paid sick leave for the following employees who are self-isolating with COVID-like symptoms:
1. Those who do not have access to sick leave as part of their employment
2. Those who have access to sick leave as part of their employment but have used up all of their sick leave

The university has approved the temporary provision of paid sick leave for up to 10 consecutive days within the 14-day self-isolation period

  • This applies to sick leave taken up to April 30th, 2020
  • This approach will be reassessed at the end of April
For employees who have sick leave provisions as part of their employment but have used up all of their sick leave, any sick leave taken will be deducted from their future sick leave accruals
C)  Absence Tracking and Pat Updates
We have been asked to ensure that PAT and any other absence trackers are kept up-to-date during this period in a timely fashion.
This information will be pulled centrally on a continual and ongoing basis — please ensure that you have your teams update their vacation tracking as soon as possible, including withdrawals of planned vacation over the next couple of months
D)  Work Permits / Visas expiring by September 30th 2020

We are currently reviewing data for anyone with work permits/visas that may expire over the course of the next 6 months

  • Please advise Amanda Versteeg if you have anyone in your groups/units/teams that may fall into this category by March 31st
E)  The remaining attached emails are a collation of information that have gone out over the last few days, including: 
  • Deferral of study leaves
  • Graduate students
  • Work Learn students

Please review, and be in contact with our HR team if you have any needs or concerns

IT Updates

Zoom Accounts:

For those of you using the newly provisioned Zoom accounts, please note you may receive an error when activating the account:

  • This is a known issue; please try activating your account again tomorrow and let our IT staff know if you continue to have difficulties with setup
  • It’s believed this is largely an outcome of an overburdened platform, and expect it will resolve shortly

Zoom is also undergoing a full privacy assessment:

  • It is important to differentiate between the enterprise license that UBC has acquired, and the free version.
  • UBC Legal has approved the use of Zoom, with the following proviso which is listed on the IT website
  • Zoom stores personal information on servers outside Canada
    • Under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), it is acceptable to use Zoom provided that you use the following guidance:
      • Faculty who are using the tool should inform students that the Zoom servers are located outside Canada, and that they can maintain their privacy by logging in using only their first name or a nickname, turning off their camera, and muting their microphone.
      • Staff who are using Zoom for sensitive discussions should not use the Record feature

I’m sure there will be many more questions, and we will do our best to keep you informed and stay connected.

Please stay-tuned for further messages from the School of Population and Public Health, the Faculty of Medicine, and UBC, and continue to consult the appropriate public authorities for the latest information.

We have incorporated a lot of resources and helpful links for you on our SPPH website, and encourage you to visit here for new updates:

Our SPPH community has rallied in a way we can all be proud of!!

Sending a huge ‘shout-out’ again to our fabulous staff, faculty and students whom have worked tirelessly again this week to keep our organization running as smoothly as possible…

Thank you everyone for your continued patience  — stay healthy, stay safe!Cheers,


Shannon Charney

Director, Administration & Operations (DAO)

Tips to increase social connection
At work:
  • One of the most rewarding parts of the daily bustle in an office environment is getting to chat with colleagues about non-work topics. In order to continue these valuable and fun interactions as part of our daily routines, many offices are setting up a Zoom “water cooler” meeting, where everyone can enjoy their coffee and chat for 15-30 minutes about the funny video they saw that morning, or how their day is going. 
  • Much of our conversation comes from our expression, tone, and gestures. It’s easy to lose this if you’re emailing all of your communications. We encourage you to video-conference, or speak on the phone when possible – especially for debating details that require back-and-forth or nuanced conversations. 
  • For your daily check-ins with staff, supervisors and colleagues, using more interactive modalities such as teleconferencing or videoconferencing serves two purposes: you can see how one another is doing in what is a stressful time for many, and you can review the tasks and expectations for the day. See which methods works best for your team.
  • Check in with your colleagues and manager by phone at the beginning and/or end of the day. This serves two purposes: you can see how one another is doing in what is a stressful time for many, and you can review the tasks and expectations for the day. 
  • Share the tips for working from home that have worked for you with your coworkers. Maybe you need to set up a separate workspace away from where you relax, or set a timer and practice the Pomodoro method. Share what works and bond over what doesn’t. 
  • Start a group chat with your coworkers. Chats using platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage can be a fun and useful way to stay engaged on a personal or work level with your colleagues.
In your personal life:
  • Schedule dinner or coffee by video chat with friends to catch up. 
  • Join a virtual book club, or set up your own and meet on a conference video chat with your friends and family to discuss the book. Try to pick something available for free online, or that is available to everyone through an electronic resource.
  • When you plan out your meals in advance to limit the number of trips you need to make to the grocery store, look for new and exciting recipes online. To make meal-planning a social activity, choose a recipe with a friend who you can’t visit in person, and then talk on the phone while you make it together – but physically apart. 
  • If you find yourself missing your usual fitness class, look for a streaming or app-based version. There are free yoga classes on YouTube, or subscription-based apps like YYoga or DownDog Yoga. There are also High Intensity Interval Training videos available for free. 
  • Call those in your life who might be especially isolated during this time of physical distancing: those who live alone, are immunocompromised, or elderly. 
  • Practice gratitude for the little and big things in your life – research shows this will make you feel happier. 
  • Plan specific activities to do with those in your household that allow you to connect, like having a Friday movie night or playing a board game, and then designate quiet or alone time for when you need to work or enjoy some space. Talk about what you need to feel fulfilled and energized with those that you live with, because everyone’s needs are different. Some people need more quiet or interaction than others, and now more than ever it is important to respect and plan for that. 

UBC Curtailing Research Activities on UBC Campuses
See this link for updates

UBC Research-Related Travel and Reimbursements Updates (as of March 10th, 2020)
As our community works through the current impact of COVID-19, we’ve had a number of inquiries regarding reimbursements for cancellations of research-related travel, non-refundable travel fees, etc. and considerations for future travel planning.
Please find below our current guidelines and recommendations based on information as of March 10th, 2020:
UBC Campus notifications website has the following published FAQS/guidelines for Tri-Agency funded accounts and research activity:
If I need to cancel research-related travel due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, will I be reimbursed for any non-refundable travel fees?
For projects funded by NSERC, SSHRC and CIHR, the granting agencies have confirmed that the reimbursement of non-refundable travel fees from agency funds is acceptable for meetings or other research-related activities impacted by COVID-19.
  • The reimbursements can apply to both principal investigators and research personnel, when cancellation occurs either due to factors such as travel advisories (including from Health Canada or Global Affairs Canada), cancelled conferences, or from personal choice due to health or other concerns.
  • For those planning to travel for NSERC/SSHRC/CIHR-funded research, the agencies suggest to consider purchasing cancellation insurance or to book tickets that are at least partially refundable.
  • In this specific situation some additional cost could still be viewed as economical if it allows for partial or full reimbursement/credit in the event of cancellation due to COVID-19.
  • See the full statement from the Tri-Agency here:
*Please find updates here for UBC Campus:
For members of our SPPH community that have approved research/academic travel/travel-related charges not funded by the Tri-Agencies:
  • For claims already in queue for approved research/academic travel/travel-related charge:
    •  IF YOUR CONFERENCE OR EVENT IS CANCELLED AND YOU WILL BE RECEIVING REIMBURSEMENT DIRECTLY FROM THE EVENT, you are required to let your finance administrator know immediately so that your expense claim can be modified to avoid duplication, and comply with audit standards
·         For claims yet to be submitted:
    • For all items that are cancelled without reimbursement from the venue/agency, you are asked to include this correspondence/documentation as part of your reimbursement submission
    • For all items that receive credit in lieu of reimbursement, you are asked to include this correspondence/documentation as part of your reimbursement submission