Public-health expert Dr. Réka Gustafson joins staff and faculty townhall on SFU’s return to campus

May 27, 2021

One of B.C. top public-health doctors will join SFU leadership for a staff and faculty townhall to answer health and safety questions as the university readies for a return to campus this fall.

Dr. Réka Gustafson, B.C.’s deputy health officer, will attend the townhall, which will be held 11 a.m. on June 10, 2021. Gustafson, who is also vice-president of public health and wellness for the Provincial Health Services Authority, is among the province’s foremost public-health experts.

The townhall will be livestreamed here. Staff and faculty are asked to submit any questions ahead of time by email at A Zoom webinar link will be made available the day before the event. There will be opportunities during the townhall to ask or upvote questions within the Q&A feature.

“As we watch the distribution of vaccines in B.C. ramp up, and transmission rates reduce across the province, we are optimistic about a substantial return to our campuses in the fall,” says Catherine Dauvergne, provost and vice-president, academic, who will be joined at the townhall by SFU President Joy Johnson as well as Dugan O’Neil, vice-president research and international, and Martin Pochurko, vice-president of finance and administration.

“All staff should expect to return to campus in the summer in preparation for the fall as the in-person services we provide to support teaching, research and community engagement return to more normal levels in September. Faculty members should also expect to return to campus in the summer in preparation for the start of the fall term.”

On May 25, the province unveiled B.C.’s Restart plan, a four-step plan to gradually open up the province and restart important social connection, businesses and activities. The provincial government also recently shared its COVID-19 Return-to-Campus Primer, which provides interim, high-level guidance to support planning for the return of faculty and staff and for campus safety plan updates. The full provincial Go-Forward Guidelines are expected in June.

A month earlier, SFU launched a four-stage campus recovery plan to help guide the university’s safe return to campus this fall. The plan’s stages increase inversely with the severity of COVID-19 in the community and considers a number of factors, including rate of community transmission, vaccination uptake and public health orders.

“The most important thing we can all do is get vaccinated,” says Dauvergne. “The reality is COVID-19 will continue to circulate in our communities for years to come. With advances in treatment and vaccinations COVID-19 will be less threatening, but it will not disappear in the short term. It will be part of our working environment, along with serious illnesses like influenza and meningitis.”

A substantial return to campus means approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes will be in person, with safety plans in place. Deans, supported by the work of chairs and directors, will make final decisions about whether courses will be taught remotely or in person.