Vaccines, health safeguards keep COVID-19 case rates low at post-secondary institutions: Health authorities

November 12, 2021

Case rates of COVID-19 at post-secondary institutions in the Lower Mainland are significantly lower than among the general public, according to new COVID-19 surveillance data provided by local health authorities.

The data from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Fraser Health (FHA) suggests that higher vaccination rates at post-secondary institutions, combined with guidance from public health, is keeping case numbers relatively low and stable.

“This is encouraging data from Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health,” said Catherine Dauvergne, SFU’s vice-president, academic and provost.

“Data from our local health authorities suggest that immunization rates at post-secondary institutions in the Lower Mainland are higher than among the general public. The layers of protection at post-secondary institutions, on the guidance of public health, are keeping cases relatively low and stable.”

Two graphs provided by Fraser Health. The top shows the number of post-secondary COVID-19 cases per week. Student cases are represented by the orange line and staff and faculty cases are represented by the blue line. The bottom graph shows those cases (students, orange; staff and faculty blue) in relation to the total number of cases for Fraser Health (green line). Graphs courtesy Fraser Health Authority.

While there have been COVID-19 cases in individuals on our campuses, SFU has not been made aware by the health authorities of any transmission events on any of the three campuses. The majority of COVID-19 cases among faculty, staff and students were acquired outside of the academic environment, within their households and social networks, according to public health.

From the start of the university term (Sept. 7, 2021) to the end of October, Fraser Health recorded 203 cases (58 faculty and staff cases and 145 student cases) at all post-secondary institutions for residents of the Fraser Health region. Those 203 cases represent only 1.3 per cent of total cases among Fraser Health during this period.

While no data was available for individual institutions, Fraser Health’s data looked at more than 400 post-secondary institutions, across more than 600 campuses, inside and outside the Fraser Health region.

Similarly, Vancouver Coastal Health reported 120 cases among post-secondary students, staff and faculty at all post-secondary institutions. The VCH data looked at more than 150-post secondary institutions, with a combined total of more than 90,000 students.

The largest number of post-secondary students, staff and faculty cases who tested positive for COVID-19 developed symptoms in the first week of the term. Since then, there has been a steady decline in cases among post-secondary students, faculty and staff, a trend that continues.

“Getting vaccinated is still the most important thing we can all do to protect ourselves and the community,” says Dauvergne.

“COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. To ensure the safety of our community, we will continue to implement layers of protection under direction of public health, pivot as needed in response to changes in the pandemic and keep the community informed of any changes along the way.”  

Of the 93 per cent of SFU students, faculty and staff who submitted their SFU vaccine declarations, more than 97 per cent reported that they were vaccinated.

All members of the SFU community are encouraged to complete their COVID-19 vaccine declaration and submit proof of vaccination

Cases of VCH residents who attended any post-secondary institution in person (including institutions outside of VCH) during their incubation or infectious periods. Cases were included if they attended either learning environments (e.g. lecture hall, lab) or other post-secondary environments (e.g. office staff, maintenance staff) during their incubation or infectious periods. These counts excluded residents of other regions such as Fraser Health, and included VCH residents who worked in post-secondary institutions outside of VCH. Please note that total cases in VCH are in blue, student cases are in orange, staff and faculty cases are in red. Graph courtesy Vancouver Coastal Health.