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SFU community frequently asked questions about COVID-19

Get answers to your questions about COVID-19 and how we are responding at SFU

Last Updated: Tue, 07 Apr 2020 10:45 AM

SFU follows the latest information and recommendations about COVID-19 from regional and provincial medical health officers. For the latest number of confirmed cases in British Columbia, please visit the BCCDC website.

New information:

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, try the BC government COVID-19 self-assessment tool to help guide you on what to do. The province of BC has also set up a dedicated COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-COVID19 or text 604-630-0300. The service is available daily from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. with information available in over 110 languages.

As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, watch out for associated scams. Review these tips to protect yourself

For information specific to students, staff/faculty and campus services, please check out the links below. For answers to common questions about COVID-19 please check out BC CDC's FAQs.

Q: Are any SFU students, faculty or staff known to have COVID-19?

Notification of cases of COVID-19 within our community is managed by public health authorities not by SFU, and is done in order to alert individuals that they may have been exposed to the illness. If SFU is asked by public health authorities to notify our community members of a confirmed case we will do so.

The majority of our SFU community has not been on campus since mid-March. This means that if a student or employee of SFU is now tested as positive, it is unlikely that they will have been in physical contact with other members of our community while infected. Therefore, public health authorities are unlikely to ask us to notify potential contacts.

As cases have increased across BC, testing is being done only when recommended by healthcare providers. As many COVID-19 cases will not be confirmed through testing, and therefore will not be reported, we urge our community to continue to be vigilant about hand hygiene, to stay home where possible and to self-isolate if you have symptoms or are sick.

Q: What is SFU doing to ensure safety of the SFU community?

Following information and advice about COVID-19 from regional and provincial health officers, SFU has moved away from in-person instruction and exams effective Thursday, March 19th for the remainder of the term. We are taking appropriate steps to ensure continuity for students in a manner consistent with the advice of the Provincial Health Officer to maximize physical distancing. All SFU campuses will remain open.

The university is following infectious disease protocols and regularly communicating with key stakeholders to ensure our three campuses are prepared and able to respond as needed.

SFU is also taking precautions to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses on our campuses including:

  • Cancelling all events until June 1st. 
  • Notifying our community of the recommendation against travel outside of Canada at this time, and self-isolate for 14 days from your return.
  • Promoting good hygiene practices among members of the university community (e.g., handwashing) and providing appropriate hand-cleaning facilities and/or alternatives like alcohol hand rubs;
  • Ensuring SFU premises are appropriately cleaned and maintained to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses, and informing members of the university community in the use of appropriate disinfecting materials.

Along with our faculty and staff, the safety of our students is SFU’s number-one priority and we have contacted our students on international co-ops and exchanges in affected regions, to check on their well-being, and to provide support as well as the latest travel advisories and guidance. SFU is also working to ensure this disruption does not negatively impact any program requirements and graduation timelines.

Student exchanges to all countries that have a Government of Canada level 3 (avoid non-essential travel) or level 4 (avoid all travel) for Spring and Summer 2020 have been cancelled and future exchange and co-op placements in all countries where there are active travel health notices are on hold or under review. We are in touch with all students whose international exchanges may be further impacted by travel restrictions in other parts of the world to offer support and alternatives.

If any SFU co-op student has questions, contact your program coordinator to discuss your specific situation. SFU's study abroad program updates are available here.

Q: What is happening with classes?

SFU has made institution-wide shifts from in-person teaching to other modes of instruction. As of Tuesday, March 17, we have discontinued all in-person teaching and exams. Students should check their SFU email accounts and CANVAS course pages for information from their instructors about how their individual classes are proceeding.

The university remains open and we are committed to supporting students who require on campus services. In addition to maintaining educational programs, campuses and residences remain open, and services and supports continue to be available. For those students who choose to return home to other parts of the region, country or world, we are working hard to ensure accessibility to courses and student supports. Student information can be found here. We will continue to share how/where students can access essential services as more information becomes available. Refer to the Campus Services tab in this section for information about current availability of on campus services.

Q: Are staff expected to go to work?

To support all employees in caring for their health and reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19, supervisors and their teams have been asked to implement creative solutions to promote physical distancing including the opportunity for employees to work from home, if possible.

Because of the variety and nature of work at SFU, one solution will not work for all jobs. These decisions need to be taken at the supervisor’s discretion, and fairness for teams should be considered while maximizing measures for health and safety.

For those employees who are not able to work from home, please consult with your supervisor to find ways to minimize person-to-person contact, including alternate work locations, staggering shifts, physical distancing protocols and increasing the use of technology.

Q: What does physical distancing mean?

Physical distancing is a way that we can slow the spread of COVID-19 by limiting close contact with others. Even though we are not sick, we should still keep about two meters (six feet) or the length of a queen-sized bed from one another when we can when outside our homes.

Q: How do I protect myself or know if I have COVID-19?

There are measures that all students, faculty, and staff can take to help reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses such as coronavirus, colds, and influenza:

  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using soap and water.
  • If a sink is not available, 60-90% alcohol-based hand rubs (hand sanitizer) can be used to clean hands if they are not visibly soiled. If they are visibly soiled, you can use an alcohol-based disposable hand wipe to remove the dirt and then use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Do not touch your face/eyes/mouth with unwashed hands.
  • When you sneeze or cough, cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue or the crease of your elbow, and then wash your hands.
  • Stay home when you are ill.
  • Recommendations from the provincial health officer advise against all travel outside of Canada, including the US (including our neighbour of Washington state) at this time. For those who do travel outside of Canada, you are advised to stay home from school and work for 14 days upon return. If you do have upcoming travel plans out of the country, please speak to your instructor/supervisor about how you can be accommodated from home for 14 days after your return.

If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, try the BC government COVID-19 self-assessment tool to help guide you on what to do. The province of BC has also set up a dedicated COVID-19 line at 1-888-COVID19 or text at 1-888-268-4319 OR 604.630.0300.

Q: Are library services still being offered?

In response to COVID-19, Library services have moved online and all SFU Library buildings are closed. 

Please note that this change does not mean library services are suspended. We continue to offer access to an extensive online collection of resources and will provide as many services as possible through online and virtual methods. Further details on what services are available and how to access them can be found here: https://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/covid-19

Q: Is SFU providing supplies or equipment to support COVID-19 efforts?

Universities across Canada are being called upon to provide support to our health care system and frontline workers. Requests include access to facilities, housing, infrastructure, PPE and related supplies, and manufacturing and research capacities. SFU is responding to several requests from federal, provincial, and municipal governments as well as a local health authority. Individual university departments are also in the process of collecting and directly donating PPE and related safety-equipment to local health authorities and hospitals.

All additional requests for support should be sent to the designated contact person.

Q: Are school events being cancelled?

Federal and provincial health authorities are currently advising against all non-essential gatherings of any size, and requiring that all Canadians conform to prescribed physical distancing measures. Therefore, all in-person university events and meetings will be cancelled until June 1st, including off campus events. While many events have already been cancelled, campus event planners will be contacted soon about cancelling or postponing remaining events and communicating with any event partners. At this time, we do not know to what extent events later in the spring or summer will be impacted. 

Many groups are moving to an on-line platform through BlueJeans or Zoom. Please contact IT Services via its-help@sfu.ca for assistance with this technology. All requests to IT Services for support will be prioritized to support critical university functions as determined by the University COVID-19 response teams.

In the case of extenuating circumstances that require an in-person meeting on or off campus during this time, a request may be submitted to Joanne Curry, VP External Relations (joannec@sfu.ca) describing the event, why an in-person meeting is deemed necessary, and the measures that will be taken to mitigate risk and comply with health authority directives.

Gatherings scheduled to take place after June 1st are still being analyzed by the COVID19 events and meetings committee. Please email covid19@sfu.ca to keep them updated on any changes that are being made.

Q: How is SFU ensuring the campus is clean?

SFU’s contracted cleaning company, BEST Cleaners, has increased cleaning efforts and is focused on disinfecting high touch points in public areas, several times every day. These high touch points include elevator buttons, garbage lids, blue phones, kitchens, and washrooms, in line with the SFU Infectious Disease Exposure Control Plan.

Q: What should students, faculty and staff do in terms of cleaning their areas?

Individuals should maintain and clean their own surfaces and equipment, including keyboards and items on desks and shelves, in labs and offices. Departments are encouraged to purchase disinfecting wipes for this purpose. Clorox and Lysol wipes are safe for use on most keyboards (for Mac users check operating manual) and computer mice.

Q: What if I recently returned home after traveling?

We are now aware that this virus can cause a range of mild to severe symptoms, and it is possible that people will not recognize symptoms that are mild or have no symptoms at all. Given this information, the BC Centre for Disease Control is recommending steps that people at risk of COVID-19 can take to reduce the chance of spread to others.

  • Mandatory orders from the Government of Canada and the Provincial Public Health Officer advise that anyone returning from travel outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in Canada.
  • Students, faculty, or staff returning from anywhere outside Canada (including the United States) must stay home or self-isolate in their residence/room alone for 14 days upon arriving in Canada.
  • If you are concerned that you may have COVID-19, try the BC government COVID-19 self-assessment tool to help guide you on what to do. The province of BC has also set up a dedicated COVID-19 line at 1-888-COVID19 or text at 1-888-268-4319 OR 604.630.0300.

More information on self-isolation is available from the Government of Canada.

Q: What do I do if I am planning on traveling in the near future?

The Government of Canada and the Provincial Public Health Officer recommend against all non-essential travel outside of Canada, including the United States, at this time. If Canada is your home, we recommend against booking any international travel in the near future.

It is important to also note that you are not covered for medical expenses incurred from an infectious disease or illness where there is a travel advisory or health warning by the Canadian government. Please check with your insurance provider for further details. More information available about travel insurance from the Government of Canada.

Students, faculty and staff are reminded to register all international trips in the SFU Travel registry so you can be contacted and supported in the event of an emergency. 

Q: What if I'm currently traveling outside of Canada?
All SFU students, faculty and staff members who are travelling abroad on SFU business or sanctioned activity have the support of International SOS while abroad (member code # 27ACAS593560). However, International SOS works very closely and takes direction from the local health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC), and relevant Civil Aviation Authorities with respect to ongoing development with Covid-19 and this may impact their ability to offer assistance especially related to government imposed travel restrictions. You are advised to call them directly by collect call with any questions: +1 215 942 8478.

Support to Canadians abroad is provided federally. As always, we encourage any Canadian abroad to register with the closest Canadian consulate or embassy. More information is available here on current travel restrictions.

Q: Should students, staff or faculty with flu-like symptoms be excluded from class/work?

No one should be excluded or banned from attending classes or work. Students, staff and faculty with flu-like symptoms should stay home. We will not be requiring medical notes for illnesses related to COVID-19 or flu at this time in order to prevent overburdening the medical system.

Students: Students should continue to report illness as they usually do. Contact your instructor to ask for a modification or accommodation if needed. Should you have concerns about the response, contact the Chair of the department (or for Continuing Studies, write learn@sfu.ca). Finally, if needed, contact the Dean's office.

Faculty and staff: should continue to report illness as they usually do. Please report absences to your supervisor in accordance with your normal sick leave protocol to ensure sick leave benefits as applicable.  Working from home may be an option but can be challenging in some instances depending on the nature of work, options should be discussed with your supervisor.

Q: What if I have concerns about someone else who is ill in my work area?
All faculty, and staff can take measures to help reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses, such as handwashing and regular cleaning of shared surfaces. Employees in the workplace who are ill with flu-like symptoms should advise their supervisor/manager, stay home and seek out medical advice accordingly. If you are concerned about someone in the workplace who is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, speak to your Supervisor/Manager. Supervisors/Managers can contact the HR Office for further information as needed.

Q: If I need to voluntary self-isolate, who do I need to tell at SFU?

Students: If you live in residence, email Residence and Housing at housing@sfu.ca. Residence and Housing will provide further information and support.

Contact your instructors to let them know and ask for a modification or accommodation if needed. Should you have concerns about the response, contact the Chair of the department (or for Continuing Studies, write learn@sfu.ca). Finally, if needed, contact the Dean's office.

Staff and faculty: Please contact your supervisor/dean. Working from home may be an option but can be challenging in some instances depending on the nature of work, options should be discussed with your supervisor.

Q. What should I do if I have experienced discrimination or harassment in relation to the Coronavirus/COVID-19?
The Provincial Health Officer and BCCDC recommends to not to make assumptions about the risk of students, faculty or staff based on their ethnicity or travel history.

Every member of our university community has the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to be welcomed and supported on our campus. No person should be targeted in any way or subjected to discrimination resulting from a misplaced perception that they may be a carrier of a communicable disease based on their perceived disability, race, ancestry, place of origin or otherwise. This kind of targeting is discriminatory and a breach of university policy (GP18).

If you feel you have been targeted based on any of the above factors, you should discuss the matter with the Human Rights office by emailing hroadmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-4446. This office will invite you in for a confidential conversation about the policies and response options available.

If you need immediate assistance because you fear for your personal safety, contact 911 or for an on-campus safety concern contact Campus Public Safety at 778-782-4500 (24 hrs a day/7 days a week).

Q. I am concerned about my family and friends currently in affected regions. Where can I go for support?
As a result of the Coronavirus outbreak, you may be worried about the health and safety of yourself or your family and friends. This is a challenging and uncertain time. It is not uncommon to experience higher levels of stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. If this is your experience, please seek help and support.

Counselling and other supports are available to members of our campus community. We encourage students who need support at this time to contact one of the following services:

Q. Where can I get more information?
For more information please visit:

Q. Where do I go if I have a question not covered in the FAQs?
If you have a question that is not covered here, please email it to covid19@sfu.ca and we'll work to get you an answer as soon as we can.

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