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: Thu, 08 Oct 2020 11:45 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

COVID-19 impact scale

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.

Testing is recommended for anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms, even mild ones. However, it is still possible that some cases may go unreported, which is why we continue to urge our community to be vigilant about hand hygiene, to stay home where possible and to contact health authorities and self-isolate if you develop any symptoms.

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 will deliver most classes through remote methods in the fall 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:

  • 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 and high touch points 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;
  • Asking that non-medical masks be worn in all indoor campus public areas. This includes building entryways and atriums, hallways, stairwells, washrooms and study areas. A reusable cloth mask is provided to students, staff and faculty who are learning/working in-person at any of our campuses.

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.

If you live in residence, avoid using common areas, such as communal kitchens and bathrooms, if there are already people in these spaces.

Q: How do I protect myself from  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.
  • Practice safe physical distancing when in public by keeping at least two meters distance away from others at all times
  • Avoid all travel outside of Canada, including to the USA, and avoid non-essential travel within Canada, as recommended by the Provincial Health Officer. 

In combination with physical distancing, non-medical masks are effective at preventing the spread of the virus.

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: 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: Can I book travel for university activities?

The Canadian Government has announced an official global travel advisory to avoid non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice. The university prioritizes the safety of its members. The university will not require or regard any university-related travel to any Level 3 (avoid non-essential travel) or Level 4 (avoid all travel) destination to be essential travel. The university will not approve university-related travel for students or staff members for Level 3 or Level 4 destinations as per the interim university-related international travel policy.

SFU’s faculty, staff and students are advised not to book tickets for travel outside of Canada until the advisory is lifted.  Cross border and international airline tickets purchased before the advisory is lifted, and subsequently cancelled, will not be reimbursed by the University. 

Tickets purchased for travel within Canada and subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19, will be reimbursed for the value of the ticket, less any refunds or credits issued by the airline or the airline’s agent.

Q: Will classes be in-person or remote for Spring term?

As we move into the Spring term, we are able to resume more campus activities. We will continue to expand in-person access as much as possible, while following direction from public health officials. (Read more about the current H2 rating of our COVID-19 Impact Scale.) 

For the Spring term, most courses will be delivered remotely, with increased in-person courses in program areas that require research and experiential learning. Students in those programs will hear directly from their faculties with ample time to make arrangements. We are also able to accommodate more graduate-level courses for in-person learning at this stage as those courses tend to be smaller in size. 
We will have more details later this fall about the process for submitting courses, or portions of courses, for in-person delivery in the spring term and the approval process. 

At the current H2 rating there is also increased flexibility for on-campus activities:

  • Selected academic events with < 20 participants are allowed with restrictions and approved Safety Plans (e.g. thesis defence, research group meeting)
  • For faculty and staff, there are a limited number of employees providing essential and some limited services on campus (staggered shifts in place)
  • Campus Amenities and Service moved to limited on-campus services with restrictions and enhanced online services (e.g. dining, health & counselling, library, etc.)
  • Meetings and Events is allowing limited in-person meetings, events, ceremonies or programs with an approved Safety Plan
  • International travel is only allowed for essential university-sanctioned trips and in accordance with approved guidance for exceptions (safety and risk mitigation plan required).

Building on our experience gained from previous terms, we will ensure that remote learning and teaching provides a high-quality experience, and ensure that students who expect to graduate in the 2020/2021 academic year are able to meet their degree requirements. We will also continue to enhance remote learning support for students and instructors and look at ways to simplify and/or streamline academic requirements to enable students to progress through their programs more easily.

Student supports and services will continue to be delivered remotely, with some services offered in person, subject to health and safety guidelines.

We continue to work with public health authorities to ensure the health and wellbeing of students, faculty and staff, and encourage everyone to review this quick guide to staying safe on campus. Please continue to check the COVID-19 FAQs page regularly as more information will be added as it becomes available.

Q: Can I still access campus buildings?

Access to campus buildings is only available to current members of the SFU community (students, faculty, staff) who present SFU identification, which can include your SFU ID, business card or other similar documentation. Alumni, family and friends of community members should not be on campus at this time. For more information about current restrictions and how to access specific campus buildings, please visit the campus services page.

Q: Do I have to wear a mask while on campus?

We recommend that everyone who visits our campuses wear a non-medical mask in all indoor common areas. Common areas include building entryways and atriums, hallways, stairwells, washrooms, and study areas.

Even with limited numbers of people on campus, common areas can be congested, making it difficult to consistently maintain a safe physical distance. Non-medical masks are proven to protect others from the spread of the virus, so we ask everyone to do their part to protect each other. For those who are not able to wear a mask for medical or other reasons, please be especially careful to maintain a safe distance.

SFU departments are distributing one reusable cloth mask to students, staff and faculty who are on campus. For information including cleaning instructions for these masks, please read the one-pager document.

Learn more about how to safely and effectively wear a mask

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What to do if you are sick

Q: What do I do if I have symptoms of COVID-19? 

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 for non-medical questions at 1-888-COVID19 or text 604.630.0300. 

If you have COVID-19 compatible symptoms avoid contact with others and self-isolate at home for at least 10 days. Visit the BC CDC website for more details on how to stop the spread of germs, what to do if your symptoms get worse and how to end self-isolation.

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 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: If I need to self-isolate, who should I inform at SFU?

Students: If you live in residence, email Residence and Housing at Residence and Housing will provide further information and support. For any other support during self-isolation whether you live on or off campus please contact

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 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.

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Additional support and information

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 not making 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 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 feeling stressed and worried about COVID-19. 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:

All students currently registered in a B.C. post-secondary institution also have access to Here2Talk – a provincial program that offers free, confidential counselling and community referral services, conveniently available 24/7 via app, phone and web.

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 and we'll work to get you an answer as soon as we can.

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