SFU’s Tania Bubela co-leading COVID-19 return-to-work study

September 02, 2020

By Melissa Shaw

What are the public health implications of employees returning to work in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? Tania Bubela, dean of Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences, is co-leading a $1.2 million study focused on the impacts of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The data collected from the project, “SARS-CoV-2 Study for Eased Restrictions in British Columbia” (SAfER), will be available in real time to inform public health decisions that support employee health and safety.

SAfER B.C. is a 15-month project involving 1,500 volunteer employees at B.C.-based biotechnology companies including Xenon Pharmaceuticals, STEMCELL Technologies and Zymeworks. As well, volunteer employees at SFU and the University of British Columbia who spend more than one day per week on campus will also participate.

The researchers will track and collect data from the volunteer employees on infection, immunity, contact and clinical symptoms. Employees will also complete a survey to gather information about how the pandemic has affected their mental health, including questions about anxiety and stress.

“As we enter the critical fall and winter periods, the SAfER-BC study provides a unique opportunity to generate essential evidence to inform our public-health response and understand its impacts in the workplace,” says Bubela.

The anonymous data collected by the research team will be analyzed for trends and predictive markers that could be used to create or improve workplace safety recommendations for COVID-19 and future pandemics.

The project is funded by Genome BC, Genome Canada and industry partners. 

“We thank Genome BC for their generous support and look forward to a productive collaboration with our public and private-sector partners,” says Bubela. 

SAfER B.C. is co-led by researchers at the UBC Faculty of Medicine, including Simon Pimstone, Josef Penninger, and Mel Krajden.

Testing and tracing support for the project will be provided by diagnostics company LifeLabs and app developer Thrive Health. The BC Centre for Disease Control will hold the data and perform the analyses.