British Columbia

COVID-19 precautions close Vancouver business school for 3-day disinfection

A presumptive case of COVID-19 has prompted a downtown Vancouver business school to close its campuses for three days of disinfection.

'Of course, we feel really nervous and stressed. We don't know who this student is,' says MBA student from UCW

Some University Canada West students were surprised to find classes were cancelled when they arrived at campus in downtown Vancouver on Thursday morning. 'I have concerns now. Everybody uses the elevators and touches the buttons,' said one. (Ken Leedham/CBC News)

A presumptive case of COVID-19 has prompted the closure of a business school in downtown Vancouver for at least three days while the building is disinfected, the school said Thursday. 

A media release posted on the University Canada West (UCW) website says "proactive, precautionary" measures were taken after the school was informed that a student had a presumptive case of the disease caused by a novel coronavirus that continues to spread globally.

That student and a roommate are now in isolation, according to the release from UCW, which is popular with international students. The school says it was likely passed on through contact with the student's father, who was infected overseas.

"We've contacted the students who were in the classes who may have been exposed by the student, and we've contacted all the faculty as well," UCW vice-president Cindy Banks told reporters.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed Thursday afternoon that one of eight new presumptive cases is linked to UCW. 

"They took the opportunity to be extra cautious, and I understand that they're doing some cleaning over the weekend just to allay everybody's concerns," she said.

B.C. has identified 21 cases of the novel coronavirus so far. Four have recovered.

A sign on the door of the London Building on West Pender Street says it's restricted for sanitization. Other post secondary schools housed in the building — including CDI College and Visual College of Art and Design — are also informing their students and remain closed.

Any students and staff who may have been in close contact with the affected students have been identified and contacted with information and advice, UCW said.

'Deep clean' of all office areas underway

The UCW statement says that the risk to students and staff is low thanks to "immediate actions" taken.

"The university is suspending all on-campus classes until a full disinfection of all campuses has taken place, which includes a deep clean of all public and back-office areas," according to the statement.

Some students received an email from UCW president Brock Dykeman on Wednesday night about the three-day closure.

The notice said that classes would continue online while the campus was disinfected over the next three days. Classes are expected to resume by Monday.

Several students told CBC they wished the campus would remain closed even longer.

Students arrived at the West Pender Street campus of University Canada West on Thursday morning to find the doors locked. A notice explained that the building was being sanitized. (Ken Leedham/CBC News)

"Of course, we feel really nervous and [it's] stressful. We don't know who this student is and whether we studied [him or her] or not," said Jay Zhu, who is finishing his MBA at UCW.

He and others said they wished the shutdown was extended for two weeks, to cover the incubation period, in case the student infected instructors or other classmates.

Another student who identified herself as Serena was surprised to find the doors locked, but understood the situation once she learned the reason why.

"I have concerns now. Everybody uses the elevators and touches the buttons," she said.

Universities plan ahead

Other post-secondary schools in the Lower Mainland are now preparing in case of a wider outbreak.

Staff at Simon Fraser University met Thursday afternoon to discuss their COVID-19 strategy, and the school has cancelled exchange trips to China.

The University of B.C. is looking at contingency plans for the upcoming exam season. 

"We're looking at whether or not it might be possible to do remote testings, and that would see students writing their exams not here on campus — but that's a long way off," Matthew Ramsey, UBC's director of university affairs, told CBC.

About the Author

Yvette Brend is a CBC Vancouver journalist. Yvette.Brend@CBC.ca @ybrend

With files from Jon Hernandez

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