COVID 19 – Public Health & Infection Control Key Principles

  1. Assess your health 

Research faculty/PIs, staff, and trainees should never come to work with COVID-19-like symptoms.  Do not come to work if you feel unwell and alert your PI or manager. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID19, you must self-isolate and call 8-1-1 or your primary care provider. Contact tracing will be done by the Provincial Public Health Authority.

Common COVID-19 symptoms according to the WHO are:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of taste/smell
  • Sore throat

If you develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 while at work, you should don a surgical/procedure mask, complete any essential tasks, notify your supervisor if appropriate, and then leave work.  Testing is strongly recommended, and timing for return-to-work will be determined by Public Health.

If a member of your household has symptoms of COVID-19, do not come to work. Please consider your own risk level before entering the building. If you or a loved one belong to a high-risk group for COVID-19, we strongly advise against returning to on campus work at this time. Contact your PI, and Human Resources or Graduate Studies if necessary, to determine a course of action.

If you have traveled within the past 2 weeks outside of Canada, or to a high-risk region within Canada, follow current provincial guidelines for self-quarantine before returning to work.

  1. Always maintain a minimum distance of two metres between yourself and others

Return-to-work rules are based heavily on maintaining physical distance from others at all times, whether in the common areas, offices, clinic, or lab spaces. If your research protocol requires that you be in close proximity to another person, discuss the protocol and options for remote study assessment options with your PI and the sponsor of the research study.  If on-site study visits with participants cannot be avoided, PPE must be used as appropriate. Personnel should be minimized where feasible, in order to reduce the number of interactions in the workplace.  Avoid handshakes and any other physical contact with others.  Avoid sharing food or snacks.

Obey directional markings on doors and floors, if available. They are there to prevent accidental proximity. Avoid passing others on stairs whenever possible.

  1. Avoid all gatherings

Meetings and training sessions should be done digitally/virtually as much as possible. No lab meetings, journal clubs, seminars, etc. are to be held in-person. If in-person interactions cannot be avoided, maintain physical distance.

  1. Hand sanitizing

Sanitize your hands when entering the building and before leaving. Frequently wash your hands or use a ABHR/hand sanitizer station throughout the day.  ABHR stations are available throughout the clinical areas of the building and are to be supplied by individual research teams for use in research-only spaces in the building.

  1. Maintain a sanitized work environment

De-clutter and minimize equipment and supplies so effective environmental cleaning and disinfection can be achieved.  Products (e.g. creams, lotions) should be dedicated to a single user, whenever possible.  Each person working must have access to a disinfectant wipes and/or spray bottle of disinfectant (70% ethanol or other disinfectant recommended for use by the Province). Individual research teams are responsible for procuring and supplying their own disinfectants for research spaces that are used for research-only activities not concurrent with clinical care.

Sanitize your work area before starting your work and at the end of your workday. Shared workstations should be minimized where possible to reduce cross-interaction with surfaces.  If sharing of work space cannot be avoided, shared work areas must be sanitized on arrival and at completion of your work.  Exchange of papers, shared pens and other office equipment should be minimized/limited to the extent possible.  After using shared equipment, spray/wipe it thoroughly with sanitizer/disinfectant wipes, ensuring that any points of contact or potential contamination are covered.

Common areas and high-touch surface areas should be cleaned and disinfected frequently and at least once a day, with a focus on high-touch points such as counter tops, seating areas, doorknobs, handrails, light switches, phones, keyboards, photocopier console, etc.  The frequency and assignment of cleaning activities will be defined by the PI in alignment with VCH IPAC guidelines, and cleaning protocols should be posted clearly in work spaces and cleaning supplies made available to research personnel.

Individual PIs and their research teams are responsible for proper cleaning and disinfection of research-specific supplies and equipment.  When disinfecting, be sure to leave the disinfectant on for the specified length of contact time to neutralize any remaining organisms.  Always read the instructions of the product you are using in order to ensure proper disinfection.

For cleaning and disinfecting electronic and other devices, follow the VCH IPAC Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Devices.

  1. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is the last defense

PPE is used to prevent injury and illness in workers when eliminating workplace hazards is not possible.  Information around the safe use of PPE at UBC-affiliated work spaces can be found in the UBC Employee COVID-19 PPE Guidance document.  For the most up-to-date PPE recommendations, refer to the IPAC document for the Ambulatory Care Setting.

Cloth masks that are either commercially or personally made are acceptable and encouraged unless additional respiratory protection is indicated due to an underlying medical condition or specified by the research protocol.  UBC employees are permitted to use non-medical masks while at work, provided they do not prevent workers from carrying out their duties in a safe way.  Non-medical masks are not classed as PPE and cannot be considered as part of workplace safety planning however.  If using a non-medical mask at work it is important to understand the limitations and risks associated with them.  Each person is responsible for care and cleaning of their own mask.

As Health Authorities do not provide masks or other PPE for research use, research teams are to separately procure PPE for research staff where the research requires direct in-person interactions with research participants that are not concurrent with clinical care.  More information, including the process to order PPE, is available on the UBC Safety & Risk Services website at

NOTE: The 2-metre physical distancing and room occupancy measures remain the most effective means of minimizing COVID-19 spread and infection, and are therefore to be followed wherever possible regardless of PPE use.