A message from Jim Hamilton, President

As we witness an increase in the COVID-19 infections and observe a significant change in provincial expectations, this is a good time to be mindful of the obligations we have to ourselves and each other.

First and foremost is an individual need to self-monitor for signs of the disease. If you feel sick, stay home and, to the extent possible, avoid contact with others. If the symptoms align with those associated with COVID-19, contact 811 for advice and guidance.

Washing and sanitizing your hands, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and using appropriate behavior when sneezing or coughing are other methods of reducing the risk of transmission. Maintain physical distancing and respect the direction and advice of the Provincial Health Officer.

There is a new direction from the Provincial Health Officer regarding masks: it is mandatory that you wear a mask in indoor public spaces unless medical reasons preclude you from doing so. At Okanagan College, this includes all the general access spaces of our buildings such as open areas, hallways, stairwells and so on. You are also required to wear a mask at the College whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Given the number of COVID-19 cases reported in the Interior Health Region, it is increasingly likely that cases may manifest themselves among our students and employees. The extensive health and safety plans we have developed all align with the requirements of WorkSafeBC, Interior Health, and the Provincial Health Officer. They all focus on mitigating the risk of transmission.

When a positive case of COVID-19 is reported, we will follow the direction of Interior Health about notification, communication within our community and next steps.

COVID-19 infection can have impacts beyond physical health for individuals. Being COVID-19 positive ought not to be accompanied with social stigma that can affect self-esteem and mental wellbeing. Preserving privacy is imperative. We shall continue to rely on the expertise of Interior Health in infectious diseases to guide when and how we communicate information about any confirmed cases within the Okanagan College community.

This has been a stressful eight months for all of us. Remember that you are not alone and that help and support is available if you require it, whether you are an employee or a student. What we have been able to accomplish as a community at Okanagan College has been remarkable and a testament to the great people who work, teach and learn here.

Please, watch out for yourself and each other, and stay healthy.