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sector_ico_Health_trans Human Health

SARS–CoV–2 Study for Eased Restrictions in British Columbia (SAfER BC)

  • Project Leaders: Simon Pimstone, Josef Penninger, Mel Krajden, Tania Bubela
  • Institutions: University of British Columbia (UBC)
  • Budget: $1215596
  • Program/Competition: Emerging Issues
  • Genome Centre(s): Genome Canada
  • Fiscal Year: 2020
  • Status: Closed

The scale of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic required limiting individual contact through physical distancing that helped curbed transmission, but also led to significant economic disruption. Since strict limitations are not sustainable in the long term, alternate measures needed to be deployed to enable society to restart responsibly, with guidelines informed by epidemiological modelling, responsible testing, good political judgment and integrated data connecting viral spread to clinical risk factors and workplace behaviours. 

The SARS‐CoV‐2 Study for Eased Restrictions in British Columbia (SAfER BC) was a large scale longitudinal cohort study originally designed to provide critical data to support establishing and implementing workplace best practices for relaxing restrictions while limiting SARS-CoV-2 infection and managing positive cases. However, due to the changing nature of the pandemic where the back-to-work restriction was not relaxed, the study shifted its focus to understanding the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on employees and students.

The psychosocial survey implemented on 1500 volunteer employees and students across different life science companies and post-secondary institutions found there is an unequal psychosocial impact on sex and gender, where females experience higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress, but no difference in resilience coping. Employees and students also felt their workplace was the safest location to be at. Additional focus groups found the communication approaches via emails utilized by governments and institutions were perceived as timely, clear and frequent in delivering critical pandemic related information. Social media channels were rarely the preferred medium used by the participants because of misinformation concerns.

In conclusion, the questionnaires provided a better understanding of how continual changes in the pandemic drove people to interact with restriction policies and additional recommendations for improved communications during future public health emergencies.