By Kristen Holliday and Kristian Trevena
A Change.org petition has been started to request Langara College close its doors due to the spread of COVID-19.
According to Change.org, the petition was started on March 11 by a person with the username John Doe, who identifies themselves as a Langara student. As of publishing time, there were over 300 signatures collected.
“I ask Langara to be a leader, and move towards an online platform for the remainder of the semester.” The creator of the petition said in a statement. “I understand that this transition is complicated, but the health of Metro Vancouver should be a priority.”
Several other petitions have been posted to Change.org requesting post-secondary institutions close their doors. A petition started by a UBC student has collected nearly 12,000 signatures, while an SFU petition has collected around 6,500.
On March 12, a joint media statement from Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said the total number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. have increased to 53.
Henry said at this time, British Columbians should avoid all essential travel outside of Canada, including travel to the U.S.
Henry also said they are directing all event organizers in the province to cancel any gatherings larger than 250 people. However, she said they weren’t directing schools to close at this time.
“We don’t believe it’s appropriate at the moment to close schools,” Henry said in the media statement. “The impact of closing schools particularly abruptly can cause a lot of societal disruption and economic impact, so we want to be doing that in a measured way.”
An update from March 12 on the Langara website said the risk of transmission is still low in B.C., but encourages people who have returned from any travel outside of Canada to self-isolate for 14 days. The update said Langara’s Health Services clinic has a small number of testing kits available for those who have been instructed to get testing.
In a March 11 email statement to The Voice, a Langara College spokesperson said the college is reviewing all events to be held on campus in the coming weeks and conducting risk assessments.
“The College has convened its Emergency Operations Centre and is preparing for any eventuality,” the statement said.
On Friday, the college sent two emails to students updating them on the pandemic.
One email informed students of new changes on campus, including the cancellation of all academic student travel and events involving more than 250 people.
The second was sent by Ben Cecil, Langara’s provost and vice-president of academics and students. The email read that there are currently no plans to close campus, and there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the college.
“We continue to monitor the situation closely and will communicate immediately should the situation and health agencies’ advice change.” the email said.