Langara not the only campus with COVID-19 cafeteria concerns

Students at both SFU and BCIT share their perspectives on how campuses are keeping up with COVID-19 precautions

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By Jordan Copp

This story has been updated to include comments from students at SFU and BCIT. 

Students at Langara College and other Metro Vancouver post-secondary schools have ongoing concerns about COVID-19 safety precautions in their school cafeterias.

Langara College nursing student Sarah Smith said she no longer uses the cafeteria because of COVID concerns.

“I used to, but I don’t anymore … I either bring [my lunch] from home or I get food off campus,” Smith said.

Mask policy and guidelines

Langara’s mask policy follows the guidelines of the provincial health office and the Ministry of Advanced Skills Education and Training. The policy states that students are allowed to remove their mask to eat or drink while sitting down.

Despite the mask policy, some students are still thinking twice about where to eat.

One student noted there is not enough space between seats in the cafeteria.

“I think it would be better if there were some Plexiglas barriers, that would definitely be helpful on some tables,” said Zach Lee, a Langara criminal justice student.

Lee also said that there are few signs on the walls outlining COVID precautions.

Some SFU and BCIT students nervous using cafeteria

Some students at other local post-secondary schools share similar concerns about COVID safety in their school cafeterias.

“There is plenty of space most times,” Tom Milten, a first-year SFU student, said. “But when it’s the main lunch hour and everyone is trying to find a spot, it gets crowded.” 

“Even though the tables look clear, I always sanitize them with wipes I bring from home,” he said. 

“When I have small breaks in the morning or the afternoon I go to the main cafe,” said Lance Adder, a first-year BCIT student. “But if my break is around noon, I’ll get my food and take it somewhere less crowded to eat.”  

One issue is that students who have finished eating their lunch continue to socialize without a mask on.

“It made me really uncomfortable with COVID,” Smith said. “There’s always a lot of people hanging out together without masks and the tables are always dirty. It just kind of grossed me out.”

Some students find hallways more comfortable to eat in

One question that students have raised is if the mask policy in the cafeteria also applies to non-designated eating areas. Some students choose to eat in less crowded spaces such as hallways and empty classrooms. Adder said that the mask policy about areas outside of the cafeterias was unclear at BCIT as well, but eating in the hallway feels like a safer choice. 

SFU student Alex Davis was also unclear about her school’s policy on students eating outside of cafeterias. “It bothers me to see students eating in the halls. It makes me uncomfortable.” 

All three of the schools where students were interviewed say they are following provincial health guidelines.  

Dwayne Doornbosch, Langara facilities director, said that the college follows the return to campus guidelines laid out by health authorities.

“Regulations include promoting good hygiene and providing hand washing facilities or hand sanitizer; communication reminders via digital signage or social media; and engineering controls such as Plexiglas barriers at high traffic or client-facing locations,” Doornbosch said by email.

Doornbosch said the COVID-safety measures taken throughout the college are outlined in Langara’s communicable disease prevention plan. The precautions are required to reduce the risk of transmission, not limited to COVID-19.  Additional measures would take place when advised by public health officials.  

Watch this video with interviews with students at SFU and BCIT share their experiences of their campuses cafeterias.  

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