Dean of SFU health sciences to co-lead COVID-19 Work-Study

The study aims to look at the impacts of the virus on the workplace

PHOTO: Tyler Franta / Unsplash

Written by: Mahdi Dialden, News Writer

Dr. Tania Bubela, the faculty of health science’s dean, is co-leading a study that explores the impact of COVID-19 on the workplace. The 1.2 million dollar project, SARS‐CoV‐2 Study for Eased Restrictions in British Columbia (SAfER), is funded by Genome BC, Genome Canada, and life science industry partners.

In an interview with The Peak, Dr. Bubela explained that the study plans to analyze subjects from five workplaces which include SFU, UBC’s Life Science Institute, and three local biotechnology companies.

“We’re going to be recruiting 1,500 participants from those [areas], anybody who is in the workplace at least one day a week is eligible,” she said.

Dr. Bubela explained that “the test population is the life sciences sector in British Columbia.” She emphasized the importance of researching this industry, because “it’s not the kind of work that you can do remotely.” 

SAfER will take participants through three main portions that will aid in coming to safe practices for the future. 

The first part is to test participants for COVID-19 before the study begins, which will ensure that the findings can be accurately traced to the study period. 

The second part of the study will be a “blood draw to look at serology.” It will consist of three testing points, one at the beginning, after six months, and 12 months. “This is a kind of test that looks at the immune response to the virus and the longevity of the immune response to the virus,” Dr. Bubela said. This will give a certain answer on whether the participants have contracted the virus during the study period regardless of symptoms.

The final part of the study will seek the psychosocial impacts of the virus on the participants, in the form of a questionnaire to check in on the participants and their well-being. This will ask  questions about issues like “their family circumstances because there’s a lot of other factors that come into play for risk of exposure.” 

The underlying data will be available for health officials. Dr. Bubela explained that their work will be used to help make informed decisions for the future. For example, using “epidemiological modelling to inform the public health measures, both at the provincial and at the federal level.” 

Dr. Bubela added that “models are only as good as the data that inform them, so we’re hoping that the models can be made more accurate so we can be more responsive.”

The findings will be used for improved long-term planning for large employers in BC, and ensure it can work simultaneously with the public health system in contact tracing. 

Recruitment for the study is aimed to begin in October, awaiting ethics approval.