SARS‐CoV‐2 Study for Eased Restrictions in British Columbia (SAfER BC)
The proposed SARS‐CoV‐2 Study of Eased Restrictions in British Columbia (SAfER BC Study) is the first study in Canada to assess the impact of SARS‐CoV‐2 on employees and students in the workplace, and importantly, will also asses the impact of relaxed restrictions in the workplace. It is a large scale, longitudinal study of 1,500 employees and students across the life sciences sector, which is an important segment of the B.C. economy. The Study is designed to collect PCR (molecular polymerase chain reaction) and longitudinal serologic data, as well as contact tracing and clinical symptom data from a large number of employees and students across multiple organizations, including private industry, as well as public post‐secondary education institutions. The Study will provide a unique data set allowing a determination of the impact of the COVID‐19 in the workplace. The longitudinal, observational nature of the SAfER BC Study, will ensure data will be gathered in real time and will be reported on at regular quarterly intervals. Based on current rates of infections in B.C., we are estimating and targeting 100 positive SARS‐CoV‐2 cases in the cohort over 12 months, representing approximately six per cent of total participants. An interim analysis at six months (by Dec. 31, 2020) will allow for upsizing of the cohort to ensure 100 positive cases are collected and studied. Given that the proposed Study is more qualitative, the absolute number of positive cases is less critical to the Study outcome. Much of this Study will be about testing platforms that interface between public and private systems, which we believe will serve as a model for the future. The Study will also test the implementation of workplace guidelines and responses to COVID‐19 as well as psychosocial health of employees and students in B.C., none of which is dependent on the absolute numbers of cases in the Study. The SAfER BC Study will also provide a unique longitudinal perspective of SARS‐CoV‐2 cases and seroconversion in B.C. and will support the genomic and proteomic analysis of viral genomes and host proteomes to better understand important contributors to viral origin and host immunity. As travel restrictions get lifted over time and employee and student Study participants travel in and out of B.C., we will also gain an improved understanding of travel related viral transmission into our province and the impact of travel restrictions on our workplaces. While the SAfER BC Study may not be representative of all sectors, this longitudinal study of a large, well controlled cohort of employees and students will provide both unique workplace learnings as well as a tested template upon which to build similar studies in other sectors, for other diseases or for testing in other Canadian provinces. While a good thing from a public health perspective, a key risk to the SAfER Study proposal is the potential low incidence of COVID‐19 in this cohort due to effective provincial government restrictions. We have approached this risk, mitigating in three ways. Firstly, an interim analysis at the six‐month timepoint will allow for an upsizing of the cohort if required. Secondly, the Steering Committee will have as a mandate, extending the protocol into other sectors. Such sectors might include higher risk communities such as long term care facilities or food processing or packing. Thirdly, even if the incidence of infection is low, we will gather key data sets that could serve as models or templates for the future. For example, the digital platform to capture employee symptoms or to capture contact tracking will be important for future pandemic planning. Psychosocial data on employee and student perceptions will be important in optimizing workplace health. The implementation of the SAfER BC Study protocol in and of itself will be a unique test of partnership between the public and private systems, a partnership that will be necessary to solve societies’ health and economic challenges.