Nearly two dozen faculty members of UBC’s School of Population and Public Health have signed a letter expressing dismay over their director’s travel to Hawaii amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Dr. Peter Berman apologized this week for taking an overseas vacation, despite public health advisories not to travel and as most British Columbians called off traditional holiday gatherings.
“A public health leader should know better,” states the letter signed by 19 professors.
“This decision to travel harms our school’s ability to contribute leadership in calling for our communities to sustain daily sacrifices to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for the public good.”
The professors say they were “dismayed” by both Berman and UBC’s response to the director’s travel.
They go on to say that while they’ve worked hard to set the right example around adhering to COVID-19 restrictions, they’re also privileged enough to have the resources not to feel the worst impacts of the pandemic.
“It is therefore deeply disturbing to see those in positions of leadership take advantage of their privileged, and act in ways that rupture solidarity and fuel narratives of distrust and misinformation.”
While the letter stops short of calling for Berman to step down, others haven’t been as forgiving.
Earlier this week a pair of graduates from the school came forward to call for Berman’s firing.
In a statement, UBC said it can not police employees’ personal time.
Berman was the latest in a string of high-profile officials, many of them provincial and federal politicians, who has been caught taking sunny vacations over the winter break.
International travel is not banned under COVID-19 restrictions, but both the provincial and federal government have strongly advised against it.
Communications consultant Bill Tielman echoed some of the professors’ concerns, warning that by appearing to flout their own advice, officials risked undermining the fight against the virus.
“These travelling politicians are giving comfort to conspiracy theorists, to crazies, to people who say everything is fake news about COVID-19, despite the enormous death toll,” he said.
“The more we see politicians undermining the public health authorities, the more likely it is people will say, ‘see, it’s just a joke.'”
As of Friday, British Columbia had recorded 988 COVID-19 deaths, while the seven-day moving average for test positivity was over eight per cent.
On Thursday, B.C. extended COVID-19 restrictions, including a ban on all social gatherings, until Feb. 5.View link »