By Leo Cabral and Daniel Hernandez
All students, staff and faculty will be required to provide proof of vaccination before returning to any Riverside Community College District campuses.
The Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees passed a resolution Aug. 10 stating all students and employees must “provide evidence of partially vaccinated status no later than Aug.19” and “of fully vaccinated status no later than Sept. 30.”
Partially vaccinated students will need to take weekly COVID-19 tests, with proof of a negative result, before being able to access all facilities.
It also requires the use of masks both indoors and outdoors and social distancing practices with exemptions to those who are alone, eating and drinking or when wearing a face covering creates a hazard during instructional activities.
Unvaccinated students will only be able to enroll in online classes and can only access online support services.
The verdict was made after a three-hour-long special board meeting where members listened to public comments, discussed their opinions about the resolution and watched a presentation from a company that provides vaccine verification services.
Public commenters’ concerns ranged from the vaccine and mask mandate infringing on personal freedoms, calling it “borderline authoritarian,” to others feeling as though they are facing discrimination as unvaccinated individuals. A handful stated that the mandate was illegal.
University of California and California State University systems have implemented mandatory COVID-19 vaccination programs for the fall term, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Janssen COVID-19 vaccines.
According to an Aug. 9 email from the California School Employees Association (CSEA) Negotiations Team “the district has the authority to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine – even under emergency only authorization.” Also, on July 27, the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s office urged all local districts to exercise their authority to adopt vaccination mandates.
The board discussed their concerns after the public comment ended.
Tracey Vackar grew concerned after seeing the number of cases resurge and urged the board to work more closely with legislators. Student trustee Jack Harris said he cannot support the resolution until there is a viable step-by-step procedure for implementing the resolution policies.
“We were considering (having) both vaccinated and unvaccinated attend together, with the unvaccinated going through weekly testing … as is done in many of the universities today,” Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac said. “But with the advent of the rapid spread of (the) delta virus, we felt that is not doable.”
Ashley Heather, chief operating officer of CLEARED4, presented their vaccine verification system. According to Heather, the technology is HIPAA and FERPA compliant and will allow the college to implement health surveys, vaccine verification, COVID-19 test integration, contact trace reporting and provide clearance passes.
The service is internet-based and a phone is not required for access.
“Our platform is very easy to use,” Heather said. “Your team has already been trained on it so I think we’re at as good a place as we can be given the circumstances.”
Heather also said CLEARED4 will begin running tests of their program Aug. 11 and hope to have the system operational by Aug. 12.
The board of trustees then moved to approve the resolution while taking into consideration variables due to the COVID-19 delta variant.
“I’ve lost a lot of family, I’ve lost a lot of friends,” trustee president Mary Figueroa said. “My best friend died on New Year’s Eve because of this virus and I strongly believe if there had been a vaccine, maybe she would have had a little bit better of a chance of not passing away.”
Stay updated on district COVID-19 updates at www.rccd.edu.