Returning to campus during the latter half of a once-in-a-century pandemic has not been easy, but the Riverside Community College District has managed to pull it off without any major incidents.
Despite the last-minute approval of a district-wide vaccine and mask mandate and the hiccups in communication between administration and students, the fall semester has proven that the regulations implemented to ensure safety have been the most effective format to minimize risk at a district that serves over 20,000 students.
We believe that RCCD should continue to enforce the mandates throughout the spring 2022 semester as well as continue to improve the strategies behind safely returning to campus.
With the discovery of the Omicron variant, it is more important than ever that the district does not ease up on the mandates in place. Under RCCD’s current plans, the second dose of the Moderna of Pfizer vaccine must be received before Jan. 30, 2022 or two weeks prior to the start of the spring term.
However, the college should also strongly consider implementing a mandate for the booster shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have expanded booster shot eligibility to all adults. This was a pivotal step to ensuring that the public continues to protect themselves and their loved ones as more variants, such as the Omicron variant, appear.
RCCD’s fall vaccine mandate required that all students had until Sept. 30 — and later until Oct. 14 due to many misunderstanding details around the deadline — to receive their second shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
According to the CDC’s press release about booster shot eligibility, a person should receive their booster six months after receiving the initial series.
This means that all students who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine during the fall semester would reach that six-month threshold by March 2022.
Suppose the district wants to continue in-person operations and avoid break-through cases. In that case, RCCD must seriously consider implementing a booster requirement for the students and faculty who returned to on-campus education during the fall semester.
We also believe that the district should use the winter session to work with the administration, faculty and classified staff to improve communication throughout the campus. The college should attempt to provide weekly COVID-19 updates either in an email or live briefings.
Increasing communication and transparency about all things COVID are vital to ensuring continued safety on campus and growing trust between the public and district.
The fall semester was a successful test run for showcasing that mask and vaccine mandates could minimize the risk of outbreaks on campus. As the district prepares for the spring semester, we hope that the lessons learned from this year could serve as a jumping point to an even more successful and safe future.