By Daniel Hernandez
As the Inland Empire grapples with the omicron variant surge, and with both the UC and CSU systems having implemented a booster mandate, the Riverside Community College District Board of Trustees voted 4-0 with one absentee to pass a modified amendment to the district’s vaccine mandate.
The amendment requires eligible students, classified staff and faculty to receive a booster shot or to show proof of weekly COVID-19 testing.
“Data … shows that 86% of all cases that are hospitalized are from the unvaccinated, demonstrating that there is real protection against hospitalization and death if one is fully vaccinated and better still if one is boosted,” Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac said prior to the vote. “And it’s on the basis of this scientific data that we have learned that we are bringing a modified amendment to the vaccination mandate.”
Students and staff will need to upload proof they received a booster on the CLEARED4 software by Feb. 1, two weeks before class is set to begin. Those who are ineligible to get a booster shot, according to the five-month recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will need to submit proof of booster vaccination on CLEARED4 within 30 days of becoming eligible.
The amendment says that all eligible parties who have not received a booster vaccine must get tested on a weekly basis for COVID-19 and submit proof of negative test results before entering any district facility.
The vaccine mandate was implemented Aug. 10 in response to the reopening of all RCCD facilities for the fall 2021 term. The mandate, in its previous form, required students to submit proof of partial vaccination status by Aug. 19 and to provide evidence of being fully vaccinated by Sept. 30.
However, not all at the meeting were pleased with the booster mandate. Student trustee Jack Harris, in his report, voiced his concerns to the Board about how the amendment might deter students from enrolling for the spring semester.
“It’s a step too far and we’re in a lot of danger of leaving a lot of the public behind,” Harris said. “Especially in a county that has as little amount of a vaccinated population as compared to the rest of the state of California.”
Harris has previously attended protests about the various mandates and has voiced his concerns at previous meetings.
But Jose Alcala, RCCD Board of Trustees vice president, believes that it is COVID that has caused the greatest impact to the community within the district.
“When you are talking about a lot of our students, you are talking about some of the most vulnerable at-risk populations,” Alcala said in a phone interview. “To blame (the drop in enrollment) on the mandate, we’re not looking at the bigger picture.”
The district is hosting vaccination clinics.
- Norco College CSS 217: Jan. 24, Jan. 31 and Feb. 7 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Riverside City College Digital Library Auditorium: Jan. 26, Jan. 27 and Feb. 10 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
- Moreno Valley College Administrative Annex: Jan. 28, Feb. 4 and Feb. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The district is also offering free COVID-19 testing for students, classified staff and faculty.
- Norco College Mustang Lounge: Mondays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Ben Clark Training Center Modular Building 8: Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. (Ben Clark students and employees only)
- Moreno Valley College Administration Annex Building: Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Culinary Arts Academy and District Office (CAADO) Room 209: Wednesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
- Riverside City College Nursing 156: Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.