UPDATE: Riverside Community College District ends booster and mask mandates

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From Left: Trustee Mary Figueroa, Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac, President Bill Hedrick and Vice President Jose Alcala vote to end the mask and booster mandate March 15.

Viewpoints’ interviewed Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac on March 16 about the removal of the mask and booster mandates. This article has been updated to reflect that interview.

By Daniel Hernandez

The Riverside Community College Board of Trustees voted 5-0 to end the booster and mask mandates throughout district facilities March 15.

Under Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac’s direction, the mandates will end starting March 16.

“Based on the data and where we are today, it is suggested that the Board ends the booster requirement and (that it) now be highly recommended,” Chancellor Wolde-Ab Isaac said prior to the vote. “Similarly, the masking mandate will be removed and it will also be converted to be recommended.”

Although the district will recommend masks and boosters, it will still require students, staff and faculty to provide proof of full vaccination — at least one shot of the Janssen vaccine or two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer — or weekly COVID-19 testing. 

The district’s decision is based on the latest guidelines set by federal, state and local health agencies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in its newest guidelines March 11 that only communities experiencing a high surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations would be required to wear masks.

As of March 10, Riverside County is within the CDC’s “low” category, which only requires vaccinations and COVID-19 tests when symptoms are present.

The chancellor, in a March 16 interview, said that the district could reinstate both the mask and booster mandate if federal and state guidelines recommend doing so.

“If they recommend that we should have a booster then we bring the booster (mandate) back,” Isaac said. “We will do whatever those guidelines are. We will follow the Department of Public Health and the CDC’s guidelines very closely.”

Trustee Mary Figueroa explained how she believes this decision does not alienate those who would want to continue wearing a mask.

“I’m glad we are taking this particular direction that doesn’t totally allow those individuals … to feel like we don’t have any kind of protection after this,” Figueroa said at the board meeting. “We are allowing those individuals, who know based on their own personal issues, that they need to wear the mask to still continue to be as safe as possible.”

Isaac noted that the district’s decision is in line with the state’s March 11 update to its K-12 masking mandate, which allows students to enter class without a face covering for the first time in two years.

The chancellor expects this alignment to increase district enrollment.

“We are championing the safety at kind of a heavy price,” Isaac said in an interview March 16. “We are trying to maintain safety … and at the same time trying to reduce obstacles, whether real or perceived obstacles, that discourage students from coming back.” 

During the board meeting, Vice President Jose Alcala, added that he would like the community to respect one another’s choices when it comes to mask wearing.

“I always have to chuckle when reminding adults how to hopefully behave,” Alcala said. “With this happening, I hope folks do respect one another’s choice … and just leave it like that.”

This update comes after the Board approved a booster mandate Jan. 18, requiring all students, classified staff and faculty to receive a booster shot and upload proof to the CLEARED4 system to enter district facilities.

The Board initially passed its vaccine and mask mandate Aug. 10 before the district reopened its campuses to the community after being closed for almost two years.

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