District reacts to COVID-19 pandemic

March 12, 2020

Psychology+Professor+Estelle+Davi+voices+her+opinion+March+11+on+the+Academic+Senate%E2%80%99s+contingency+plan+for+alternative+instruction.

Spencer Batute

Psychology Professor Estelle Davi voices her opinion March 11 on the Academic Senate’s contingency plan for alternative instruction.

Krys Shahin

Editor’s note: There are now 615 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Contra Costa County with 44 hospitalizations and 14 deaths as of April 16.

As more cases of the novel Coronavirus are identified in Contra Costa County, the Contra Costa Community College District is working to provide new guidances to its three colleges to protect students, employees and the general community. 

The district is actively transitioning all lecture classes online, restricting travel, cancelling or postponing all unessential events with gatherings of over 50 people and encouraging students and staff to stay home when sick to ensure student and faculty health.

“We are trying to mitigate exposure by intending to transition face-to-face lecture classes online,” said Interim Chancellor Eugene Huff.

As of publication, March 12, there are no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus at any district college.

“Consistent with guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health and Contra Costa Health Services, the district confirmed that all colleges and centers will remain open, and instruction and operations will continue, with modifications,” said Tim Leong, district Public Information Officer, in a press release sent out March 11.

Spencer Batute
Many questions were asked during the emergency Academic Senate meeting held March 11.

To address concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 virus on staff and students, the Los Medanos College Academic Senate held an emergency meeting March 11. Staff and students came prepared with questions, exceeding the 50 person gathering limit restriction set by the county in conjunction with the virus. 

We are strongly urging the cancellation and rescheduling of gatherings of more than 50 people,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, acting Contra Costa County Health Officer. “We want to create social distancing. We know these measures help in the early stages of epidemics and pandemics.”

The first major step to maintain district health and safety was to bring home students and staff who were studying abroad in Italy. Two LMC students were on that trip and have since returned home.

“We are urging returning students to self-quarantine in compliance with County regulations,” said Poni Fannin, Head of district Study Abroad Programs. “When students began leaving Italy, the CDC and Contra Costa County were recommending self-quarantine of two weeks.”

While there have now been 11 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus within the county, some medical professionals are concerned that the numbers will increase as more testing becomes available.

We think there is more of it out there than we have detected. We expect the number of cases to rise significantly,” said Tzvieli.

In response to the potential of unknown cases within the district, “hospital grade cleaners” have been incorporated into each college’s nightly custodial routines, according to Huff.

Despite the precautions being taken, some students are still concerned about health concerns in the community.

There is an increasing risk of COVID-19 being transmitted to students and spread to the most vulnerable members of our community such as immunocompromised family. [Monday] the Bay Area had its first fatality in Santa Clara,” said Dale Satre, former Vice President of Los Medanos College Associated Students. “The spread of epidemics is exponential, and we should plan for an increasing rate of new cases in the near future.” 

Students posed questions during the Academic Senate meeting about ways that the COVID-19 virus may affect how classes are being taught.

“Not all students have the technology necessary for the online classes. Not every teacher uses canvas, will those teachers be available to students?” said Student Gillary Carrasco.

With this COVID-19 virus now being declared a pandemic, the district is working alongside each school to ensure not only safety as a main priority but also students’ education. 

For more information on what the district is doing to combat the COVID-19 virus, please visit http://www.4cd.edu/covid19/default.aspx

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