District tackles COVID-19 with vaccine mandate

With rise of cases in Contra Costa, protocols are being updated.

Sarina Grossi, Editor-in-Chief

The Contra Costa Community College District has adopted a new vaccine mandate for all students and employees that will go into effect Nov. 1. Those impacted will receive an email Oct. 1 about how to prove vaccination status.

The District Governing Board’s Sept. 8 decision to implement vaccine requirements was prompted by the rise of ongoing COVID-19 cases within Contra Costa County, as the area has been in the red zone of community transmission according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. With vaccination rates stagnating across the country, the virus and its many variants, including Delta and Mu that infect at a rapid rate, are driving up hospitalization rates as the return to “normal” gets pushed back further and further.

“A lot of the places that have increased surges of hospitalizations are areas where…  there are people that are unvaccinated,” said Maryanne Hicks, the associate dean of Nursing and Allied Health Services at LMC, “Eighty percent of the people who are hospitalized related to COVID are unvaccinated.”

The mandate requires all students and staff who are currently enrolled in or instruct at least one in-person class, who plan to be enrolled in or instruct a class next semester or generally visit any of the 4CD campuses must prove their vaccination status before the requirement is in effect. 

To help push students to get vaccinated and to thank those that already, proof of vaccination will be rewarded with a $150 vaccination incentive. In addition, LMC is also sponsoring free vaccine clinics, including one this Thursday.

According to LMC President Bob Kratochvil, this mandate does not include students who are medically incapable of receiving the vaccine or have religious beliefs that “may request an exemption.” If an exemption is approved, the student or staff member will receive weekly COVID-19 tests to confirm they are not infected. Students who do not get vaccinated without an exemption will not be allowed to enroll in in-person classes, but are encouraged to continue taking online classes.

This measure comes after the district has implemented other safety protocols, such as facilities being cleaned nightly and sanitizing “high touch-points.” This was paired with the on-campus mask mandate that was adopted before the semester began.

“It remains important to follow CDC, State, and County Health Department guidance regarding Covid-19 and emerging variants,” said Carlos Montoya, the vice president of Business and Administrative Services at LMC,  “Primarily this is focused on getting vaccinated, properly wearing face coverings and conducting their self-screenings.”

As the vaccine requirement day comes closer, there are plenty of individuals on campus who are still unvaccinated and hesitant toward receiving the vaccine. Hicks said she believes the best way to encourage these individuals is by educating them on information they are unsure about.

“There’s still a lot [of people] who aren’t necessarily anti-vaxxers, but they have vaccine hesitancy because this is something new,” said Hicks. “We need to help them to understand what it is about the vaccine that they are… not sure about.”

At LMC, the mandate is receiving mixed reactions. Some students, such as Steven Chun, view the mandate positively and believe it should be implemented.

“I believe it’s a good step to take, the vaccine mandate should be more widely mandated,” said Chun.

Others are for the vaccine and the mandate but believe that there might be some logistical issues, like LMC history professor Ryan Tripp.

“I’m for a vaccine mandate. The only concern that I have about it is individuals that can’t access the vaccines,” said Tripp, “There’s certain people that should be exempt…  if there’s really specific reasons or medical reasons why somebody can’t get it with heavy documentation then they should be allowed to be exempt from the mandate, but a general mandate I support.”

On the other side, some students and staff believe the mandate is not necessary and can be intrusive.

“In my personal opinion, I don’t think they should be forcing anyone to take it, as it is their own choice, but most people as it is do understand that they should take it for the greater good,” said Jack Sailor, an LMC student and athlete, “So I believe in humanity taking it, but it shouldn’t be forced on anybody just because the government feels the need too.” 

If you have yet to be vaccinated and are interested in getting the vaccine, LMC is hosting a free vaccination clinic Thursday Sept. 23 from 8:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pittsburg campus inside the Student Union Conference Center. The clinic offers the Pfizer vaccine for individuals over the age of 12 and requires no appointment ahead of time. 

If you are interested in learning more about the vaccine mandate, visit the 4CD’s COVID-19 resource page along with the LMC Library resource page. 

— Daniel Herrera and Kai Arellano contributed to this report