Panelists at the Associated Students of Orange Coast College Fall Student Forum on Nov. 19 answered students’ questions and provided information regarding COVID-19 protocols during the spring 2022 return to campus.
Vice President of Student Services Madjid Niroumand went over the details for the mask and vaccination mandates, including the procedures for providing proof of vaccination or going through weekly testing. He explained that the mandates apply to all students in the Coast Community College District, even students who are only taking classes online.
Niroumand said that faculty and staff will know if students are cleared to be on campus, but they will not know of a student’s vaccination status.
“The information is very private,” he said. “We make sure that only a few individuals on a need-to-know basis look at the information.”
Vice President of Instruction Michelle Grimes-Hillman said that the spring semester classes will be planned so that students and staff can maintain social distancing.
“We’re very mindful about how and where we schedule classes to ensure that the facilities that we use on campus will accommodate spacing among students,” she said.
President Angelica Suarez added that the school will equip classrooms with masks, hand sanitizer and other personal protection equipment.
OCC faculty can begin testing for COVID-19 on Jan. 24, but student testing begins on Jan. 31. Students had expressed concern with their later date, but Suarez explained that the school did not want an influx of people on campus at the same time.
“We did not want to create a super-spreader event,” she said. “We wanted to be very cautious about how we implemented this, making sure that we didn’t unintentionally create an opportunity for transmission.”
The panelists also discussed what will happen if a student tests positive for COVID-19. Cases will be handled differently depending on the surrounding circumstances, but the Student Health Center (SHC) will set dates for the student’s isolation, and Human Resources will contact faculty members to let them know of the student’s absence.
Attendance policies related to COVID-19 will depend on the class and the instructor. The panelists said that faculty members will work with students to make sure they can complete their coursework.
“There’s a variety of flexibility with regards to doing work,” Grimes-Hillman said. “Be sure that when you enter your class, you ask questions.”
Niroumand and SHC Director Kelly Daly explained that if a student tested positive for COVID-19, they would not need to go through the weekly testing for the next 90 days because there could be a false positive. The SHC would communicate with the student about when they would resume weekly testing.
Human Resources Director Rebecca Morgan explained that if three or more students who are connected in some way (such as being in the same class or at the same event) test positive for COVID-19, that is considered an outbreak. The protocol for an outbreak will vary depending on vaccination status and the size of the group, so the school will work with the Orange County Health Care Agency to investigate and control the outbreak.
Suarez said that there will be flyers all around campus, reminding students to wear masks properly. Niroumand encouraged students to remind each other of the mask mandate and added that students can consult Student Services if another student is refusing to wear a mask.
“Please know that all of these enforcements and protocols are because we want to protect you,” Niroumand said. “All of us, through this pandemic, have a responsibility to take care of one another and be mindful of one another’s well being, and we want to help you through this process.”