Dulce Martinez
News Editor

Emily Henderson
Asst. News Editor

Spring semester is in full swing, but it looks a bit different than in years past. The first three weeks of the semester were fully online, with the target date of being back on campus being Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. With that date quickly closing in, here is what to know relating to masks, testing, and all things COVID-19 related.

Masks

Whittier College is adhering to the guidelines set by the Los Angeles County Public Health Office. Everyone over the age of two is required to wear a mask in public, indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. Wearing a mask is also encouraged in crowded, outdoor spaces. It is important that one’s mask is well fitted and has good filtration, meaning that there are multiple layers of coverage. Whittier College has stated that gaiters and bandanas are not acceptable forms of masks, as, again, students need to wear well fitted masks with more than one layer. (Tip: Layer a cloth mask over a surgical mask or invest in KN95, KF94 or N95 Respirators.) Read “The Quaker Campus Guide to Face Masks” for more information.

Testing (Commuters and Residents)

Whittier is asking that all commuter students get tested before attending their first class. Residential students who have not yet returned to campus need to get tested before moving into their dorm room. Students can get tested on campus on Monday, Feb. 21 through Friday, Feb. 25 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at A.J. Villalobos Hall. There is also the option of getting a COVID-19 test off campus as long as it is a certified testing facility (a pharmacy or urgent care). The test result must have the students’ name, the date the test was administered, the type of test, and the results of the test. Students must upload their results to their student health portal by 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 20.

Boosters

Whittier College is requiring all students to receive their booster vaccine in order to return to campus. Students need to upload their proof of their booster vaccine to their student health portal as soon as possible.

Health Screening

Students must complete their health screening daily, before arriving on campus, and residential students must complete it before leaving their rooms every day. The health screening can be utilized to report positive COVID-19 cases and symptoms; it can be found here.

Athletes

Athletes must complete their health screening form and make sure to report any symptoms or positive test results. Athletes must adhere to the NCAA guidelines.

Jan. 18 Community Meeting Recap

Emily Henderson, Asst. News Editor

On Jan. 18, 2022, Whittier College put together one of multiple community meetings to address various topics surrounding the school’s protocol in regards to COVID-19. Hosted on Zoom by Interim Vice President and Dean of Students Deanna Merino-Contino, alongside the Coordinator of the COVID-19 Task Force Lisa Newton, ASWC Senate President Grace Hagan Martin, Student Representative Alyssa Armstrong, and Academic Affairs personnel Sal Johnston, the group discussed multiple facets of how Whittier College will be moving forward in terms of safety regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first matter of business was to discuss how regulations get passed down from the country, to the state, to the city, then to Whittier College. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will release a report talking about updated guidelines in regards to COVID-19; that can be in terms of vaccinations, masks, and so forth. This then gets sent to the state governments in order for their COVID-19 task forces to decide what legislation to implement state-wide. Then, when the state decides on what to do, the counties in said states will be able to determine what they deem fit for their respective cities. Los Angeles County, for example, is huge; so, as stated by Deanna Merino-Contino, they will impose stricter practices in order to stay safer with their larger populations. This eventually trickles down to small sectors of cities, such as Whittier College. The College is unique in terms of implementing COVID-19 protocols. While public colleges and universities, like the University of California Los Angeles or the University of California Berkeley, have to implement COVID-19 regulations that are given to them by the state, Whittier College, being a private college, can decide how to go forward for the safety of their campus, at their own hands, not the states’.

This eventually gets passed down onto certain boards and individuals in the Whittier College community. When the regulations from the county are handed to the College, the list goes to a cabinet of Vice Presidents and Executives of the College to discuss the matter further. When this is handled, it then goes to the COVID-19 Task Force on campus. The Task Force is composed of “[ . . . ] a coordinator, an officer, task force core members, and task force key area members.” The Force’s main goal is to “[ . . . ] assess the College’s risk, guide policy development, and to ensure consistent messaging and coordinated institutional response to campus concerns and possible outbreaks of COVID-19.” After this group concludes how to handle the new regulations, they then compose a Poet Update Email that goes out to the entire Whittier College community. 

With the recent surge of COVID-19’s Omicron variant cases in Los Angeles County – with over 4,000 new cases as of Feb. 16, 2022 – Whittier College had to change the ways in which they handled the upcoming spring semester. Omicron cases started rapidly growing right as the school began its final JanTerm. Due to this, the College put a stop to any on-campus classes that were happening at the time, and had everyone transition fully to online academics. This continued into the first three weeks of the Spring semester, with Whittier College’s “target date” to return back to campus being Feb. 21. This comes at a place where leading COVID-19 scientists are in agreement that the Omicron surge will die down in mid- to late-February, as seen with rapid decline that started to show in California around the beginning of February.

In order to combat the spread of Omicron on campus, Whittier College, in accordance with the CDC, is requiring that everyone returning to campus must get their booster. The CDC states that in order to be qualified as “up-to-date” with their vaccinations, a person must have “[ . . . ] received all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including any booster dose(s), when eligible.” If anyone does not have a vaccine of any kind, said individual is required to test weekly on the school premise until they get their vaccine and booster(s).

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, Merino-Contino said that, in order to alleviate the anxiety about missing class, the student will have to log into the Zoom alternative of their respective classes for participation whilst the student is in isolation. The group then stated that, if a student is vaccinated but does not have the booster, they are required to quarantine for a minimum of five days, in accordance with updated CDC guidelines.

Academic Affairs personnel Sal Johnston stated that he is confident that the community will be back on campus by Feb. 21, 2022. The group also stated that they want to move forward and plan effectively regarding the safety of the Whittier College community. The group said that they know students will get COVID-19 and will have to isolate themselves, but that is a sacrifice to be made.

Merino-Contino talked about how most athletes have returned to campus and returned to their respective sports. Each team must follow NCAA testing guidelines: “[ . . . ] Contacts who are considered fully vaccinated or who have had a recent infection do not need to quarantine but should wear a mask around others socially for 10 days when not actively training/competing. Athletic activities are permitted without a mask. Individuals should test on day five, if possible, and test if symptomatic.” The group also talked about how they will be “stricter” with the athletic department, and that athletes must complete their health screenings as well.

Faculty and staff also have their own list of rules and regulations to adhere to. They are to work remotely through the end of January, and will be slowly phasing back to working on the Whittier College campus by their divisions. All staff and faculty must submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test to Human Resources in order to be able to go back to campus. If any staff and/or faculty have any questions regarding this “phase-back,” they are to consult with their supervisors.

With the change in what is qualified as vaccinated according to the CDC, Whittier College has also implemented new requirements for students in regards to the vaccine. The final date in which to submit your proof of receiving the booster was extended to Jan. 21, 2022. If the student does not submit proof, their registration status will be put on hold until they do. However, the COVID-19 Task Force understands that it may be difficult to get a booster during this time, so they will be up front in their support for students who are trying to get a booster shot, or an appointment for one. Deanna Merino-Contino emphasizes that even if you have only the appointment for the booster, but not the actual shot yet, upload the confirmation for the appointment, and that will count, temporarily!

All students must self-report a diagnosis of COVID-19 if they are to test positive. This is in order to help monitor the health status of the community. They would also like anyone to report symptoms of COVID-19; and, in line with that, would like to urge that, if you are ill, stay home! The Task Force emphasizes that communication is vital during this time, which is why the community needs to be doing the daily health screenings. Testing will also be utilized more during the Spring semester, as, now, students can go test whenever they want. COVID-19 testing is now available in A.J. Villalobos Hall from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. every weekday, unless stated otherwise. Merino-Contino wants to provide the opportunity to get tested quickly and efficiently, in a place where testing is not that widely available. If you would like to be tested but cannot make the time frame listed above, you can call the Health Center to make an appointment. The test is a saliva-based PCR test; you can receive results as quickly as the next morning. In terms of masking, Merino-Contino and the team agree that they will probably never get rid of the mask mandate at the school, so long as the pandemic continues. Masks are required in all buildings, classrooms, dorms, and so forth. With the Omicron variant, the CDC stated that the best types of masks to wear are medical grade ones. While the College puts an emphasis on wearing those types, it is not required. 

With the reopening of the campus being tomorrow, Feb. 21, the COVID-19 Task Force and  Whittier College will update the community accordingly. If you have any COVID-19 related questions, you can email the COVID-19 Compliance Task Force at covidtaskforce@whittier.edu, or Interim Vice President and Dean of Students Deanna Merino-Contino at dmerinoc@whittier.edu.

Featured Image: Brianna Wilson / Quaker Campus

Authors

  • Emily Henderson is the Assistant News Editor for the Quaker Campus. She is a second-year English Creative Writing major with a Film Studies minor. When trying to relax from work and school, she likes to read epic fantasy novels, watch cartoons, go to Disneyland, and drink unhealthy amounts of tea.

Emily Henderson is the Assistant News Editor for the Quaker Campus. She is a second-year English Creative Writing major with a Film Studies minor. When trying to relax from work and school, she likes to read epic fantasy novels, watch cartoons, go to Disneyland, and drink unhealthy amounts of tea.
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