As COVID-19 cases rise in the U.S., so do questions about what adjustments the world, and Whittier College, face. On Dec. 28, Whittier College sent out an email detailing the changes to testing upon returning to campus and the new requirement to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster as soon as possible. The College postponed the JanTerm study abroad to Seville, Spain to MayTerm 2022. While it is up to professors’ discretion to host their classes over Zoom, other colleges made the decision to switch to virtual learning for the first few weeks of January and institute further safety policies upon returning physically.
In the first four days of 2022, L.A. County reported over 80,000 new COVID-19 cases, and the daily case average — over 20,000 — is over two times higher than the daily average throughout Fall 2021. The rise in cases occurred as both the holiday season and Omicron variant sweep the country. According to the CDC, the Omicron variant is likely more contagious than the original virus, but the severity of the illness is still unknown. An email the Whittier College COVID-19 Compliance Task Force sent out on Jan. 5, the first day of JanTerm, stated that “over 30 cases of COVID-19 related to the Whittier campus have been reported since the holidays.” Thus far, the college has made two changes to their safety policies to address the increasing cases: increased testing and requiring boosters.
In an email sent on Dec. 28, the College urged students physically returning to campus to get tested (independently of the College) 24 – 48 hours before returning to campus. All students enrolled in an in-person JanTerm, Winter/Spring athletes using campus facilities (regardless of enrollment in JanTerm), and students residing or returning to campus before Jan. 18 are required to test within 48 hours of returning to campus. This policy is a change from the testing of only residential students after the Thanksgiving break.
PCR testing is available on campus at the following dates and times:
- AJ Villalobos Hall: Jan. 4 – 7 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
- Ball Hall Living Learning Center: Jan. 4 – 6 and 9 from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.
- AJ Villalobos Hall: Jan. 10 – 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
For on-campus testing, individuals are advised to not drink, eat, wear lipstick or other lip products, smoke, or chew gum for an hour prior to testing. The College has not shared with students what testing protocol for staff and faculty is. Students who get tested off campus can upload test results through the Student Health Portal found under quick links on my.whittier.edu.
In the previously referenced Dec. 28 email, the College announced that the COVID-19 booster would be required for students, staff, and faculty for the Spring Semester. Both the Jan. 5 and Dec. 28 emails said that more information regarding this requirement would be forthcoming. The College is currently encouraging staff, faculty, and students to get the booster as soon as eligible. For individuals that received a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, they are eligible to receive a booster five months after the second dose, for those who received Moderna, eligibility begins six months after the second dose, and for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, people are eligible for a booster two months after receiving their vaccination. Pfizer and Moderna boosters are recommended regardless of your original vaccine. Students are encouraged to upload proof of booster by Jan. 14 if eligible. Consequences of not receiving the booster dose have yet to be shared; however, students who were not vaccinated in Fall 2021 or did not receive a medical or religious exemption faced disenrollment.
Precautions of Colleges Nationwide
Colleges across the country have made the decision to return to virtual learning for the first few weeks of the Spring semester. Locally, University of California Los Angeles and the University of Southern California decided in mid-December to reinstate distance learning for the beginning of their Spring terms. Chapman University switched all classes for their interterm (similar to JanTerm) and Spring semester online for the first week of the respective terms. The brief switch to virtual learning is done to offset the return to campus/residences from the holidays and the return to physical classes.
The University of Southern California announced that it would be requiring K95, KN95, and KF94 masks, as L.A. County recommends. Whittier College is still requiring masks for JanTerm and the Spring semester, but have not added any stipulations to mask requirements in 2022; neck gaiters and bandanas are still unacceptable. Furthermore, the College was not enforcing social distancing in classrooms in 2021, and it is unclear if this will be required in 2022. Additionally, while testing requirements have been changed to within 48 hours of returning to campus, the College has not yet answered whether testing will be required again within three to five days of returning to campus, as was the policy after returning from Thanksgiving Break.
During JanTerm, students are recommended to complete their work-study remotely, if possible, and contact their supervisors. Students not taking a JanTerm should not return to campus, and residential students not taking an in-person JanTerm should not return until Jan. 23, prior to the start of the Spring semester, unless they have been otherwise notified. The College requires the health screening form be filled out every day a student (residential or commuter) accesses campus. While it is uncertain what the College will look like during the Spring semester, the COVID-19 Compliance Task Force urges students, staff, and faculty to closely follow all protocol and precautions in order to successfully maintain a safe campus environment. Any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Image: Brianna Wilson / Quaker Campus