COS Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate


Matthew Figueroa

Mask protocols at COS inside all buildings

As of right now there are no plans for College of the Sequoias to mandate a vaccine for students, but faculty and staff are now required by the district to be vaccinated, while a weekly testing option remains open for those that wish to stay unvaccinated.

According to Tulare County Covid-19 data and information, 3,980 people have tested positive recently, and there are 172 confirmed Covid-19 hospitalization cases due to the Delta Variant.

“ Outside of every building like the bookstore and cafeteria it says masks are required to be in buildings,” said Emily Contreras, a math major at COS.

Contreras is a student, and she works in the activities and affairs office. As a student and employee, she feels safe at COS with the mask and social distancing precautions, but would not be against a student vaccine mandate for extra safety.

This staff-required vaccine mandate has come 4 weeks after COS has been open to its students.

“We are concerned—not just for ourselves but for our students as well—and [we] are concerned for the people around us,” said Samantha Brookshire, adjunct Professor at COS.

One of Brookshire’s initial concerns about returning to campus was how it would affect
her personal life. Each night when she comes home to her husband, she will be exposing him to the possible Covid-19 virus. Brookshire said she returned in person to be able to teach at least two classes: one online and one in-person to help make a steady income. Now the mandate changes everything–the level of safety for students and staff.

The vaccine and testing requirement at COS comes at a time when LA county has mandated all students to be vaccinated age 12 and older, with some exceptions. While the faculty and staff at LA county were given the same mandate as COS in August.

“I think students have to weigh out the risk options and benefits to determine what is best for them and their family,” said Lorrie Campbell, a nursing Professor at COS.

Campbell feels like COS has set up a safe environment through Covid testing, and is providing quality information about likely causes. She believes that although the mandate is important it is not a law, and people’s rights still need to be honored.

The UC and CSU college systems have also required Covid vaccinations for anyone returning to campus before the fall semester started with a precondition that they must show proof of vaccination, except for religious, or health-related reasons, for students and staff.

“If we continue to open up our campus despite all these growing numbers, that is one form of institutional racism,” said Robert Vasquez, a tenured English Professor.

Vasquez said that 65% or 70% of the student body at COS are Latino. By reopening campus it is jeopardizing the Latino population and putting them in harm’s way—suggesting that this is a form of racism. He believes that COS should have followed the UC system this semester, while the Delta variant changes the dynamic, yet again.

”I see the opposite. I see an equity issue,” countered Dr. La Serna, Vice President of academic services.

Dr. La Serna feels there will be a gap between students that are unwilling to be vaccinated, for personal reasons, and those that are willing to be vaccinated. This semester 50% of classes were in person and 50% were online, so students had an option to choose what was safer. The college campus is following CDC guidelines of social distancing and mask protocols, including Tulare County guidelines.

Next semester of Spring 2021, COS is planning on having 60% percent of its classes in person–in a normal year that number would be 80% and this Fall it is only 49%. There will still be an option for online classes about 30% are remaining online 10% less than this semester, and 10% of classes will remain as hybrids. The College is continuing to update its plans for next semester, which means things are likely to change.

“ We are receiving positive feedback from students,” said Dr. La Serna, “ That they are willing to do anything to be in person.”