Spring Return Requires Vaccinations, Has New Wrinkles

Follow our COVID-19 coverage for more on how Mt. SAC is handling the pandemic


Abraham Navarro

Luis Mendoza receives his vaccine at Mt. SAC on April 8 2021. Photo credit: Abraham Navarro/SAC.Media.

With vaccination proof and exemption paperwork now past due, Mt. SAC has walked its own path in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back In The Fall | Positive Cases | Hard Numbers | Deadlines Testing & Vaccination Efforts | Symptomatic Direction

Students had to create a Cleared4 account and upload proof of their first dose by Feb. 11 and their full vaccination status by March 25 as vaccinations are required for all students with in-person and hybrid classes for spring.

New Mt. SAC students are required to upload proof of their first dose no later than Feb. 17.

Students in the process of acquiring their second dose will be required to test weekly. Students who do not upload vaccination proof will be dropped from their in-person and hybrid classes.

Mt. SAC currently offers free on-campus testing by the following locations:

  • Building 4 Administration (near the flag poles) Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Building 67A (east campus) from Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Students with exemptions will also be required to test weekly.

Paperwork for religious and medical exemptions was due on Feb. 11. Medical exemptions require students to fill out a form and their medical providers to fill out a form. Religious exemptions only require students to fill out one form.

Information and messaging regarding boosters has been inconsistent.

While the college encourages students to get the booster shot, there has been no known deadline for when evidence of booster shots is due. Sections on the website say that students who are eligible for booster shots but do not receive them will be required to test weekly, but Cleared4 shows those same students that they are cleared for campus.

Mt. SAC will continue to use World Back to Work as their provider for testing and results will come quicker. It used to provide results 48-72 hours after a test was taken but now results will come in 24 hours.

This company provides PCR nasal and PCR saliva testing for the college, but Mt. SAC is looking to add antigen testing in the future, according to a report at the Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 12.

The isolation period has changed to keep individuals home for a minimum of five days to keep in line with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. All positive individuals – regardless of vaccination status – must isolate until symptoms resolve and a negative test is received.

Those who have not received a booster are required to stay home for at least five days if they come in contact with someone who tests positive and must get an antigen test on day five or later.

Those who have received their booster and have come in contact with someone who has tested positive are not required to quarantine as long as they are asymptomatic. They are still recommended to test on day five or later.

Keeping in line with the county further, employees have been required to wear medical grade, surgical, KN95 or N95 filtering masks at all times while indoors since Jan. 17.

These actions follow the federal government’s decision on Jan. 18 to provide four free tests per household through their own website. Gov. Gavin Newsom also unveiled a new budget with $2.7 billion allocated towards COVID-19 relief following a new state ordinance on Dec. 5 that requires vaccination proof in order to enter indoor spaces.

Back In The Fall (^)

Last semester, things were set in motion after pressure from Mt. SAC’s faculty and staff.

After a lengthy Aug. 11 meeting, the fall semester brought forward a Board of Trustees resolution on Aug. 13 that required students to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing in order to attend in-person classes. The resolution also required students to be fully vaccinated for Winter and Spring 2022 with the weekly testing option removed.

Masks were also required indoors to keep in line with the county’s health order until the end of the fall semester. This was continued into the Spring 2022 semester. Individuals can pick up masks and face coverings from Police and Campus Safety or from their classrooms.

The option for fall was criticized by several faculty members who preferred students be vaccinated. At that time, Mt. SAC was one of a shrinking pool of schools to not have a “full” vaccination mandate.

Faculty were also upset that five LHE units had to be 80:20 percent breakdown of in-person to online classes, which professors said did not track with enrollment figures. Counseling also had to fight for equity, which was renegotiated in a side letter. Classified had a similar struggle at later meetings.

The option to test, though it received some push back, was comparable to union groups on campus who were able to test through their negotiated agreements.

Students were supposed to be vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 each week as of Aug. 16 and employees were provided with personal protective equipment among other resources.

Classrooms were equipped with 350 3-ply masks, five bottles of 16 oz hand sanitizer, five face shields, one box of gloves and one 400 count container of disinfectant wipes. Staff members who need more PPE may request it on an online request form.

Positive Cases (^)

Positive cases increased following the return to campus. SAC.Media chronicled one outbreak in its own newsroom and concerns made by other individuals on campus alongside the process of “deep cleaning.”

Figures varied and were updated continuously last year in an infrequent manner from Aug. 22 on. There were about 27 updates for the 18 weeks between Sept. 1 and the end of the year.

The college’s COVID-19 Dashboard had various different metrics and iterations from its creation to its current form.

It started out by listing data from the start of the pandemic until Aug. 22, 2021 and splitting the data into cases of “quarantine” and “isolation.”

The dashboard also provided the following definitions:

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

For that week, the data was modified from 55 students and 38 employees

The college then pivoted to “active cases” and “positive cases” for the week of Sept. 11. It retained the isolation definition, but explained why quarantine data was no longer collected. Isolation data was then reframed into “active cases” and updates were expected to be posted twice a week (according to the dashboard itself).

The dashboard also provided the following definition and explanation:

  • “Active cases” are the current positive cases and are currently isolating between the dates listed above.
  • Quarantine data was not collected due to it being highly variable dependent on several factors such as vaccination status, student or employee, and “modified quarantine” for students.

For the week of Sept. 23, the dashboard included an updated version of the above before the format changed again. This latest version added testing into the mix and transitioned “active cases” into “positive cases.”

  • “Total cases” refer to those from March 20, 2020 to the week reported.
  • “On Campus Tests” refers to the number of on-campus COVID-19 tests during the specified period of time.
  • “Positive Test Results” refers to the total number of positive COVID-19 tests from on-campus COVID-19 tests during that period of time.
  • “Weekly Positivity Rate” is the percentage of people who tested positive of those who have been tested.

On-campus testing would come later for past weeks and several future weeks also include “coming soon” as their metric.

Hard Numbers (^)

The data provided by the college can be found on the dashboard, but SAC.Media has tracked it and made it into a graphic for easier analysis.

Deadlines Testing & Vaccination Efforts (^)

Similar to what has been sent out in COVID-19 alerts to Mt. SAC emails and the college’s website, more information was released.

Testing sites were opened on campus on Sept. 7, as other deadlines passed for students. Maps were also created to show where each site is located.

The refund deadline was Sept. 3 and the last day to drop without a “W” was Sept. 6. Students can no longer drop anytime without penalty as of this semester as the policy regarding “EW” has changed. Students must submit a Petition for Exceptional Action to the Admissions office to drop with an “EW” and the last day to drop with a “W” was Oct. 28.

By Sept. 12, vaccination proof was due immediately while only around 8,500 students, or roughly 38-39% of students, had submitted that information through Cleared4. Those who did not upload proof risked losing access to their in-person classes.

This problem compounded for students receiving financial aid. Some students who lost family members and overcame other hardships have had issues with their aid being revoked.

Faculty, who were left with the job of enforcing clearance from Cleared4, were provided with next steps.
If a student or staff member has a positive case, facilities will close down the room that the individual was in for a day for it to be cleaned. There will then be a temporary location provided for other classes that use the same room.

From there, that individual is to reach out to contract tracing whether it be through email or the form.

That starts an investigative process where the contact tracers verify that the case is positive and will reach out to everyone who was within six feet of the individual for 15 minutes or more.

Vaccinated individuals were to self quarantine for 24 hours and unvaccinated individuals were to quarantine for 10 days. Instructors, if they feel able, were to teach online during their quarantine.
In the case of faculty needing to “pivot” their course online during the semester, a Canvas course with guidance has been provided to faculty in Fowler’s email as well. The course has further information on how to keep classes running during an outbreak in an in-person classroom using FOMAR and other means.

Aside from professors adjusting to these new requirements, several students had concerns and struggles dealing with not only Cleared4, but its implementation in classrooms.

Some professors ignored the printed roster designations, while others complained that it took up valuable teaching time to enforce.

Students were administratively dropped on Oct. 8 after a single emergency meeting of the Academic Senate on Oct. 7 to discuss the mandates.

Several faculty members advocated for students to be allowed to keep attending in-person classes while others argued for the necessity of mandating vaccinations.

The Academic Senate supported the resolution’s mandate in a 43-3 vote, and took their resolution in support of the mandate to the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 13.

Despite this going forward at the Oct. 13 meeting, several individuals spoke out with concerns for the roughly 3,500 students that were testing each week. Certain sections of the campus, including the School of Continuing Education, are expected to undergo significant losses due to several students on the noncredit side opting out of vaccination for various reasons.

Symptomatic Direction (^)

Mt. SAC advises students to stay home if they are feeling sick. Students are to fill out a student health check form if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive, and they should also notify their professors and/or campus employers.

Contact tracers can be reached at (909) 274-6900 or [email protected].