As of yesterday, LA County has moved from the red tier (substantial risk) to the orange tier (moderate risk) for COVID-19, as cases have been dropping and ICU availability has increased. With the county continuing to improve, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) announced at its Student Return forum that it is leaning towards mandating COVID-19 vaccines for returning students.
The increasing number of vaccinations across LA county has helped to decrease the number of cases. On April 15, all California residents above the age of 16 will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Center for Disease Control, vaccinated individuals have a very low probability of transmitting COVID-19 to others.
At the Student Return forum, CMC announced that it is currently looking into the legality of a vaccination mandate. The college already requires that students be vaccinated for diseases like diphtheria and whooping cough, among others. If the CMC encounters no legal problems, it will most likely mandate the vaccine.
According to CMC, a limited number of students may be exempted from the vaccine for legitimate medical reasons and religious beliefs. The college will also allow a “small window” for exemptions based on personal beliefs.
CMC has already started tracking vaccinations among its students and faculty through a health screening site. The tracking mechanism is not yet standardized across the 5c’s. This discussion is still ongoing.
When asked at the forum, CMC was unable to give an exact picture of what sorts of regulations students might face on a reopened campus. Under LA county’s current restrictions, the college said that it would require masks in public and possibly in classrooms, as well as social distancing. There would also be certain gathering restrictions. All these procedures are subject to change as the county’s regulations become more or less strict, a factor largely dependent on whether or not the United States reaches the herd immunity of 80% or higher projected by several major sources.
CMC also confirmed that residential life will be different than in previous years. No triple rooms will be available to students due to increased numbers of students deferring this semester and the potential county limitations on on-campus housing for students.
To make up for the lack of on-campus residences, CMC has extended its lease on Alexan Kendry apartments for next semester. The apartments will be made available during the room draw process alongside CMC’s own dorms. Students living in the Alexan Kendry apartments will get a shuttle to move them to campus. Students on financial aid will be able to apply to live off-campus next year.
Within the dorms, CMC is working closely with consultants, doctors, and county officials to ensure it is in compliance with LA county regulations. CMC may require students to wear masks, develop enhanced cleaning schedules, and limit the number of students at social gatherings. The college is also considering establishing reservation-only lounges and social spaces. CMC may also restrict or bar visitors from campus.
A return to campus includes a revival of in-person classes. According to CMC, students will be expected to take all their classes in person, barring exceptional circumstances. Few if any courses will be available online. Under this policy, taking classes from home would require “a lot of conversation” with professors and administrators alike.
CMC also explained that, while students will be expected to take all their classes in-person, some of the other member institutions may choose to create campus “bubbles” as part of their own quarantine efforts. Under normal circumstances, students at any of the Claremont Colleges may cross-register in courses at any of the other member institutions.
CMC will continue to provide students with updates as the situation in LA county and across the country develops.
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