January 28, 2021: Email from the Superintendent / President
Dear Cuesta College Community,
Throughout the pandemic, it has been challenging to maintain current COVID-19 information for our campus. In the early weeks of the shelter at home order, information changed so quickly that we were unable to compose and send notices before they were out of date. Since late December, the California and SLO County surge in positive cases has shifted focus from prevention through protocols, to ensuring ICU capacity to treat those critically ill and manage the distribution of vaccine.
This shift of focus has significantly impacted availability of information critical to planning and decision-making at Cuesta College. Just months ago, emails to SLO County DPH were answered within hours – or even minutes. Now, any questions posed by institutions or individuals, must be submitted via form. The question submitted more than two weeks ago no longer requires an answer since conditions have changed once again.
Discussion in College Council Tuesday provided a keen reminder that while there are more questions than there are answers, it would be helpful to share points of information that are key to decision-making for Summer and Fall 2021, and eventual return to campus. The information presented below is accurate now, but subject to change. It may change multiple times, very rapidly, or not at all, but these are key points of consideration for Cuesta College.
Vaccination All Cuesta College employees are in the education category of Phase 1b Tier 1. In alignment with Cal Poly and SLO County K-12 districts, three levels of priority have been determined for employees:
- Cuesta College Police Officers, employees rotating delivery of in-person services, faculty teaching courses on campus, custodians, athletic trainers, assistant coaches, health services employees, AV and PC techs.
- All employees assigned work on campus.
- Employees working and teaching remotely.
Cuesta College has included the few temporary and student workers currently employed in our prioritized list of 863 individuals. There are 20,000 education employees in SLO County. Once the education group begins the vaccine process, it will take 4-5 weeks at the current rate of vaccination for all to be completed.
Higher education is represented on the SLO County Vaccine Task Force by a Cal Poly leader from President Armstrong’s office. She provides comprehensive notes after each meeting and is diligent in ensuring that the Cuesta College perspective is presented.
There is no requirement that employees be vaccinated; however, it is strongly encouraged by CDC, CADPH, and SLO County DPH as an additional measure to ensure personal safety.
There is no current information regarding vaccine availability for local students.
COVID-19 PCR Testing Cuesta College will offer self-administered, mid-turbinate swab tests on campus in the next couple of weeks, perhaps sooner. The tests will be processed by the Valencia Branch Lab with rapid results. Testing on campus will be available for students and employees of Cuesta College. There is no charge, but you will be asked to supply your insurance information as this is part of the CA testing strategy. The on-site testing will support the requirement of sentinel testing for individuals in identified high-risk activities (athletics, voice, wind instruments, drama). and those desiring to test for other reasons.
Implementation of testing for employees and students is at the request of SLO County DPH. The intent is to slow the spread by identifying asymptomatic cases of disease and implementing isolation.
There is no requirement that employees be tested, except those directly connected to the high-risk activities identified by SLO County DPH.
Current information on exposure The surge of positive cases in SLO County has exceeded local contact tracing capacity. Employers now have more responsibility for determining exposure, possible exposure, and outbreak at worksites. In determining exposure and possible exposure, the key element is social distance. Under the current statewide mask mandate, it is expected that each person is wearing a face covering so the next determinant of potential exposure is distance:
Mask + social distance = no exposure
Mask + close proximity for 15 minutes = possible exposure
No mask + social distance = possible exposure
No mask + close proximity for 15 minutes = exposure
Masks are required on campus in accordance with the state mandate, even outdoors. Employees working alone in individual offices may remove their mask. Students are required to wear masks, enforced via the Student Code of Conduct, if necessary.
Looking ahead Planning for summer and fall is underway, yet the key information for solid decision-making is sparse. The following elements are ones that we continue to monitor, watching closely for changes:
Vaccination for students unknown when vaccine will be available for the 75% of Cuesta students aged 16 -29.
Vaccination of employees as noted earlier in this communication
Case rates in SLO County and contiguous counties
Higher Education Guidance from CDC, CADPH
SLO County move out of Purple Tier
New strains/Severity of disease
Cal Poly and SLO County K-12 instruction modalities ongoing communication and meetings with local education partners
Region 6 California Community College instruction and service modalities ongoing communication among CEOs regarding summer and fall planning
Consideration of 40 – 60 % campus instruction early target for fall 2021, but impacted by surge of COVID in SLO County. Ventura County Community College District colleges plan to offer 50% on campus instruction fall 2021.
Return to campus From the beginning of the shelter order and still today, each of us has unique personal situations that weigh into our preparedness to work on campus. There are functional areas where everyone has been working from campus throughout the pandemic. There are areas where a few individuals work from campus on a rotating basis. There are areas that remain fully remote. The District commitment to flexibility regarding work location is core to our plan for a safe and healthy return to campus for all.
At this time, no date for return to campus has been determined. Those employees who desire to return to their campus location are encouraged to work with their manager to facilitate the transition and scheduling.
Thank you for the kindness, flexibility, and encouragement that you extend to others. Now, more than ever, your service to students brings a beacon of hope for a brighter tomorrow. So let’s continue to be diligent in wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent hand washing. Your actions are key to maintaining safe and healthy campuses.
Jill Stearns, Ph.D.
Highway 1, San Luis Obispo, CA 93403
805.546.3118 | www.cuesta.edu