Posted on: September 5, 2021 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Ethan Holesha

By Ethan Holesha, Features Editor, and Mariah Trujillo, News Editor

The plan was in place, and it seemed like a sense of normalcy was returning. Students were back in the classroom, events were open to the public, and we knew what to do to protect the Moraine community from COVID-19: Check into classes using the CampusClear app, sit at least three feet apart from each other, wear your mask.

Unfortunately, the Delta variant had other plans, and the sense of security was short-lived as a new order threw everyone for a loop. On Aug. 26, Gov. J. B. Pritzker issued a mandate requiring all higher education personnel and students to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

“The quick spread of this disease in Illinois and across the country is holding us all back from the post-pandemic life we so desperately want to embrace, and it’s harming the most vulnerable among us,” Pritzker said in a news release.

Late last week, Moraine officials were still figuring out what the implementation of the mandate would look like for students, faculty and staff.

“I don’t know, and I know that right now all of the administrators and us, we’re all kind of scrambling to figure it out,” said Troy Swanson, department chair of the library and president of the Moraine Valley Faculty Association. “We don’t know and everyone’s doing their best to try and find out.” 

Photo by Joey Fernandez
Cook County public health worker Crystao Winston assists with a vaccine clinic in Moraine Valley’s M building on Aug. 31. Additional vaccine clinics will be offered from 4-8 p.m. on Sept. 7 and 28.

Initially, the mandate required everyone to receive (at least) a single dose of the vaccine prior to Sept. 5. That deadline has since been extended to Sept. 19. If the vaccine requires two doses, the second dose must be received no later than 30 days after the previous. Those who choose to go against the mandate for religious and/or medical reasons will be subjected to weekly testing.

While many people suspected new regulations would come, the mandate forced Moraine to move quickly as this was now a legal issue. 

“College administration is responsible for ensuring the college is in compliance with the governor’s order, so leadership immediately reacted by meeting to assess what the order means to students and employees and began to determine the next steps,” said Clare Briner, director of Marketing and Communications.

However, implementing the order may prove challenging, as less than 20 percent of the student population has submitted proof of vaccination, despite a financial incentive that has been offered by the college since before the new mandate. Students can receive a refund equivalent to one in-district credit hour ($131) by showing they are fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.

“I was in a meeting and they said that out of our 6,000 students, only 1,100 students have taken advantage of that free tuition credit by being vaccinated,” Swanson said. “We don’t know if those students aren’t vaccinated or if they just don’t know about [the incentive].”

New app replaces CampusClear Tuesday

As a way to ensure students and staff are vaccinated and/or getting tested, CampusClear will no longer be used. Instead, a new app called Cleared4Class will be taking its place. 

Beginning Tuesday, all on-campus students and college employees are expected to make this transition. Cleared4Class will not only secure your vaccination and/or testing records but will also alert you via email and/or text message when necessary.

The college faces additional challenges in supplying students and staff with the means to get vaccinated as well as providing clinics to get tested for those who choose to opt out of the vaccine.

“I’m under the impression that there will be more clinics,” said Delwyn Jones, who is grievance chair for the Moraine Valley Faculty Association as well as vice president of the Cook County College Teachers Union. “Meanwhile, there’s going to be another outside organization that’s going to come in to provide testing for us.” 

Weekly on-campus testing for employees and students will begin Tuesday. Testing will occur in Building M, Moraine Rooms, on the first floor and be executed using the RT-PCR test (the saliva test). This week’s testing times are Tuesday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Thursday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. More information and times will be announced in the coming weeks.

What happens if there’s an outbreak?

Of most concern to students is what happens if, despite all these measures, there is an outbreak. If an individual tests positive, what does that mean for a student, professor or even an entire class? 

The college has protocols in place: After the test is administered, results will show between 12-24 hours on your Cleard4Class account, and you may remain on campus until your results are given. If your results are negative for COVID-19, you may come to campus, but you must retest within seven days. If your results are positive, you are no longer allowed on campus and you must isolate yourself.

“Only you would have to quarantine unless the contact tracers determine that another student was in ‘close contact,’” Briner said. “If an entire class needed to be quarantined, the administration would work with the faculty members to determine the best way to successfully complete the semester.”

Not everyone is happy about the vaccine mandate. First-year radiology student Rachel Garcia captured the views of some students and faculty who feel people should not be forced to be vaccinated because “everyone has a right to their own body.”

But Jones summed up the situation: “There’s no decision that the governor can make, the college can make, the president can make, that will satisfy everyone. We move on with what we have and make the best out of it.”