By Lauren Chavez and Anais Hernandez, Apr. 12, 2022
Cal Poly Pomona community members returned from spring break with the option to no longer wear masks indoors, for the first time since the campus reopened, after the university officially lifted its indoor mask mandate effective April 2.
Cal Poly Pomona has aligned with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in giving students the option of wearing face coverings indoors. However, the university continues to strongly urge the use of masks to protect the campus community from COVID-19.
“We really want to create an environment where individuals can wear a mask if they feel that they need to based on their own concerns, their own sense of their own well-being, their own risks, risk analysis and make those determinations,” said Frances Teves, assistant vice president of Government and External Affairs and head of the Safer Return Task Force
According to Teves, the decision to lift the mandate was based on the daily monitoring of cases on campus as well as in the surrounding community. After observing that data, Teves felt their decision to remove the mask mandate indoors was in alignment with LA County.
Although CPP strongly recommends wearing a mask, Teves recognizes that lifting the mask mandate will create a sense of uncertainty. The Office of Government and External Affairs hopes to create a culture of care to make all individuals feel protected whether they decide to wear a mask or not.
“We recognize that we are living in continued uncertainty and so public health at any point in time could actually reinstate the masking requirement,” said Teves. “For instance, if there are variants of concern that are designated by the World Health Organization that could trigger a range of responses, that could reinstitute masking in LA County. If we had a cluster or an outbreak on campus, Cal OSHA or public health could also come in and reinstitute masking.”
To continue safety protocols, higher grade masks will continue to be available to campus community members and visitors at no cost.
In the event an individual experiences symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, an investigation team is available seven days a week to assist and guide those who have tested positive with the required next steps, said Teves.
According to Teves, vaccination rates have increased throughout campus. As of April 7, 76.9% of students, 77.6% of faculty and 70.1% of staff are either up to date with their vaccinations or are not yet eligible for the booster but have received their primary series. This would mean they are still in compliance until they are eligible to receive the additional dose.
As of March 22, 99.5% of students received their primary series.
The campus continues to boast higher rates of vaccination than LA County. As of April 8, 79% of county residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 71% have completed a primary vaccination series and 37% have at least one additional dose.
Along with vaccinations, Cal Poly Pomona’s compliance rate has been increasing, said Teves. As of April 7, 88.5% of students, 82.8% of faculty and 80.2% of staff have complied with one of the four requirements set by the California State University system’s newly revised interim COVID-19 policy.
In addition to getting vaccinated, campus community members can request a medical or religious exemption; 9.1% of students, 4.1% of faculty and 9.6% of staff have such an exemption. Additionally, 2.5% of students and 1.1% of faculty have self-attested that they will not be coming to campus. Staff do not have the option to self-attest.
“Our primary responsibilities are to help support student success and that means being here on campus to support the return of in-person student activities and instruction … our jobs require that we are at least on campus several days a week,” said Teves.
As of April 7, 12.9% of Cal Poly Pomona’s campus community are noncompliant with the vaccination policy.
According to Teves, masks will continue to be required indoors during vaccine pop-up clinics, in the CLA Paseo testing site and the Children’s Center.
Although face coverings will not be required indoors for unvaccinated individuals, they must continue to test weekly for COVID-19.
“I’m OK with any person deciding if they want to wear a mask or not,” said physics student Giovanni Miagony. “Personally, I still want to wear them so I can be respectful and have that kind of courtesy for others, but I was never worried about it from the beginning, just in general. I’m very much okay with it.”
Originally, students who had not yet completed one of the four actions were supposed to receive a registration hold on their BroncoDirect accounts beginning April 4. However, the university decided that holds will not be placed on their accounts at this time, said Dean of Students Jonathan Grady.
“We are recognizing that we need to give folks a little more grace due to some of the things that came to our attention as the team started calling students and hearing some of their confusion,” said Grady.
According to Grady, the campaign in reaching out to students to help understand what is expected of them has been successful and effective in significantly reducing the number of students who are not in compliance. Therefore, instead of placing holds when students are in contact with campus health services, Cal Poly Pomona is trying to work with them to resolve any confusion.
Cal Poly Pomona community members who have not yet fulfilled one of the requirements are continuously receiving communication through phone calls, Billy chat, emails and digital flyers to remind them to complete one of the four actions.
Vaccine pop-up clinics will be held every Thursday from April 14 to April 28 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Student Services Building for first, second or third COVID-19 vaccine doses. Students who are unsure if they are following one of the four requirements may also attend the pop-up clinics to check if any further action is needed.
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