This week, I am thankful to have good news to share. Orange County's COVID-19 seven-day number for new cases is one-third the figure from late August. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of Orange County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That seems to echo progress seen throughout California, which now has one of the lowest rates for new COVID-19 infections in the United States.
It feels as though we are turning a corner, but of course we were here before in March and April. That hopeful spring turned to a summer of disappointment. The lesson is that we cannot rush a recovery. The virus is still spreading freely in other parts of the nation and world. We must be vigilant in protecting our district, colleges, communities, and families.
At the same time, our educational mission does not stop. Your support for our students is just as important in October 2021 as it was in October 2019. The benefits of an in-person college experience, even for those primarily online, are just as tangible now as they were then.
The move to a three-day-per-week in-person schedule for offices is intended to be cautiously balanced. It is my hope that you find ways to maximize that time in person to support our students of highest need and provide essential support for your colleagues.
To help keep you and our students safe while at the Coast District, office/department occupancy will be kept to 50 percent of normal, enhanced cleaning and airflow practices will remain in place, face covering requirement and social distancing guidance will be enforced, and we are taking steps to implement the vaccination mandate with testing protocol.
Balance is one of the hardest things to maintain when facing uncertainty. We should embrace good news without losing perspective. We should practice caution without being frozen in fear. I'm grateful that the Coast District has been able to have the hard conversations necessary to keep our footing while moving forward.
The work we do in the remainder of fall semester 2021 will set the pace for our return in spring semester 2022 – a return that we can hopefully maintain for good.
John Weispfenning, Ph.D.