Just when we began to think that we might finally be able to focus on the everyday cares of the college, the Omicron spike came crashing through the holiday, reminding us of how important it is to manage and control the impact of this demonic bug. A recent headline for a Baltimore Sun article shared an appropriate bit of conventional wisdom depicting the evolution of the mitigation strategy we have used against COVID-19 at the Community College of Baltimore County:
“COVID is NOT going away but it will fade into the background.”
The virus is here; it will continue to be here; and instead of allowing it to occupy center stage, we have to deal with it…and at CCBC we have! Because we have built an impressive roster of safety protocols, we can stare down the virus; manage it with appropriate aggressiveness; insist upon full cooperation of students and employees; and thus remain fully open as we have been since June 2020 to serve and support all who come to us, both remotely and in person.
In short, we at CCBC believe we have managed to do the “extraordinary!” As our protocols have matured, our strategy has evolved from confronting COVID-19 as a pandemic to addressing it as an endemic. Our strategy over time has shown the wisdom of using both mitigation and transmission prevention techniques. Hence, with slight modification, we can now shift from reacting to each COVID spike as a crisis (and another Omicron offspring is already lifting its pernicious head) to safely living and working with the virus on a daily basis.
While others are just now moving from containment to management, we have been there from the beginning. The result: our campuses are safe; all through Delta, Nu and into Omicron, the number of infections has remained routinely low: roughly 20 per week out of a population of 3,000 employees and 45,000 students. The recipe for containment: mandatory masking, mandatory vaccination or weekly testing for faculty and staff, as well as liberal access for others to campus testing centers; installing air filtration systems; maintaining social distancing throughout classrooms and public spaces; maintaining classrooms at 75% capacity; offering vaccination and booster clinics; and distributing KN95 masks.
The bottom line is that the holiday spike has ebbed and the state’s positivity rate is plummeting. We are back into our “hybrid” mode for this year. The result of all this careful management is the college has been able to shift from an initial reaction to each COVID spike as a crisis to the reality of co-existing with it daily.
We are of course still encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. The statistics clearly show the benefit of taking that step. It may be that our Ravens are regretting not moving in that direction as they ponder what “might have been” for the team this year if not for COVID. One NFL coach described this year’s season as suffering from “roster carnage;” he compared the body count to that of “Squid Game” (his image, not mine)! At CCBC our approach has been calm, cautious and highly effective. If you want to study or work at CCBC we will provide the safe environment, but you must obey our rules.