Isabella Lujan/ Courier PCC quad is left vacant due to campus closure on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
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Pasadena City College has been rushing to keep up with the necessary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic described by the school’s Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) plan.  

The ATD Emergency Preparedness Plan was made as a companion document to the college’s Emergency Operations Plan. It was released on March 5. The day before, on March 4, the first death in California related to the virus was confirmed and Gov. Newsom declared a state of emergency.

The plan identifies five levels, which correspond to the linear progression of a pandemic illness spread by coughing and sneezing, like COVID-19. 

Level one is a pre-pandemic baseline. Two is a minimal rate of infection, and three is moderate. Level four indicates a severe infection rate, while level five is a projected subsidence and recovery phase, where infection rates slowly drop and life eventually returns to normal.

According to PCC spokesperson Alex Boekelheide, PCC is currently at level four: Severe infection rate.

The ATD plan projects the need to suspend in-person teaching in favor of distance learning, and the closure of campus to students and non-essential personnel until level five is achieved.

“We recognized yesterday that when LA County and Gov. Newsom put out the order about non-essential personnel that it brought us up to Level 4,” said Boekelheide.

This order is the “Safer at Home Order for Control of COVID-19.” It prohibits all gatherings of ten or more people—public or private, indoor or outdoor—in the County of Los Angeles Public Health Jurisdiction from March 19 to April 19.

By the time PCC’s ATD plan was released, the infection rate had already progressed to level two. 

The disease was spreading at an increasing rate in the United States,and there were growing calls to limit gatherings of people. Schools around the country were moving toward remote instruction. 

As PCC prepared to adapt to these changing standards, the virus continued to spread. On March 9, the first confirmed case of community transmission of COVID-19 in LA County was recorded. 

On March 10, PCC President/Superintendent Erika Endrijonas announced in an email that the college would move to remote teaching wherever possible by March 18, and that large gatherings on campus would be canceled. These changes were projected to last through the end of spring break, April 20. At this point in time, PCC officials were not planning for campus closure.

One March 11, the first case of coronavirus in Pasadena was confirmed. With the first instance of infection in the surrounding community,  PCC’s ATD plan advanced to level three.

There had been a professional development day scheduled for Thursday, March 12. Instead of what was originally planned, the day was focused on catching up to the ATD plan’s recommendations of a full transition to remote instruction.

“We threw the whole schedule out the window and said this now all about operating under a situation where we’re near fully online,” said Boekelheide.

On March 12, each department was asked to identify their essential personnel, and to determine which aspects of their business could be conducted online. 

By the end of the day, the start date to transition to online instruction had been moved up from March 18 to March 16, the next Monday, and all sporting events were indefinitely postponed. 

Over the following weekend, the response to the pandemic intensified. President Trump declared a national state of emergency. LA County ordered restaurants to suspend dine-in service and recommended that schools close temporarily. 

PCC announced that access to campus would be restricted to essential personnel  through March 29, and later extended this date to April 20.

With that, PCC was in level four of its ATD plan, where it will remain until infection rates go down and the campus is advised to reopen.

Many classes have made the transition online, but it’s not an easy switch for all of them.  Classes such as labs, music ensembles, and physical education rely heavily on hands-on experience and interaction. 

“Some folks may be able to find a way to fill that time,” said Boekelheide. “Assuming we come back on April 20, they’ll be able to get back into lab mode and do things in person again. Other classes may have to be suspended or put on hiatus for the time being and then we’re going to have to solve that down the road once we come back and know more about how this is going to impact the bigger picture.”

PCC’s goal is to offer the same instruction and support services to every student remotely that they experienced on campus. As social distancing and campus closure continues, PCC will keep working  to fully enact the ATD response plan it has put into place,and eventually make the transition to level five: subsidence and recovery.

To stay updated on how PCC and local offices will respond to the COVID-19 pandemic going forward, check here.

Colin Jenkins

Colin Jenkins is a student in radio production and broadcast journalism at PCC. He has a B.A. in psychology from Earlham College. He grew up in Maryland listening to WAMU and WHFS (rip). He now lives in Hollywood with his wife, Bethy, a comedy writer who once told Laraine Newman where the bathroom was.

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