Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

President's Update - March 21, 2022

PURPOSE: To announce updates to the college mask mandate 

As I’ve written before, Governor Inslee lifted the State’s indoor mask mandate in most settings, including schools, on March 12. The Department of Health’s updated guidance for higher education allows fully-vaccinated campuses like RTC to make masks optional. Starting March 28, masks will be optional on RTC’s main campus and other sites. 

We understand our community members may feel strongly about this change, and we ask you to respect individual choices. For many, mask-wearing remains an important preventive measure and offers peace of mind. Please feel free to continue wearing high-quality, well-fitting masks as needed to protect your health and those in your household. The college will continue to supply KN95 masks to staff and students.

Important Reminders 

  • Those coming to campus must continue to fill out the daily health check form before arriving on campus this spring. Do not come to campus if you have COVID-like symptoms.
  • Report any positive cases—this is still required under State guidance.
  • Employees and students must comply with ongoing vaccination/exemption requirements. Visit the COVID page for more details. Student vaccination attestation remains required. Unvaccinated employees with approved exemptions will still be required to comply with accommodations through Human Resources.
  • RTC will maintain its upgraded air filters, ventilation, and disinfecting standards.
  • We will let you know if there are changes to the state’s Higher Education Proclamation that affect RTC.
  • Vaccines and boosters work! People who are not fully vaccinated and boosted are 2 times more likely to test positive, 14 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 21 times more likely to die from COVID than those who are vaccinated and boosted. Please vax and boost to avoid the most severe effects of COVID. Our Tuesday Vaccine Clinic will continue, including for young children when that is approved.

Positive Signs

The CDC’s new guidance shows that in many places, including King County, COVID cases, transmission, hospitalization, and death are low (for example, 1.2 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents in the past week). This is the data behind the lifting of mask mandates.

Caution

Last June we were optimistic that by fall most of the effects of COVID would have ended. Then came Delta; then came Omicron. We will continue to utilize the knowledge of public health experts as we set policy at the college and we will continue to adapt to the realities of situation.

Best,

Kevin

President's Update - March 3, 2022

PURPOSE: To update the community about the State mask mandate

As has been widely publicized, Governor Inslee is lifting the State’s indoor mask mandate in many settings, including schools, on March 12. However, business, local governments, and schools can still choose to maintain vaccination and mask requirements. At this time, Renton Technical College will maintain its indoor mask requirement through the end of the winter quarter so that the transition can be as smooth as possible.

The State is working on the many details required to change the regulations that still hold the force of law for higher education. We will be able to make more informed policy decisions when new regulations are announced, perhaps by mid-March. As the Governor’s messages show, many protocols will remain in place. Thank you for your patience.

POSITIVE SIGNS

The CDC’s new guidance shows that in many places, including King County, COVID cases, transmission, hospitalization, and death are low. This is the data behind the lifting of mask mandates.

Vaccines and boosters work! People who are not fully vaccinated and boosted are 3 times more likely to test positive, 27 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 34 times more likely to die from COVID than those who are vaccinated and boosted. Please vax and boost to avoid the most severe effects of COVID. Our Tuesday Vaccine Clinic will continue, including for young children when that is approved.

As this shows, vaccinations improve your chance of not getting COVID, but they don’t eliminate the possibility. Properly fitting masks, like the KN95/N95 masks the college supplies to staff and students, are highly effective in protecting you from the virus when in close contact, in enclosed spaces, and over time. 

CAUTION

Last June we were optimistic that by fall most of the effects of COVID would have ended. Then came Delta; then came Omicron. We will continue to utilize the knowledge of public heath experts as we set policy at the college and we will continue to adapt to the realities of situation.

Best,

Kevin


President's Update - Jan. 7, 2022

PURPOSE: The purpose of this message is to help all of us address the increased threat of COVID transmission on campus and COVID-related operations. This is a long message with a lot of important information. Please read it all.


DO NOT COME TO CAMPUS IF YOU FEEL AT ALL SICK: transmission of COVID is especially high these days, in part because symptoms are very mild for some, yet extremely serious for others who might catch it from those less affected. Work with your instructor or supervisor to arrange alternate assignments.

We have confirmed COVID-19 cases at RTC this week in one of our programs, which we believe might be related to each other. Our Facilities staff deep-cleaned and sanitized all areas. Faculty and Administration are planning how to move forward with next week’s instruction in that program. Read more about how we make these decisions and other frequent questions below.

INSTRUCTIONAL PLAN—Dr. Delaney updated faculty on Thursday with these points:

  1. Are we going to close the campus and shift to entirely remote instruction again? Not at the moment. The COVID situation is changing rapidly, but we would like to stay open and retain face-to-face instruction where it continues to be safe. As a reminder, our updated campus COVID plan is fully explained here.
  2. Program by Program approach: Faculty, along with their deans and administrators, will determine how to proceed when positive results are reported. Short-term alterations of practice will allow for long-term continuity of instruction and operations.
  3. What should I do if I or someone in my class is sick or is exposed to someone who is sick? Check out this information from the Washington State Department of Health or review this flowchart.

STUDENTS AND EMPLOYEES HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PROPERLY WEAR MASKS and failure to do so is a student conduct or disciplinary issue.

PLEASE GET VACCINATED AND A BOOSTER IF YOU HAVE NOT DONE SO: For those for whom vaccination is medically advisable, I hope that people’s earlier hesitancy to get vaccinated has given way to the reality that vaccines are very effective in limiting the consequences of COVID-19 for individuals and those they are in contact with.

WE CONTINUE TO LEARN MORE EVERY DAY ABOUT THE OMICRON VARIANT. Our team bases decisions on a thorough review of public health officials' advice; consultation with other colleges, universities, and their contexts; and discussions with faculty and staff leadership. We will strive to continue in-person services unless circumstances or staff dictate changes.

Like us, the vast majority of community and technical colleges continue their hybrid and flex instruction and in-person services that have been so successful during the pandemic.

We are continuing to listen to the experts and will keep you updated as new information becomes available. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email me.

Take care of yourself and each other,

Kevin


Omicron Update - Jan. 2, 2022

We have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 Omicron variant’s prevalence, and in-person instruction and services will continue as scheduled with additional safety measures in place. We have been providing hands-on learning in a safe setting since Summer 2020 because we know how valuable it is for our students’ education and career training. We have enhanced our safety protocols to minimize transmission on campus and have updated guidance for those who test positive or are exposed.

Quarantine/Isolation

We know some people in our community tested positive over the winter break, but fortunately we have had no reports of on-campus transmission. If you test positive, please make sure you complete your 5-day isolation period before returning to campus. Review updated guidelines from the CDC.

Report Positive Cases

If you work at RTC or attend RTC as a student and test positive after being on campus, report it to the college with this link.

Masks

Masks remain required indoors on campus this academic year. Because of Omicron’s transmissibility, for your own health and safety and that of others around you, we now strongly recommend at least a surgical mask or KN95/N95 masks, not just cloth masks or gaiters. If you do not have one, the college has a limited supply of surgical or KN95 masks available in classrooms, labs, and the second floor of the I-Building. The mask mandate will be actively enforced at the college.

Daily Health Check

Before you come to campus each day, fill out your daily Health Check as a way to help ensure you are feeling well and should visit campus. Supervisors and faculty will monitor compliance.

Do NOT come to campus if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. The Omicron variant produces lesser symptoms in vaccinated individuals that present as cold symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, or headache. If you experience these symptoms, get tested and stay home.

Get Vaccinated and Boosted!

Full vaccination and boosters for eligible individuals remains the surest way to avoid COVID or have less severe symptoms if you catch it. 

RTC will continue to have weekly COVID-19 Vaccine clinics supported by Bird’s Eye Medical every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the RTC Cafeteria starting January 4, 2022. Register now.

Ventilation

We have upgraded the air filtration systems in high-use buildings as well as increased the air exchange. This brings in outside air more often.

Sanitation and Hygiene

Our custodial staff sanitize classrooms and common areas every day. Sanitation stations are available throughout campus. Wash your hands regularly.

Please read the information below from the Centers for Disease Control and King County Public Health for more information regarding the Omicron variant.

Thank you all for your vigilance in keeping our community healthy.


FOR STUDENTS

Under the Governor’s Proclamation for Institutions of Higher Education from July 12, 2021, RTC will require vaccines against COVID-19 for all on-campus students before the start of in-person classes. You must either be vaccinated—our very strong recommendation for personal and community health—or claim a medical or religious, exemption to participate in on-campus instruction or activities. Students involved in fully remote instruction and support services do not need to follow these directives. Public policy is changing rapidly along with the spread of the virus, and it is likely that students may face greater restrictions in state and local policy in the future, especially after the FDA gives full (not emergency) authorization to the vaccines.

Please visit the COVID19 Information for Students page to fill out the Attestation Form and get the latest updates.

Information For Students


FOR EMPLOYEES 

Citing the scientific evidence of the coronavirus variant, Governor Inslee modified his vaccination requirement for employees working in most educational fields. Higher education employees now must be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021, as a condition of employment unless they claim a legitimate and documented medical or religious exemption. Previously allowable philosophic exemptions are no longer accepted. This legally binding order means that Renton Technical College cannot employ individuals who are out of compliance with this order as of October 18, 2021. The impacts of this order on represented employees may be bargained, but again, it is a condition of employment. Read the proclamation for state employees.

Information For Employees


FOR EVERYONE 

In addition, starting Monday, August 23, the Governor has reinstated a mask mandate for all individuals—vaccinated and unvaccinated—in public places. This will not change much on campus as we already require face coverings indoors. The nuance is that vaccinated individuals are allowed not to wear a face-covering in a non-public workspace; unvaccinated individuals must always wear masks indoors.

Please get vaccinated!

I hope that none of our great faculty and staff have to be let go in October for not following this condition of employment. As I’ve written before, being vaccinated against COVID-19 significantly reduces the risks associated with the disease, including death, hospitalization, and the severity of short and long-term effects of the disease. Currently, the vast majority of people severely affected by COVID-19 and its variants have not been vaccinated. The disease and its long-term effects disrupt the educational process and individuals’ ability to learn. Find a vaccine here. The College also is also hosting on-campus vaccine clinics starting Aug. 31. Instructors and supervisors will work with students and employees to ensure that time off for a vaccine or related side effects will not interrupt academic progress or work. Employees may request paid leave to obtain the vaccine; proof of immunization should be provided to Human Resources (See vaccine leave email from Lesley Hogan dated March 19, 2021).

If you have further questions, please consult your health care provider and reputable websites regarding health and vaccine information. In regard to employment questions, please consult with Human Resources and your union, if applicable.

Updated policy and procedures

In light of this order, we are in the process of modifying our policy for employees and our forms for validating vaccination status and claiming an exemption. Unions will be notified accordingly. Self-attestation will no longer be valid. Documentary proof will be required to be shown to Human Resources – copies of vaccine information will not be kept by the college and other exemption materials will be stored securely and separately from personnel files. More details on all of these matters will be forthcoming shortly, but we wanted to be sure the entire campus community received this initial information as soon as possible.

Reinstated Mask Mandate

In addition, starting Monday, August 23, the Governor has reinstated a mask mandate for all individuals—vaccinated and unvaccinated—in indoor public places. This will not change much on campus as we already require face coverings indoors. 

If you have further questions, please consult your health care provider and reputable websites regarding health and vaccine information.


Related links