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COCC moves up staff vaccination deadline to Feb. 9, citing OHSA requirement

Boyle Education Center at Central Oregon Community College in Bend
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Boyle Education Center at Central Oregon Community College in Bend

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Central Oregon Community College will require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Feb. 9, more than a month earlier than previously planned, due to federal OSHA rules, President Dr. Laurie Chesley told staff in an email Wednesday.

Here's the full email:

Dear Colleagues of Quality,

Welcome back from Winter Break — I hope you each enjoyed a restful holiday.

I’m writing with an update on the College’s plans for the Winter term and the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for COCC employees.

COCC will remain open to on-campus learning and student services in the Winter term, continuing from the Fall with approximately 50% of our courses offered in-person. Room capacity will be capped at 50% or 100 persons—whichever is smaller. We continue to follow all CDC, OHA, and OSHA guidance, including proper mask-wearing<https://www.cocc.edu/news/covid19-health-safety.aspx#health> while indoors on all of our four campuses. We are also closely watching COVID-19 cases across our region and our state, paying particular attention to the rise of the Omicron variant. The science remains clear that COVID-19 vaccinations, boosters, and masks are an individual’s most effective means to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. So get vaccinated, Bobcats—and then get boosted as soon as you are eligible (find a vaccination or booster clinic near you)<https://www.deschutes.org/health/page/covid-19-vaccine>!

Recently, a federal appeals court reinstated the federal OSHA vaccine-or-testing mandate for employers. As an employer, COCC is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace. We are required by OSHA to implement the employee COVID-19 vaccination policy no later than February 9, 2022 (this is sooner than the March 18, 2022 deadline we previously communicated).

A team of your colleagues is working expeditiously on details for the future implementation of the vaccination requirement for COCC employees (including how to report your vaccination status, request any eligible exceptions, provide proof of weekly test results if necessary, etc.). More details on this implementation will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead. We will soon launch an intranet FAQs page to help answer some of your most common questions. Next week, we will also send out a voluntary survey of employees’ vaccination status to better determine the scope of the work ahead.

COCC is an institution of higher learning, and our mission is to provide quality, accessible, lifelong educational opportunities. As such, there is necessarily an educational component to our response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and COCC will offer fact-based information about and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Here are some of the ways we are reaching our students, employees, and community members:

* Ongoing social media posts encouraging vaccination and boosting across all channels
* Emails sent to all Winter term-registered students on 12/16 and 12/30 including information encouraging vaccines/boosters and details on where shots are available throughout our service district
* Adding pro-vaccination print materials to our New Student Welcome Packet (sent to all newly admitted students prior to advising/registration)
* In partnership with Deschutes County Health Services community outreach staff, offering free “Lunch and Learn” webinars during Winter term to help answer questions and concerns about COVID-19 vaccines and variants (more information to follow)
* Hosting free vaccination and booster clinics on our campuses throughout Winter term (more information to follow)

We know that testing is an important public health measure to stop the spread of Omicron and other COVID-19 variants. COCC has renewed our agreement with Curative, OHA, and Deschutes County Health Services to continue to offer free rapid PCR COVID-19 testing on both our Bend<https://book.curative.com/sites/34053> and Redmond<https://book.curative.com/sites/33905> campuses at least until the end of March. Free rapid antigen<https://book.curative.com/sites/32687> and 24-72hr-result PCR<https://book.curative.com/sites/32688> testing is also available at Curative’s second Bend site in the Old Mill District. Due to high demand, we strongly encourage you to make appointments at these sites, as walk-ins are frequently turned away due to lack of tests. Student vaccination<https://www.cocc.edu/news/covid19-vaccination-information.aspx> and testing<https://www.cocc.edu/news/covid-19-testing-policy.aspx> policies also remain in place.

The SLT and I will continue to monitor pandemic conditions closely, following all health authority guidance and promptly updating the COCC community on any changes to our response. Keep an eye on Headlines for further details regarding the College’s vaccination requirement.

Thank you, Bobcats, for your continued commitment to our collective health and safety.

Laurie

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