Updated: Apr 2, 2020
By Solomon Smith, Managing Editor
The LACCD announced Wednesday that it will cancel classes Monday and Tuesday in response to the growing concerns over the coronavirus and move the majority of its in-person classes online starting March 18.
The announcement from Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez follows a similar decision made by a chorus of major universities like USC, UCLA, UC Irvine and CSUN to take their classes online. The precautions are based on guidance from the CDC and the World Health Organization, which recommend that citizens stay away from shared spaces and maintain social distances in order to curb the spread of the virus.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the Los Angeles Community College District is making these changes to protect the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff and to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Rodriguez wrote. “We stand united with our higher education colleagues locally and throughout the nation that safety is our top priority as part of our mission to provide excellent educational opportunities for our students. Prudence needs to prevail here.”
Faculty and staff will use the closure dates of March 16 and 17 to prepare for the shift to Canvas and other online formats by attending training sessions at their nearest LACCD campus. In addition, March 16 through April 13 will see the cancellation or postponement of any event that is estimated to draw more than 100 people, but sporting events will be “under review,” according the chancellor’s press release.
Valley’s Pi Day scheduled for March 12 has been cancelled because the expected turnout would be over the 100-student limit, but the “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” video game tournament, which is estimated to draw less than 100 people, will continue.
The world-wide spread of the flu-like corona virus has caused public anxiety, emergency quarantines, hoarding and school closures throughout the county.
COVID-19, or coronavirus, is a unique strain of the corona family of viruses, which originated in Wuhan, China, according to the Center for Disease Control. There are seven forms of corona, three of which have the highest mortality for humans. This strain of the virus concerns authorities because it attacks the upper respiratory tract. It presents with coughing, sneezing, body aches, chills and other flu-like symptoms.
“Coronavirus, it’s like a common cold anybody can get, but these new variations,” said Valley College professor Lawrence Nakamura, who holds a PhD. in virology. “Known as the SARS virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Symptoms, and that’s what they’ve identified these new corona viruses as causing as well.”
The Center for Disease Control has stated that the virus is transmissible from person-to-person but is not sure how, though most of these types of illnesses are transferred through tiny droplets in the air from the infected when they cough or sneeze. The virus can live in these aerosol droplets and on surfaces for hours. For many healthy young adults, the disease is a serious inconvenience, but for others in the population, the flu can be deadly. The very young and the elderly can be put into life-threatening danger. Those with compromised immune systems (many of whom cannot take the vaccine) can also be seriously threatened, according to the CDC.
“If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem,” states the CDC’s risk assessment web-page, “it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.”
The best way to deal with the spread of this virus is to use the same best practices and common sense used when dealing with any contagion; washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, covering the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing, avoiding places with a large gathering of people and staying away from unknown animals, according to the CDC and the NIH.
Currently, there is no vaccination or inoculation against COVID-19, but when one is developed, it will likely be delivered the same way flu vaccines are delivered. These strains tend to be difficult to treat because of their rapid evolution and mutation. According to Nakamura, inoculations are difficult for medical researchers to keep up with because they often need an update every one or two years due to mutations in the viruses.
The CDC and National Institute of Health have very little information on the development of a vaccine but most estimates put it a year away.
“We will continue to monitor the situation with advice from the Centers for Disease Control and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” said Valley President Barry Gribbons, “and we will look at what other services besides instruction could be moved online.”