July 15, 2021
As many as 500 Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students, faculty and staff attended a virtual town hall for presentations on the college’s repopulation plans for Fall 2021 as well as fact-based updates on COVID-19 vaccines. BMCC students are required to get the COVID-19 vaccine if they plan to enroll in hybrid or in person classes. Students accessing BMCC facilities for reasons other than to attend an on-campus class session will be required to be vaccinated or to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than seven days prior to the visit.
BMCC President Anthony E. Munroe and other college leaders provided a wide range of updates and answered numerous questions surrounding the return to campus, all the time stressing the fluidity of the situation as they await further guidance from CUNY and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“It is my hope that you are all taking care of yourselves, taking care of your loved ones and enjoying summer,” said President Munroe. “This has been a very different, unique and even challenging 16 months, but thankfully, we are seeing some progress and improvement and the town hall today is focused on providing information as best as we have it and know it, so we can be as best prepared for Fall 2021 as possible.”
The president also thanked those in attendance for all they do to support BMCC students and creating an atmosphere of teamwork and collegiality. Citing Provost Erwin Wong, the president said, “We’re all in this together.”
With that said, CUNY School of Public Health Distinguished Lecturer Scott Ratzan and executive director at CONVINCE USA, delivered a presentation filled with relevant facts and science surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine.
Professor Ratzan, who served on the CDC Board of Scientific Counselors of Infectious Disease, said vaccines have worked to eliminate disease for centuries. He noted the rigorous and groundbreaking scientific process by which COVID-19 vaccines came to be. He said the safety reviews of the vaccines were not only conducted by government scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but also by independent academic researchers and scientists.
In addition to the scientific peer-review process, the FDA inspects manufacturing facilities and following the agency’s approval, they monitor and oversee the production of the vaccine. After approving a vaccine, the FDA and CDC collect and analyze information from reports of any adverse reactions that may occur after a vaccine has been licensed.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine are mRNA vaccines which is like a messenger that shows a person’s immune system a “wanted” poster of the virus, said Ratzan. There is no live virus in the vaccines, he explained. Instead, the vaccine tells a person’s cells how to make a small “spike protein.” Then, if the actual virus shows up, your body will know that the virus does not belong and will be ready to fight it with the spike proteins it made.
Getting more people vaccinated helps prevent variants
In one of the dozen power point slides Ratzan shared with attendees, the text read “COVID-19 is real, and still killing people. Vaccination is the best way to protect ourselves, colleagues our community and nation.”
“We’re starting to have upticks in COVID-19 cases in city hospitals,” said Professor Ratzan noting the large numbers of people who have yet to be vaccinated and how that provides the virus with further opportunities to mutate. “I’m quite concerned we’ll see new COVID-19 variants. It’s most important we get to the 70 or 80 percent of people that are vaccinated and when we tamp down the number of viruses circulating in the environment, it will be less likely for the virus to further mutate.”
Everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, will be encouraged to wear a mask indoors on campus
BMCC Director of Health Services Penelope Jordan also spoke at the event. Through her work as a nurse in a hospital emergency room—which she has continued doing throughout her tenure at BMCC— Jordan has seen first-hand the misery the COVID-19 virus is capable of inflicting.
She explained that all three available COVID-19 vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson— had received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA.
“These are things that have been tried, tested and found to be safe,” said Jordan.
Jordan stressed the importance of wearing masks. Everyone—vaccinated or not— who comes onto the BMCC campus are encouraged to wear a mask, she said. Jordan also pointed out that the wearing of masks had delivered helpful un-intended consequences such as a sharp decrease in the spread of influenza this past year.
“For someone like myself, a forward-facing essential worker who was required to wear a mask, prior to my being vaccinated, I did not test positive for COVID-19,” said Jordan. “That was largely because I was protecting myself and others.”
Communication with supervisor is key to successful flexible workplace hours
Human Resources Director Gloria Chao spoke about the August 2 return to work date directive from CUNY including Flexible Work Guidelines.
Staff may work modified schedules including flexible hours and condensed work weeks after consultation with and approved by their managers. Prior to implementing any modified schedule, managers and staff must take adequate steps to make appropriate arrangements to ensure that support services and college operations continue without interruption. (Visit Human Resources webpage for more information.) The flexible work agreements remain in effect for six months.
“Communication is the key, for you and your supervisor, to reach a mutual and workable agreement,” said Chao.
Free vaccines offered at CUNY in the Heights on July 20
Dean of Student Affairs Michael Hutmaker explained that his department would continue to provide services both in person and virtually.
“When you are on campus and need to stop by, we’ll have staff available to work with you,” said Dean Hutmaker. “We hope to get your student life back as far as activities and clubs and we have newly elected student government that’s interested in getting you involved and engaged in your college career.”
Dean Hutmaker also reminded students that they are required to get the vaccine before returning in person for the Fall 2021 semester. He said students would need to have the shot 14 days prior to starting classes on campus on August 25.
“We will be hosting a free vaccine clinic at CUNY in the Heights on July 20,” said Hutmaker. “All students, faculty staff and family members, please come and take advantage of this opportunity to get vaccinated.”
BMCC Assistant Vice President of Campus Planning and Facilities Jorge Jafar also provided an update about the recently updated reopening guidelines from CUNY.
Those guidelines are grounded in four critical factors, he said. One is the low level of community transmission in New York, two, the coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations and finally access to COVID-19 testing as well as the close monitoring of local outbreaks. He also talked further about BMCC’s air filtration system.
For more information concerning the above topics and more, see the links below.
Learn more about Air-Filtration at BMCC.
Contact the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities for any Repopulation Facility concern at CP&F@bmcc.cuny.edu.
Review the CUNY Flexible Work Guidelines.
- Speakers included CUNY School of Public Health Distinguished Lecturer Scott Razan
- Students required to be fully vaccinated if they taking in-person or hybrid courses
- Vaccines have been rigorously tested