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WHC Lemoore continues to prepare for spring semester amid COVID-19 spike
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WHC Lemoore continues to prepare for spring semester amid COVID-19 spike

LEMOORE — Despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases, West Hills College Lemoore is still planning on beginning its spring semester on time.

Last week, a source sent multiple emails to the Sentinel showing confirmed positives and confirmed exposures at Coalinga, Lemoore and the district office. Lemoore had two confirmed positives, two confirmed exposures and one confirmed presumptive positive.

None of the COVID-19 cases were contracted on campus, as WHC Lemoore has been on winter break since the end of the fall semester on Dec. 18.

“Nobody’s been on campus,” WHC Lemoore President Kristin Clark said last week. “People contracted it while they were out on their breaks and then they notified human resources that they had either been exposed or tested positive.”

Contractually with their unions, WHC Lemoore has to report positive COVID-19 cases and exposures. If another employee on campus was exposed, then they’re notified, quarantined and tested. No identities or personal information of positive staff members are released, in accordance with HIPPA Laws.

Even with the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, WHC Lemoore and the rest of the district have kept positive cases to a minimum. According to Clark, she estimates there might have been a dozen cases between the Lemoore, Coalinga and Firebaugh campuses since last March.

“This is a flood for us because we’ve gone since March and haven’t had problems,” Clark said. “We’ve had maintenance and operations staff on site since March and we’ve been good. I think what you’re seeing is indicative of what’s happened in the community, which people got together for Thanksgiving and then Christmas and New Year’s. People are just tired and they’re not following the health and safety precautions that are out there.”

In light of the recent cases, Clark said she emailed Health Officer for the Department of Public Health Dr. Milton Teske to ask for his recommendation on their spring semester plan. She had not received a reply when the Sentinel spoke with Clark.

The spring semester plan would be the same as the fall semester, seeing a majority of classes online.

“I would say 90% of our classes are all 100% online, but we have a couple of classes that have to be in person,” Clark said.

Some of those in-person classes include nursing or industrial technology classes which require hands-on learning. Those classes are limited to about 10 students per class, a daily health questionnaire before entering class, social distancing and masks. The same will be required for the spring semester. The plan is to start the spring semester as scheduled on Jan. 19.

“As it stands today, that’s our plan unless I hear something different from our county health advisor or if we start to see additional reports coming through,” Clark said.

If extra cases do arise, Clark said the school is ready to do whatever is required.

“We’re ready to flip whatever direction we need to go and we’ll do what we have to do to keep everybody safe,” Clark said.

For more information and updates, go to the WHC website.

Noe Garcia can be reached at (559) 583-2431 or ngarcia@hanfordsentinel.com. Follow Noe on Twitter at @noecarlosgarcia.

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