Confirmed COVID-19 cases have increased in Smith County by 11,244 from Jan. 1 to Jan. 31, bringing the case number total to 49,849 according to nethealthcovid19.org. Tyler Junior College requires students to follow COVID-19 policies to combat the virus this spring.
“We do not want any illnesses on campus and that doesn’t have to be COVID. I mean, a simple cold, flu; we don’t want to run anyone’s immunity down,” said Kim Lessner, vice president for operations/chief operations officer at TJC.
Lessner explains how many of these policies are in place for the safety of employees and students.
“Our No. 1 and only reason for being in existence is the education. Yes, our mission and our vision is educating everyone. It’s a path to a better world,” Lessner said. “That’s why we have policies still in place for COVID that in some cases mimic what the CDC recommends. But we also in some cases are more strict than what the CDC recommends.”
With medicine and vaccinations becoming more readily available, TJC has relaxed its rules in ways like eliminating the previous mandatory 6-foot distancing rule in classrooms and events. Though TJC no longer requires this mandatory social distancing they still require a 75% capacity at any non-educational event.
“So we’re willing to be open for educational purposes, but if it’s recreational then we’re going to take a little bit less risk, and so there is a 75% capacity,” Lessner said.
TJC’s updated COVID-19 policy includes options to end a quarantine early if in good health, and TJC offers vaccination opportunities every Wednesday.
According to tjc.edu/coronavirus, students and employees who are ill or show symptoms of COVID-19 are required to stay home and quarantine for 10 days. Individuals who have been in contact (within 3 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should also stay home and quarantine.
People may return to TJC after five days of quarantine when both of the following conditions are met:
Provide a negative test on day five or later
Sign a statement verifying that you are symptom-free
“You can use a form, or it simply can be an email from your TJC official email whether you’re an employee or a student, and you’re stating, ‘I am symptom free,’” Lessner said.
In addition to TJC’s COVID-19 policy, which can be located at tjc.edu/coronavirus, TJC has asked all supervisors to send home employees and students who come to the campus sick.
“We have asked all supervisors, so employees that
are supervisors, if there is an employee that comes to work sick, sounds sick, has a cough; send them home. It is a requirement,” Lessner said. She also mentions professors reserve the same right to send students home who are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Vaccination available at health clinic
Much like local colleges, including the University of Texas at Tyler and Kilgore College, TJC offers students vaccinations on campus. The UT Health Clinic in Rogers Nursing and Health Sciences Center is offering students and employees vaccinations from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.
According to tjc.edu/coronavirus, “It will depend on their stock as to which vaccine is offered on a particular Wednesday. To receive a vaccine, please call the on-campus clinic at 903-510-3862 and sign up for a day and time.”
TJC does not offer testing at any campus facility. However, students and employees who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in need of testing can find available testing locations by visiting nethealthcovid19.org/testing. In addition to local testing sites, students with a valid home address can receive four free individual rapid antigen COVID-19 tests from USPS by visiting special.usps.com/testkits. The testing kits are limited to one order per residential address.
At this time, students cannot send their tests to on-campus dorm rooms; however, residents can have the kits shipped to their home address instead.
“Orders will ship free starting in late January,” according to special.usps.com/testkits.
“Most of our students have an apartment, or they live at home with their parents. You know, they’re all eligible to have these free home tests,” Lessner said.
For all students and employees who may have questions regarding TJC’s COVID-19 policy, visit tjc.edu/coronavirus. For specific situations/questions, email Lessner at email@example.com.