The Pasadena Public Health Department confirmed the first case of B.1.1.7, otherwise known as the U.K. variant in a Pasadena resident March 19, 2021.

According to health officials, the U.K. variant spreads approximately 50 percent more quickly than other variants. Health officer and director of Pasadena Public Health department, Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, stated that this serves as a stark reminder that we cannot let our guard down.

Special Assistant to the President of PCC, Alexander Boekelheide, is not aware of any way that the new variants have affected the college. He noted that PCC has been following the health guidelines of the city of Pasadena, as well as LA County.

“The LA County Department of Public Health and City of Pasadena Public Health Department have not issued specific guidelines related to any new variants of the Coronavirus,” Boekelheide said. “We continue to ask all of our students, faculty, and staff to practice social distancing, wear masks and other personal protective equipment as instructed by public health officials, and remain home if they feel sick.”

Superintendent and President of PCC, Dr. Erika Endrijonas reiterated that PCC will continue to follow the guidelines of local and federal government health officials.

“Our plans will always take into account the current state of the virus,” Endrijonas said. “At this point, COVID cases are on the decline in LA County, which has moved into the Red Tier, and vaccinations are available to all individuals working in an educational setting, anyone above the age of 65, or with a pre-existing health condition. As well, the Governor’s Stay-At-Home order has been lifted, and guidance has been provided to Institutions of higher education about what our classroom and other capacity limits are. We will follow that guidance, as well as what is required by OSHA and our local public health department.”

The U.K. variant was identified last fall in Kent, South England. It has spread across the world, including the United States. Moreover, France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Greece and many other European countries are declaring some sort of lockdown because of the spread of the UK variant The variant has become a concern to health officials because it can become more resistant to vaccines. This could lead to more hospitalizations and fatalities despite all of the recent vaccinations.

Dr. Endrijonas declared a state of emergency and moved PCC to online learning March 14, 2020. Since then, the virus has affected PCCs financial outlook and enrollment. According to Boekelheide, enrollment is down 8 percent this Spring compared to last Spring.

“PCC’s immediate financial situation has not been affected because of the pandemic,” Boekelheide said. “But there are budget pressures at the state level that will require careful management over the next few years. Chief among these is the decision in the current fiscal year budget to defer revenues due to the community college districts until future fiscal years, which requires PCC’s district to borrow funds and repay them later.”

The city of Pasadena announced March 12, that they have moved into the red tier. In less than a month, Pasadena Councilman, Tyron Hampton, announced that Pasadena is entering the Orange tier. This means that Pasadena will be able to have restaurants, movie theatres, art galleries and museums increase their indoor capacity to 50% with restrictions. Most notably, bars can operate until 10:00 p.m., and gyms and fitness centers can increase their capacity to 25 percent.

All while this is happening, California Governor Gavin Newsome, plans to hold a press conference where he will detail California’s plan to fully reopen the economy June 15, if the vaccine supply is sufficient, and hospitals rates remain low. But Dr. Ying-Ying Goh avowed that it is important to limit non-essential travel and mixing households as much as possible. Although the city of Pasadena is reopening its economy, Dr. Endrijonas noted that PCC will be ready to adjust to the circumstances.

“In other words, if there is an uptick in COVID infections – whether due to the variants or community spread – we will adjust what we are doing as an institution. It’s not simply about the possibility of a variant,” Endrijonas said.

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