Delaware Technical Community College’s impending mandate requiring proof of up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination for all students and visitors has drawn backlash from Republican lawmakers, who are labeling it “antithetical” and “mistimed.”
“We oppose the recent policy issued by Delaware Technical and Community College mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for incoming students,” said a statement signed by 11 state representatives and senators. “It is antithetical to the college’s purpose and abuses the authority of a public institution to force many Delawareans down a path they do not want to take.”
Announced Friday, DTCC president Dr. Mark Brainard’s vaccination policy is to address the “record high COVID-19 incidence and hospitalization rates currently being experienced in Delaware.”
As a result, DTCC’s current immunization policy will be suspended for the summer and fall 2022 semesters, and the following rules will be in place:
These new rules join one already in place for DTCC employees.
“Delaware Tech is a state agency, so our employees fall under Gov. (John) Carney’s order that they be vaccinated or subject to weekly testing,” said Christine Gillan, a spokeswoman for the college. “If they are not vaccinated, they have to get tested on their own and send the test results to our (Human Resources Office) weekly.”
She added that about 82% of DTCC employees are vaccinated.
DelTech has four campuses, in Dover, Georgetown, Stanton and Wilmington. It will join the University of Delaware and Delaware State University in mandating vaccines for students and staff.
On Wednesday, Dr. Brainard stood by his plan.
“We implemented a thoughtful process that puts the health and safety of our students and our college community at the forefront of this decision,” he said. “We knew there would be different opinions, but we needed an approach for the summer and fall semesters that protects our students, our employees and the community at large. We’ve heard from many of our students during this pandemic that they want to attend in-person, on-campus classes again instead of learning in a remote, virtual format. This decision will make it safer for our students to come to campus and learn in person instead of continuing to take classes online.”
Gov. Carney said during his Tuesday COVID-19 press briefing that he supports the decision by DTCC.
“I think (Dr. Brainard) is doing what he thinks is necessary to protect his teachers, staff and students to keep his campus safe,” the governor said. “President Brainard understands his campuses, the needs of his employees and the needs of his students better than most of us, certainly better than I do. So I applaud him for taking that action. I encourage all business owners and operators to do the same. We made a similar decision for state employees and public places that are part of the state government.”
For Clayton resident Allen Thompson, the vaccination requirement for young children touches a nerve. He has a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old who attend the Child Development Center at Dover’s Terry Campus.
“Our concern is that this is a first-of-its-kind mandate (for children) that we have seen for the state. The vaccine itself is approved by the (Food and Drug Administration), on a condition of emergency basis only. Nobody is looking at the data for actual children who are dying. I don’t see an emergency for children. Therefore, there is no need to use the emergency authorization of this vaccine to vaccinate the children,” he said. “I don’t see it. I have concerns with it.”
Mr. Thompson added, “Myself, I am vaccinated. I am not a complete denier. I have to be vaccinated (for employment). I just don’t see the need for my children. I have just got over COVID, as did my family. My kids had no impact whatsoever. They were living their lives just fine. I just don’t want to put that in my kids’ bodies, and I don’t think the government should be telling me to do so.”
Kenny Rife of Clayton is also opposed to mandated vaccinations for young children. One of Mr. Rife’s three children, age 4, attends an early-childhood program at the Terry Campus, and he has no plans to vaccinate him.
“We’re definitely not doing the vaccine,” Mr. Rife said. “We would be caught up in this mandate. And as parents, in order to pick him up from the college and drop him off, because we are a visitor, we would have to be fully vaccinated. So how does that conundrum work? So you vaccinate him, if we chose that route, then if I am not vaccinated — which I am not, my wife is — so then she would be the only one that could go pick him up.
“I understand how serious it is. I am not anti-vax at all,” he continued. “But my point is if there is something that goes wrong down the road, ... we have no legal ramifications against Pfizer, Moderna, the government or whatever because it has all been pushed under the rug. That was part of the reason they rolled the vaccine out so quick because they don’t have any liability for anything that could potentially happen. If we make the decision that our children don’t need it, why should we be forced? That’s our whole stance. We’re not anti-vax.”
The response to the updated mandate was signed by Republican House of Representative members Charles Postles of Milford, Jesse Vanderwende of Bridgeville, Danny Short of Seaford, Lyndon Yearick of Magnolia, Shannon Morris of Camden-Wyoming, Rich Collins of Millsboro and Ruth Briggs King of Georgetown, as well as GOP Sens. Brian Pettyjohn of Georgetown, Gerald Hocker of Ocean View, Dave Lawson of Marydel and Dave Wilson of Lincoln.
“We call for Del Tech to reverse its policy of mandatory vaccinations and return to being the open and inclusive institution it claims to be,” the lawmakers said.
The legislators claim that Dr. Brainard’s actions violate his institution’s mission statement, which reads, “Students are at the center of everything we do. We empower students to change their lives through comprehensive educational opportunities and supportive services. As the state’s only community college, we provide quality education that is accessible, relevant, and responsive to labor market and community needs while contributing to Delaware’s economic vitality. We value all individuals and provide an inclusive environment that fosters equity and student success.”
In response, the lawmakers said, “Erecting barriers to prevent people from entering Del Tech’s facilities makes educational opportunities less available. Disregarding the understandable concerns of people who do not wish to be injected with substances that may carry substantial health implications for them is not inclusive, equitable, or tolerant.
“Ironically, Del Tech has received three significant distributions under the Higher Education (Emergency) Relief Fund (HEERF) as part of the federal government’s COVID relief response. This funding is specifically to support institutions of higher education to serve students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 pandemic. Del Tech’s new policy subverts this intent.”
Rep. Briggs King spoke out on the timing and impacts of the new regulation, noting that she and other lawmakers have received an enormous number of calls about the policy.
“And you have to understand the ramifications because there are Dual Enrollment Programs and there are other programs that have high school or even middle school students that go on campus. So you are basically saying they must be (vaccinated), even for online classes. Really?” she said.
“I just don’t know where (Dr. Brainard’s) ‘science’ for this kind of decision is coming from. I just don’t know.”
In their statement, the legislators contend that:
Social media reaction to the new rules drew a mixed bag.
Kelly DuHadaway-Maniscalco shared her thoughts: “And they are complaining about a huge workforce issue with trades. My high school senior had plans to attend Del Tech in the fall for certification in HVAC; not happening now. Great way to totally deplete these programs and create an even larger trades issue for our state. I know of quite a few who were going the same route as my son and will no longer be doing that. Way to go Del Tech. Epic fail on their part.”
Meg Kelly added, “Masks are safe. This questionable vaccine is not.”
Stated Doreen Albert, “Just an FYI, the vaccine doesn’t prevent COVID nor the transmission of it. All the vaccine does is prevent the severity of the symptoms. So, the requirement is totally unnecessary and draconian.”
The mandate also had some support online.
“I don’t understand the issue with it. Del State and UD have the same policy,” said Karren Mathena Ryan.
F. Michael Short said, “I’m 100 percent in favor of it. The responsible citizens who have masked, distanced and vaccinated should not still be at risk because of the foolish and selfish.”