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Colorado Mountain College to require masks for all, vaccines for only some on campus

Campus bookstore manager Matt Koch leaves the Robert Young Alpine Ascent Center at the Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Campus on Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Colorado Mountain College plans to implement an across-the-board mask mandate for the first several weeks of school but will only require COVID-19 vaccines for athletes, students who live in residence halls and those who are enrolled in health care, public safety and first responder programs, the institution announced Aug. 18.

The mask mandate will apply in all buildings across all 11 of the college’s campuses, including five in located in and near the Roaring Fork Valley (Aspen, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Spring Valley at Glenwood Springs and Rifle) and six others throughout the state (Breckenridge, Dillon, Leadville, Salida, Steamboat Springs and Vail Valley at Edwards).

It will also apply to the college’s administrative offices in downtown Glenwood Springs. The announcement came days before the fall semester kicks off with in-person classes on Aug. 23.

“While this decision comes less than a week before classes begin, it was not made hastily,” the college’s Chief Operating Officer Dr. Matt Gianneschi said in a news release. “The decision-making process has been lengthy, inclusive and deliberative. In fact, we have been planning for the start of the fall term for months.”

Officials will reevaluate the mask requirement “on or about Labor Day” with on public health data and vaccination rates in mind, according to the news release.

An Aug. 16 survey indicated that 89% of faculty and staff who responded to the survey have already voluntarily received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine; 85% of those respondents are already fully vaccinated, public information manager Phil Dunn confirmed Aug. 18.

“If vaccination rates continue to increase and transmission rates improve, we expect to conform our procedures to county-level public health guidelines,” Gianneschi said. “In the meantime, and while the summer tourism season is still in full-swing, we will ask students and staff to wear face coverings while we monitor local public health data in order to consider adjustments to our procedures.”

Though student-athletes, residents in on-campus housing and students enrolled in health care, public safety and first responder programs must be vaccinated, the same requirement does not currently apply to faculty and staff who work in those departments (like coaches, residence hall staff or instructors in those specified programs), Dunn said in a phone call.

That said, the data from the vaccination survey suggest that it’s likely those faculty and staff are already vaccinated anyway, according to Dunn.

The college will offer free vaccination clinics at most campuses and will also cover the cost of offsite testing for faculty, staff and students who need a COVID-19 test.

The college will offer courses in four formats this fall: in-person learning, live-stream courses offered virtually in real time, hybrid courses that combine in-person and online instruction and “online anytime” classes that are pre-recorded and can be viewed any time.

Online classes begin one week after in-person classes and registration is still open for all formats.

kwilliams@aspentimes.com

Aspen Ideas Fest panel grapples with wealth gap, solutions to economic inequality

(From left) Gillian White, Beth Ann Bovino, Kunal Kapoor and Starsky Wilson discuss wealth inequality during the Aspen Ideas Festival at the Aspen Institute Campus on Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
Dan Bayer/Courtesy photo

It is fitting that a conversation on creating more wealth for everyone would take place in Aspen, nearly 16 months into a pandemic that further widened the wealth gap, moderator Gillian White said Wednesday morning at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

“I think it’s really important that we have it here, in this moment, in this place,” said White, who is the managing editor of The Atlantic. “We are going to be talking about wealth, wealth creation and wealth inequality, and again I think Aspen is such an important place to start having this conversation.”

Aspen is a place where that inequality has been studied, extensively so. Ida Rademacher, who introduced the panel, leads the Aspen Institute’s financial security program that focuses on wealth inequality and economic inclusivity; Morningstar CEO Kunal Kapoor, one of Wednesday’s panelists, worked with the institute on research about just how much the wealth gap widened during the pandemic.

(It’s worth noting that Aspen is itself a place of what one sociologist calls “impossible math,” a paradox of superwealth and middle class in an increasingly expensive town.)

So what about the answer to that “how much” question? A lot, Kapoor said.

“It is very significant exactly because of what we posited: that many people who have access to markets are feeling even better off than they did prior to when the pandemic hit, and those who don’t are struggling even more,” he said.

The assumption that everyone has that access — or even the knowledge to use that access — is “one of the mistakes that has historically been made in financial services,” Kapoor said.

“If I was to ask everyone in this room whether they had access to the financial markets or participated in the financial markets … everyone in this room probably would raise their hands, and I think what has been demonstrated so far is if you went to different settings, with different groups of people, the answer could be quite different,” Kapoor said.

A bit of distribution in wealth and assets is natural in a market economy, according to panelist Beth Ann Bovino, the chief U.S. economist and managing director for S&P Global Ratings.

“That makes us work harder, that makes us invest in ourselves and our people and our children in order to have a better life,” Bovino said. “However, when it gets much wider, (which) is what we have,. … we see that the majority of participants in the United States are left behind. That means we lose their productivity, they lose their income and wealth, and we end up seeing it kind of spiraling down”

 

BIG IDEAS ONLINE

Recorded programming from the Aspen Ideas Festival is now online at aspenideas.org.

That’s not exactly breaking news to most people who have been tuned in over the last year and a half, White noted at the beginning of the panel.

“I think there’s no one who is watching the news or paying attention closely who didn’t hear the word ‘wealth inequality’ and hear about the gap widening,” White said.

“There were so many ways in which that happened,” she said, between those who could save more from spending more time at home to those who had to continue to work frontline jobs to those who experienced pandemic-related job loss.

There’s also the wealth gap that existed long before the pandemic began, the panel noted — a wealth gap that is in many ways linked to structural racism and a racial wealth gap that stems not only from income but from assets and inherited wealth, too.

“We need to start having serious dialogue about income and asset building strategies that are common to all people,” said Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, one of Wednesday’s panelists and the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington.“It means we need to be talking about the fact that, you know, there are people who are descended from people who have a 250 years head start on asset building on me.”

“Supportive engagement” from government structures could help, Wilson said.

Kapoor mentioned “baby bonds,” an idea proposed to help close the racial wealth gap that entails providing government-issued bonds at birth, scaled based on the assets of the family. Universal basic income also could be a policy choice that moves things in the right direction, Wilson suggested.

“On a macro level we’re seeing that wealth and income inequality impact America’s future and we see it reflected in America’s children. We have come to a point of intersection between child well being, between inequities, broadly as we see them economically, and the matter and conversation of racial justice,” Wilson said. “We come to this conversation that we’re having today, and so we begin to see the impacts on what families can provide for their children.”

 

kwilliams@aspentimes.com