As coronavirus continues to spread, conspiracy theorists have a field day

Conspiracy
Conspiracy theories spread and become popular topics of discussion because of the spread of misinformation online. It’s important to remember conspiracies are theories and are not fact until proven otherwise. (Photo courtesy of 123RF.com)

The COVID-19 pandemic was one of the most unexpected things to come out of 2020. Months ago, we heard about a new virus that was breaking out in a small Chinese village, but we never thought it would affect our lives in Sacramento.

Many people still don’t believe it actually has.

There is an entire community of “truth-seekers” out there that are always looking for ways to dig deeper and understand all the aspects that surround something as big as a worldwide pandemic. When people aren’t satisfied with answers, misinformation spreads and the sleeping conspiracy theory giant awakens and spreads lies across social media and conversation.

Conspiracy theories are spreading faster than the disease itself and the fact is, nobody can set the record straight. We just have to simply acknowledge that we don’t know all the answers and we may never know. Conspiracies always stem from fear of the unknown. When people are anxious and isolated, they tend to go fishing for answers and are highly likely to believe a slew of inaccurate information.

Below are some of the most interesting conspiracy theories circulating the web right now involving the coronavirus’ origin and purpose. It’s important to remember conspiracy theories are not fact. They are just theories that sometimes can sound convincing enough to stir up entire online and social communities. Many of these theories have already been debunked by professionals.

 

1. The coronavirus was predictively programmed through novels, TV shows and films.

When the coronavirus hit and began to spread, the “truth” community couldn’t help but notice that this virus had some similarities to the fictional virus that was part of the plot of Dean Koontz’s 1981 novel “Eyes of Darkness.” In the novel, a deadly virus called “Wuhan-400” was created in Wuhan, China, which is where the COVID-19 coronavirus originated from. Although this is slightly disturbing, this theory was debunked after comparing the two viruses. There are essentially no similarities between Wuhan-400 and COVID-19. In the novel, the Wuhan-400 virus has a 100% fatality rate and eats away at brain tissue. COVID-19 has less than a 2% fatality rate with breathing related symptoms, so this is very far-fetched.

Apparently, the conspiracy community also believes the “Simpsons” predicted the coronavirus back in 1993, since “The Simpsons” have been known for their bizarre predictions over the 30-plus years they’ve been on the air, including the Donald Trump presidency. In the episode “Marge in Chains,” an outbreak of a mysterious illness called “corona virus” is reported by a newscaster. This theory was debunked very quickly, when observers noticed the screengrab used to prove this theory on social media had been altered. The actual plot of the episode focuses on an illness called “Osaka flu,” not coronavirus, and the screengrab that read “corona virus,” when reverted to the original actually read “apocalypse meow” and was from an entirely different episode. This was merely the clever work of Photoshop.

 

2. If you can’t hold your breath for 10 seconds, you have the coronavirus.

This myth came from a “self-check test” that started circulating through social media in March. The original post was written on an iPhone notes application, which should have waved red flags from the get go. The post gave a list of ways you can self-check yourself for the coronavirus. One of the checks stated if you can’t hold your breath for 10 seconds, you have fibrosis in the lungs, which is an indicator of the virus.

While some of this is true and patients with coronavirus may experience fibrosis in the lungs, this is in no way an exact indicator of contracting the virus. Some people who have tested positive can hold their breath for much longer than 10 seconds, so this is an inaccurate test.

 

3. The coronavirus was bio-engineered in a Wuhan lab as a weapon to wage war on the United States.

This theory has probably gained the most attention in the news media, because Sen. Tom Cotton (R – Ark.) publicly endorsed this theory on Fox News in February.

“We don’t know where it originated, and we have to get to the bottom of that,” he said in a Fox News broadcast. “We also know that just a few miles away from that food market is China’s only biosafety level four super laboratory that researches human infectious diseases.”

A British tabloid also published a story acknowledging the lab’s existence and strongly implied it was responsible for the outbreak in Wuhan. This speculation sounds convincing on the surface, however, Richard Ebright, professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, disproved this possibility with scientific fact. He told the Washington Post there’s “absolutely nothing in the genome sequence of this virus that indicates the virus was engineered,” claiming this theory could be firmly excluded.

Although science has disproved this, government officials continue to fabricate this theory, even suggesting the creation of the virus was funded by Bill Gates, who allegedly has connections to the biosafety lab outside of Wuhan.

This theory has the most attention most likely because of the spread of misinformation from both sides, since China recently declared that the United States’ military is to blame for the virus’s arrival and spread. This very well may be the U.S.’s stab back at China for falsely pointing the finger.

 

4. The coronavirus will become an excuse to declare national martial law.

This theory seemed to originate from a text that began circulating in March, claiming that with the declared state of emergency and under the Stafford Act, the president would declare martial law and institute a mandatory lockdown on the entire nation.

While the Stafford Act (a 1988 disaster relief law that allows the federal government to hand power over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its resources), is real, it does not give the president authority to issue a nationwide lockdown. The National Security Council declared this false, but it hasn’t stopped citizens who are convinced the lockdown is coming, from panic-buying and hoarding supplies. No wonder there is a nationwide toilet paper shortage.

 

5. The coronavirus is actually not real, and the sick are actually experiencing symptoms from the effects of 5G towers.

This theory is definitely one of the more far-fetched theories that is hard to believe people are falling for. Even celebrities such as Woody Harrelson, John Cusack and Wiz Khalifa are supporting the possibility of this theory on Twitter and blasting out to their millions of followers 5G may be linked to the coronavirus.

On April 1, Harrelson posted his findings on Twitter with a report titled “Role of 5G in the Coronavirus Epidemic in Wuhan China”, citing Martin L. Pall, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University, who said in his report, “5G: Great risk for EU, U.S. and International Health! Compelling Evidence for Eight Distinct Types of Great Harm Caused by Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Exposures and the Mechanism that Causes Them” that “putting in tens of millions of 5G antennae without a single biological test of safety has got to be about the stupidest idea anyone has had in the history of the world.”

On April 3, Khalifa tweeted “Corona? 5G? Or both?” implying he may be in support of this theory as well.

When this theory began to gain traction, arsonists in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe began burning down cell towers believed to have 5G technology. The Guardian reported that some of these arsonists were accidentally destroying the wrong towers that only had 3G or 4G technology. Now, at least 20 towers have been vandalized throughout Europe.

This theory originated from an article published in a small Belgian newspaper, “Het Laatste Nieuws,” where a reporter interviewed Dr. Kris Van Kerckhoven, a Belgian general practitioner with no known credentials. The headline read, “5G is life-threatening, and no one knows it.” Van Kerckhoven claimed in the interview that 5G is dangerous technology and may be linked to COVID-19.

The newspaper has since deleted the article from their website, but the conspiracy still continues to spread rapidly through various social media posts, videos and blogs.

This theory has been disproven several times, since no medical or scientific professionals have found any evidence that 5G is helping spread the coronavirus or that exposure to 5G signals, mimic or create life-threatening symptoms.

 

6. The disease was planned and funded by Bill Gates.

This theory gained traction from a Q-Anon supporter. Q-Anon is an over-the-top, far right-wing, Trump-supporting political group, and is known for stirring up massively controversial and false conspiracy theories.

The supporter, Jordan Sather, posted a link on Twitter to a 2015 patent for a coronavirus vaccine filed by the Pirbright Institute, a U.K. based organization, that suggested the government planted the virus to make money off of vaccines.

Sather than followed his post with another post with information that supposedly connected the Pirbright Institute to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The post included a link to a 2019 press release that announced the foundation would be helping to fund a project to study livestock and disease control. This speculation was set straight by Pirbright representatives.

Rolling Stone reported that Pirbright confirmed with media outlets that the 2015 patent was intended to aid the creation of a vaccine for a very specific strand of avian coronavirus found in chickens, which has not been cited in any professional records as a potential cause for COVID-19. Pirbright also confirmed that Gates had no ties to the funding of that 2015 patent whatsoever.

 

7. The virus came from consuming bats.

This was one of the first rumors that started circulating after the virus broke out, but the fact is, it has actually not yet been proven exactly where, or what animal this virus originated from. Wired reported that those who originally tested positive at the pandemic’s inception did not have any contact with live animals prior to contracting the virus.

One medical journal, the Journal of Medical Virology, suggested the virus may have actually originated from snakes. In reality, professionals have not pinpointed where this strand of coronavirus came from, and we should not be characterizing this virus by an entire country’s eating habits.

 

8. The virus is treatable by household items.

This ridiculous theory also developed out of the Q-Anon community. Q-Anon had been spreading an announcement through social media that told people to drink Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), a bleach-based product, to treat and prevent coronavirus. The product contains toxic chemicals that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and acute liver failure if ingested in large amounts.

On April 26, the New York Times reported Trump started yet another bogus conspiracy that injecting disinfectants into the body could help combat the coronavirus. Any rational human being would have the capacity to recognize that form of “treatment” would not help in any way, but could be very foolish and harmful if taken seriously.

There is also information now circulating online that the coronavirus can be treated with lysol, oregano oil, oil and by gargling bleach, which have all been proven false and even hazardous since their circulation.

 

9. Hand dryers can kill the coronavirus.

This bizarre theory for treating the coronavirus originated from Chinese social media. The various posts claimed that using a hand dryer for 30 seconds is effective in killing the virus. This myth was debunked and proven false by the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

10. The coronavirus is an elaborate hoax to remotely arrest hundreds of pedophiles and child sex traffickers involved in a Satanic Hollywood cult.

This was by far the most bizarre and elaborate conspiracy that has come out of this pandemic. This is a conspiracy that came out of the Q-Anon community yet again.

Q-Anon supporters started a rumor that celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGenerous, Madonna, Tom Hanks, members of the royal family and high-ranking government officials are actually involved in a massive pedophile and child sex-trafficking ring, and the coronavirus is just a cover-up to distract the public and keep them unaware of the hundreds of “house arrests” taking place of the celebrities and officials involved in this Satanic pedo-cult.

Mother Jones reported that the rumor gained traction when a random YouTube user filmed a live stream saying he was personally witnessing Winfrey’s arrest at her Beverly Hills home. Critics were quick to note the footage appeared to be bogus and the house did not appear to be a residence that billionaire Winfrey would live in, and this raid was most likely unrelated police action.

Still, the video gained the attention of several Q-Anon Facebook groups who took the theory and ran with it, with essentially zero evidence of its relevance. Winfrey tweeted in response to the ridiculous accusation.

“Just got a phone call that my name is trending. And being trolled for some awful FAKE thing. It’s NOT TRUE,” she tweeted on March 17. “Haven’t been raided, or arrested. Just sanitizing and self-distancing with the rest of the world. Stay safe everybody.”

According to the Millennial Source, another Q-Anon post began circulating with loads of other outlandish claims including that Harvey Weinstein had made a deal exchange with the courts regarding his prison sentencing, in return for his testimony against hundreds of top Hollywood celebs involved in various illegal crimes, namely pedophilia and child sex trafficking.

Various Q-Anon Instagram pages are supporting the theory as well, and have even cited Timothy Charles Holmseth, an investigative journalist based in Minnesota, who claimed the tents being erected in Central Park in New York City to treat individuals with coronavirus, are actually there to treat hundreds of children and babies being rescued from sex-trafficking.

This theory came out of nowhere and went viral because of its obscene nature, but it has no legitimate news outlets reporting on its relevance. This is just whacky Q-Anon spewing out their twisted pedophile conspiracies through YouTube and Facebook. While this theory has not officially been debunked, its origin and fabricated details have no credibility whatsoever, and should not be taken seriously.

Quaran-reads: 10 book suggestions for the readers out there

Read
Reading can benefit you in many ways. It helps with thought development, increases your knowledge and understanding, keeps your mind active and further broadens your vocabulary. (Photo by Ariel Caspar)

We are only a couple weeks into shelter-in-place, and I’m sure at this point many of you are over self-quarantining. With all the time off, it can be hard to find things to keep you busy and pass the time. For all the readers out there, this is a great chance to catch up on all that reading. You know that pile of books on your nightstand that you keep saying you’ll get to? Now you can cross those off your list, and dive into some new material. Below you will find a versatile list of books that may pique your interest.

1.“The Touches” by Brenda Peynado

This dystopian short story takes place in an apocalyptic, futuristic, touchless society where all of humanity has adapted to living in isolated cubicles, where robots assist them with basic human necessities, known as “the Dirty” or the real world, due to bacteria and viruses becoming completely resistant to all medications. Everyday they log into “the Clean” or the realistic virtual world that was created to continue with normal life. As disturbing as this may seem, given the current circumstances, it’s still a good, short read with very interesting dystopian possibilities. “The Touches” has elements of both romance and science fiction. It can be read for free on Tor.com.

 

2. “The Awakening” by Kate Chopin

 

“The Awakening,” was a very controversial work of its time and landed itself on the banned book list for its supposedly “immoral” depictions of female sexual desire and a main character that completely breaks social norms and gender roles. The 300-page novel follows Edna Pontellier, a wife and mother, and her family as they vacation at the ritzy Grand Isle on the Gulf of Mexico. Edna meets a charming, young man named Robert and they soon form a connection that leads to Edna falling in love. The story has a central theme of a woman caught in between wanting to express her unorthodox views on femininity, yet still maintain her maternal duties. This was one of the first feminist novels of its time, and is a strong example of “early feminism.” This literary classic is available for free in PDF form, or can be ordered online.

 

3. “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman

 

This touching novel by Swedish New York Times-bestselling author Fredrik Backman, follows the life of Ove, a retired senior, who is still grieving the death of his beloved wife. Ove’s quiet, simple life is interrupted when a young and overly friendly family moves in next door and flattens his mailbox. On the outside, Ove is cranky, overly sarcastic, and is known as the “neighbor from hell,” but underneath, he is a broken man in need of relationships. If you enjoy heartwarming stories that move you to tears, this is one you want to add to your list. There are e-book versions of this available for download through multiple platforms, or it can be ordered online.

 

4. “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski

 

Now this one is a little complicated to explain. According to the description on the book itself, many years ago, “House of Leaves” was an unpublished heap of papers that was passed around amongst the younger generations, that eventually was adapted as a novel in 2000, with all the original footnotes and artwork. This novel is a difficult read, since it follows multiple storylines, with several different narrators that interact with each other in chronological footnotes and commentary. It is a story within a story within a story, that begins with a young man, Johnny Truant, who discovers a mangled essay written by a dead, blind man named Zumpano, who lived in his apartment complex. The essay is a detailed account of the documentary “The Navidson Record,” which follows the unexpected events of a family who moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane. They film their horrifying experiences in their home when they discover the home is much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, with a five-and-a-half minute hallway and a never ending spiral staircase that plunges deeper and deeper into the abyss. “House of Leaves” sometimes feels like information overload; a puzzle filled with mysteries and unciphered codes, but getting to the end is worth it. It is best to read this horror/thriller in print, given the text goes every which way on certain pages. Some may even want to write notes in the margins. Currently, it is available to be ordered online.

 

5. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackesy

 

This Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, is for those who are young at heart and enjoy picture books. “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” however, is not a children’s book, but a book for all ages as the author states in the introduction. This “Winnie the Pooh-like”  work was called “a book of hope for uncertain times,” by the New York Times and is a collection of wonderful encouraging phrases woven together in a story of friendship and adventure. Four friends embark on a journey to find home, but they discover home is so much more than a place. The book features unique watercolor artwork done by Mackesy, that shows the beauty of imperfection. If you’re looking for an uplifting, short read to cheer you up during these times, try this out. I’d highly recommend getting a print copy, but there are online versions available.

 

6. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” by Michael Pollan

 

“The Omnivore’s Dilemma” is an incredibly eye-opening novel about where our food comes from, a question many have never considered. This novel explores the dilemma Americans face when it comes to understanding how the food we buy at the store got from wherever it was made or raised to our tables, and why we need to understand this more deeply, because it could change the entire American perspective of food and consumption altogether. Pollan documents his experiences tracing the origins of our food right back to the factory they were made in. The things he reveals about the food industry will shock you. This is a great read for those who are looking into altering their diet in some way for health reasons. This book may have the answers you’re looking for. It is available in many e-book versions or can be ordered online.

 

7. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde

 

This philosophical, gothic novel, which went through multiple rounds of publication, was one of the most controversial works of its time. The work was first published in 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, but the editor deleted roughly 500 words from the original without Wilde’s knowledge before publishing, for fear of the story offending the moral sensibilities of British book reviewers of that era. Wilde defended his novel aggressively and had it revised and lengthened for publishing the following year with a memorable preface defending his right as an artist. This preface soon became a literary and artistic manifesto for artists around the world. The novel centers around a portrait of a man named Dorian Gray, who is deeply disturbed by aging and the fading of beauty. He decides to sell his soul in return for eternal youth. As the years go by, he does not age, but his portrait ages and is collecting a record of the many sins committed in his wildly passionate, immortal life, that may come back to bite him. This novel is available on e-book platforms and can be ordered online.

 

8. “The Incendiaries” by R.O. Kwon

 

This novel follows two college students, Phoebe and Will, who are complete opposites. Will, a Bible college transfer, is drawn to Phoebe, and becomes convinced he is in love with her. Phoebe, however, becomes obsessed with a religious extremist cult that is founded by a former student who has questionable connections to Phoebe’s Korean American family. After the cult decides to bomb multiple buildings which end up taking five people’s lives, Phoebe disappears and Will becomes determined to find her. “The Incendiaries” is a fractured love story and an interesting examination of the minds and actions of extremist terrorists, and how far people will go for love. This book is available on multiple e-book platforms or can be ordered online.

 

9. “Lullabies” by Lang Leav

 

This gorgeous book of poetry is magic in writing. Lang Leav fills this book with short, thoughtful poems and short stories that reflect life, love, passion and beauty. If you’re looking for something unique and modern to add to your poetry collection, “Lullabies” and other works by Leav are a good place to start. “Lullabies” carries a musical theme, starting with Duet, then flowing into Interlude and ending with Finale. The book also features Leav’s own unique artwork. Leav says in the introduction, “I imagine it to be a bedside table kind of book – hopefully, one that you will pick up on some windy, restless night and it will help sing you to sleep.” “Lullabies” is available to read in PDF format for free, but I would recommend reading it in print. Good news is, it can be ordered online.

 

10. “The Seas” by Samantha Hunt

 

“The Seas,” Samantha Hunt’s debut novel, is a whimsical tale that follows a 19-year-old, nameless outcast who lives in a small, remote, seaside town. She lives with her dictionary-obsessed grandfather and mother. The no-name narrator is convinced that she is a mermaid, in which she believes she inherited from her allegedly deceased father, who walked into the sea one night and never came back. Additionally, she is lovesick for a local Iraqi war veteran who is 13 years her senior. Her delusional state and rebellious behavior lands her in jail, and how she escapes is quite unforgettable. American author Michelle Tea called “The Seas”, “creepy and poetic, subversive and strangely funny, a phenomenal piece of literature.” Hunt received a National Book Foundation award for this novel. “The Seas” can be found on multiple e-book platforms or can be ordered online, but the book has some elements that are much better to experience in print.

As coronavirus spreads in Sac, LRCCD closes campuses

Coronavirus
Starting Wednesday, March 18, all campus facilities will be closed to all students, faculty, staff and community members, and classes will move to online or remote operations. (Photo illustration by Jennah Booth)

As concerns about the coronavirus continue to grow throughout the college communities, the Los Rios Community College District announced March 12 that, effective Friday, March 13, the Los Rios district will suspend all face-to-face classes and student interactions, and beginning March 18, the campuses will close.

“Starting Wednesday, March 18 all campus facilities will be closed to all students, faculty, staff, and community members; however instructional, student services, and operational responsibilities will continue online or remotely,” the email said, regarding the district’s decision to close Los Rios campuses.

According to Brian King, LRCCD Chancellor, based on the guidance from the California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, all colleges should prepare for this crisis to last at least through June, and should expect to continue with remote operations through the end of the semester.

This follows in the wake of previous emails and RAVE alert updates the district has been sending out since Feb. 27. These alerts had been sent out due to four students within the LRCCD who had been exposed to the virus in February.

Since the disease has spread to a handful of states in the United States, including California, where now 11 deaths have occurred and a range of 200 to over 500 cases have been confirmed, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency on March 4, and urged the restriction of all meetings of 250 or more people, according to multiple news outlets. Recently, this number has dropped to 10 people or more, with shelter in place a likely possibility, according to multiple news outlets.

COVID-19, or coronavirus, is a pathogenic, respiratory illness that first emerged in Wuhan, China, and is said to have originated from bats, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

As this disease continues to become more threatening, the LRCCD is keeping students, staff and faculty as informed as possible with frequent updates and alerts, according to the March 12 update.

“This situation is rapidly evolving, so all students, faculty, and staff should be prepared for additional critical updates and districtwide alerts,” the email said. “We will continue to provide regular updates, including updated frequently asked questions, on the district coronavirus website.”

According to a Los Rios Health alert sent out via email on March 11, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that all events with a total of people exceeding 250, or where social distancing of 6-feet per person is not possible, have been canceled until further notice, including all athletic events, performing arts shows, celebratory gatherings and non-essential gatherings.

That same alert confirmed that there continues to be zero confirmed cases in students or employees within the LRCCD of the COVID-19 virus.

Although there are no confirmed cases, the alert also informed students the LRCCD is “taking all appropriate measures and will continue to follow the expert guidance of the California Department of Public Health and county agencies.”

Sacramento County Public Health experts had directed all colleges to continue with regular class and work schedules at that time, according to the alert. On March 12, the LRCCD made the decision to close all Los Rios campuses as a precautionary measure, according to the March 12 alert.

According to a March 8 Los Rios Health alert, college custodial teams are taking extra measures to deep clean campuses with higher-strength disinfectant agents, with a focus on “high-touch” points such as doorknobs, railings, door handles, bathroom push doors and light switches. Areas where confirmed exposed students may have been have also received extra cleaning.

On Feb. 27, American River College’s communications office first reported to all Los Rios Community College District staff, faculty and student population through RAVE alerts sent via text and email, that two students, one from ARC and one from Cosumnes River College had both been exposed to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19.

The two students are medical health professionals and were exposed to the virus while performing their medical duties, according to the ARC communications announcement. After the exposure, both of the students returned to their respective campuses. Shortly following this announcement, ARC communications reported that two more students from Sacramento City College were also exposed at a different hospital.

The original announcement said that since the exposures, the Sacramento County Department of Public Health had indicated that there were no indications at that time that members of the campus communities were at risk of potential exposure to the virus, but that later changed on March 12 when all face-to-face interactions on campus were suspended by the district.

Scott Crow, ARC public information officer, told the Current that the exposed students made contact with the infected individual before it was confirmed they tested positive for COVID-19, and that is the reason why they returned to the campuses.

According to Crow, both students had been instructed by county health experts to self-monitor symptoms and to self-quarantine for 14 days as a mandatory precaution.

“We would definitely recommend that those students do as instructed,” Crow said.

It was later reported in a separate announcement that same day, that a third and fourth student, both from Sacramento City College, were also exposed to someone who may have contracted COVID-19 while performing their medical duties as healthcare professionals. One of these students did not return to the SCC campus, and one did.

With a total of four exposures, Sac County Public Health experts had directed all colleges to “take no immediate action and proceed with regular class and work schedules” at that time, according to the RAVE alert announcement.

On Feb. 28, ARC President Thomas Greene issued a message to the whole campus in regards to the announcements.

“I want to reassure you that your health and safety is paramount, and we are actively monitoring and responding to this situation as it evolves,” Greene wrote.

Greene said the ARC Health and Wellness Center staff were prepared to give guidance to individual employees and students regarding these concerning times.

Dee Dee Gilliam, director of student health and wellness, released a statement to the Current via email regarding the growing concerns of COVID-19, and whether or not there had been a contingency plan in place.

In response, Gilliam said the ARC Health and Wellness Center was also working closely with the Sac County Department of Health Services and were frequently monitoring communications from the California Department of Public Health, the CDC and the World Health Organization, and was prepared to follow their expert guidance, before the campuses closed.

“As healthcare professionals, we follow best practice guidelines from those who have the knowledge and expertise from many years of communicable disease control,” Gilliam said. “The information that we are providing is based on those best practices, as well as basic infection control practices that we have worked within for many years, in preventing the spread of respiratory diseases.”

Since the exposures were reported, the situation has continued to evolve, with messages from the ARC communications office being sent out frequently regarding new developments and communicating that the Los Rios district and its colleges were in close communication with county health officials and the Center for Disease Control, which led to the decision to close campuses.

Brenda Bongiorno, Sac County Public Health Services public information officer, spoke to the Current via email on behalf of SCPH regarding the cases within the LRCCD.

Bongiorno said that SCPH has developed a coordinated system with healthcare partners for successful infection control. She said they are effectively identifying possible cases, conducting testing and diagnosis of suspect cases and leading investigations to identify individuals who may have been exposed.

“Currently, we are working very closely with the Los Rios Community College District to perform contact analysis of people who have potentially been exposed to COVID-19 either as travelers or because of a connection to a family member,” Bongiorno said.

According to Bongiorno, SCPH is instructing identified cases to quarantine or isolate themselves. She also clarified that an individual who has been released from isolation or completed quarantine no longer poses a risk of infection to others they come into contact with.

Borgiorno said that the SCPH recognizes students may have concerns, and emphasized the importance of remaining calm.

“Please be assured that there is no need for alarm or to change daily routines,” she said. “We recommend you practice the same precautions you do during cold and flu season and avoid non-essential travel to areas where COVID-19 infection is widespread.”

In more recent developments, the LRCCD is now coordinating daily discussions to assess the daily status at each campus so they can make quick decisions and communicate new information to students and employees, according to Gabe Ross, the Los Rios district associate vice chancellor.

For the few students from the Los Rios campuses, who are still in quarantine, they are being treated on a case-by-case basis with their instructors in regards to their absences from class, according to Ross, and if new identified cases arise, this is how students and instructors are advised to proceed.

It has also been communicated that the college should pay special attention to any incidents that involve stereotyping, bullying or harassment directed towards people perceived to be Chinese American or more generally of Asian descent, as there had been several media reports of this issue.

“Ethnic harassment or bullying exacerbates hatred, harms students, and is never justified,” Ross said. “We reaffirm our commitment that all students should be able to study and learn in an environment that is healthy, safe, and free from bias or discrimination.”

To prevent the spread of this infection, the Los Rios Health Department, the Sacramento County Department of Health services, and the CDC have made information on coronavirus available to students and employees through email links.

These agencies encourage the washing of hands frequently for 20-60 seconds. Washing hands remains an effective way to halt the spreading of pathogens. They also recommend avoiding touching your mouth, eyes or nose with unwashed hands, as well as covering your mouth while coughing.

The Sac County Health Department, the CDC and the Los Rios Health and Wellness Center also recommend that individuals self-monitor in case they show any signs of symptoms. They recommend checking for fever, if coughing is getting more frequent or if experiencing shortness of breath.

If infection is suspected, please notify the Sacramento Health department immediately, especially if there has been any travel to mainland China, Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea within the last two weeks, or have been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case, according to the Los Rios coronavirus FAQ page. The page also recommends self-monitoring daily, checking for fever twice a day.

According to the Sacramento Department of Health, there have been a total of 40 cases of COVID-19, with three deaths and a recovery in Sacramento and Placer Counties. Sacramento Department of Health is also changing the way they are handling these cases from containment to mitigation. With this shift, a 14-day quarantine will no longer be necessary and health agencies are now requiring individuals who have been exposed to go into isolation immediately if they are experiencing symptoms, according to NPR.

Continue to check emails daily for Los Rios Health Alerts, as they will provide the most current updates on COVID-19 in the Los Rios District.

Update: This article was updated on March 17 @ 5:03 p.m. to reflect new information.

Los Rios district confirms first exposures to the COVID-19 virus

Covid-19
Four LRCCD students were instructed to go on 14-day self quarantine after exposure to COVID-19. (Photo illustration by Emily Mello)

On Thursday, American River College’s communications office reported to all Los Rios Community College District staff, faculty and student population through Rave Alerts sent via text and email, that two students, one from ARC and one from Cosumnes River College had both been exposed to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19. COVID-19 or “Coronavirus,” is an animal-originated virus that broke out in Wuhan, China that is now spreading to other countries.

The two students are medical health professionals and were exposed to the virus while performing their medical duties, according to the ARC communications announcement. After the exposure, both of the students did return to both campuses. Shortly following this announcement, ARC communications reported that two more students from Sacramento City College were also exposed at a different hospital.

The original announcement said that since the exposures, the Sacramento County Department of Public Health has “indicated that there are no indications at this time that members of the campus communities are at risk of potential exposure to the virus.”

Scott Crow, ARC public information officer, told the Current that these students made contact with the infected individual before it was confirmed they tested positive for COVID-19, and that is the reason why they returned to the campuses.

According to Crow, they have both been instructed by county health experts to self-monitor symptoms and to self-quarantine for 14 days as a mandatory precaution.

“We would definitely recommend that those students do as instructed,” Crow said.

It was later reported in a separate announcement that same Thursday, that a third and fourth student, both from Sac City College, were also exposed to someone who may have contracted COVID-19 while performing their medical duties as health care professionals. One of these students did not return to campus, and one did.

With a total of four exposures, Sac County public health experts have directed all colleges to “take no immediate action and proceed with regular class and work schedules at this time,” according to the Rave Alert announcement.

Although there have been zero confirmed cases of the virus at any of the LRCCD campuses, out of an abundance of caution, all campuses have “implemented enhanced cleaning practices in high traffic areas” and have increased the frequency of cleaning surface areas throughout campuses, according to the announcement.

On Friday, ARC President Thomas Greene issued a message to the whole campus in regards to the recent announcements.

“I want to reassure you that your health and safety is paramount, and we are actively monitoring and responding to this situation as it evolves,” Greene wrote.

Greene said the ARC Health and Wellness Center staff is prepared to give guidance to individual employees and students regarding these concerning times. As the situation evolves, ARC communications will continue to monitor the situation, closely following the instruction of county health officials, keeping all Los Rios colleges as informed as possible.

For more information about COVID-19 facts and prevention visit the Los Rios FAQ website, or the CDC’s FAQ page.

Former LRPD officer sentenced to 81 years in prison

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Noah Winchester told the Current in 2014 that he served for the Sacramento Police Department for 10 years before joining the Los Rios Police Department, but other sources say he only served on the Sac PD for two years and left before his probationary period ended. (File photo by Adnan Ramic)

“I will do whatever to keep my student’s safe,” Noah Winchester, former corporal with the Los Rios Police Department once said.

That statement came during a November 2014 ride along with a former American River College Current reporter who observed Winchester conducting an off-campus drug bust.

What seemed like a well-intentioned statement six years ago is now proving to be ironic for students and staff who remember the former cop in light of recent events.

On Oct. 9, 2019, Winchester, 35, was convicted in the San Mateo County Superior Court for sexually assaulting three women in San Mateo, after a 20-day trial that resulted in guilty verdicts on 14 charges. He was sentenced 81 years to life in state prison, according to San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, as reported by the Daily Journal.

Winchester was arrested in July 2016 and had been in custody on a $3.1 million bail for six months prior to his sentencing.

In an email interview with the Current, Gabe Ross, Los Rios Community College district associate vice chancellor, said that after Winchester’s 2019 conviction and sentencing, the LRPD issued a statement that read, in part, “We are extremely happy that justice has been served for Noah Winchester’s victims … [We are] committed to keeping our college communities safe, and we will vigorously pursue severe consequences for anyone whose actions belie that commitment.”

Winchester was charged in 2016 with 22 felony counts of sexual assaults involving incidents as an officer on duty in San Mateo in 2015 and when he was an officer for the LRCCD police department in 2013, according to San Mateo County prosecutors, who also confirmed he had five victims between July 2, 2013 and Oct. 19, 2015.

Wagstaffe said those charges included kidnapping with intent to commit rape, rape, sexual penetration and oral copulation under color authority, battery, criminal threats and forceable sex offenses, as reported by Bay City News, who covered Winchester’s arrests in 2016.

According to Winchester’s case file, The People of the State of California v. Noah White Winchester, many of these charges were also enhanced because he had a weapon in his possession during the act.

The case file also noted he was ordered to take an HIV test in November 2019, and those results will be reviewed at his next scheduled court appearance on March 2.

WInchester and his attorney, Paul F. DeMeemster, recently put in their notice to file for an appeal regarding his recent prison sentence as of Feb. 4.

According to Ross, Winchester served as a police officer for LRCCD, rotating through Los Rios campuses from January 2009 to July 2016, under the authority of former LRPD chief of police, Cheryl Sears, and was the subject of an investigation during his time of employment with the LRPD for unsubstantiated allegations of inappropriate behavior.

“That investigation was led by …[the Sacramento Police Department],  [which] completed the investigation and found the evidence to be inconclusive,” Ross wrote.

Following Winchester’s arrests in 2016, LRPD released a statement that read in part, “The safety and security of our community is our highest priority. If these allegations are proven to be true, that would be horrific for the women who were victimized. Such criminal behavior is contrary to the core values and mission of the Los Rios Community College District.”

According to other news reports, Los Rios district spokesperson Mitchel Bensen said Winchester worked for LRPD up until January 2015, and began work as a police officer in San Mateo shortly after.

At the time of his hire in San Mateo, he was already being investigated in Sacramento and had also been under investigation for six months in San Mateo prior to his resignation with their police force in February 2016, according to Bay City News.

Winchester had also been briefly employed with the Sacramento Police Department from 2006 to 2007, but left before his probationary period was up, according to the Bay City News article.

The Daily Journal recently reported Winchester’s confirmed sexual assault incidents involved multiple young women under the age of 25. One of the assaults Winchester was convicted of happened in Sacramento in July 2013, when he forced a 21-year-old woman who was sleeping in a building exterior elevator with her three children present, to have sex with him.

According to Ross, Los Rios Police Department officers are hired by the department and then assigned to individual campuses. Ross said currently, ARC has four officers on campus and is in the process of hiring two additional officers. Since Winchester’s arrests and sentencing, LRPD has taken measures to improve their hiring processes, Ross said.

Ross said that these hiring changes were not made entirely because of the Winchester incident, but that it was a strong contributing factor. Over the last several years, the LRPD has taken a different approach to hiring and is no longer hiring individuals who have had any past or present disciplinary issues with outside agencies.

“LRPD is no longer a ‘second chance department,’ a term commonly used for agencies that recruit officers who have had minor struggles previously,” Ross wrote.

Although the LRPD has changed its hiring approach, it doesn’t mean other police agencies are taking the same measures. The question still remains as to why Winchester was hired in San Mateo while the subject of an investigation with another police force. Ross clarified in an email with the Current that LRPD will always prioritize the safety of staff and students when swearing in new officers.

“I cannot speak for San Mateo or any other agency regarding their hiring practices or procedures. In the Los Rios Police Department, we do not and would not hire an officer who has an active investigation pending against them,” Ross wrote. “The shift in focus from the quantity of officers we are hiring to the quality of officers we are hiring has helped us attract more qualified and experienced officers.”

Former ARC student and military contractor tragically killed in rocket attack

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Former American River College student and Iraqi-American military contractor, Nawres Waleed Hamid was buried in the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery on Jan. 4, 2020, after being killed in a rocket attack in Iraq in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Scott Crow)

In January multiple media outlets reported that former American River College student and Iraqi-American military contractor, Nawres Waleed Hamid, was killed in a rocket attack in Iraq in December 2019.

An email sent by ARC president, Thomas Greene reported to college staff and faculty that Hamid was a linguist working at a military base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

“His death has been cited as one of the reasons for the killing of Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani,” Greene wrote.

According to multiple media outlets, including the Sacramento Bee, U.S. forces blamed the rocket attack on Kataeb Hezbollah, a militia group with connections to Iran.

According to an email sent by ARC public information officer, Scott Crow, Hamid attended ARC from 2013-2018 and earned a Certificate of Achievement in a Computer Information Science field during his time at the college.

Hamid majored in computer networking management but is not considered an ARC graduate since he did not acquire an associate’s degree from the college.

He is survived by his wife, Noor Alkahilili, and two sons, ages 2 and 8. The Bee reported Hamid was buried in the Greater Sacramento Muslim Cemetery on Jan. 4.

Crow said he was not able to identify anyone connected to the college that was willing to speak with any media outlets, including the Current. Crow issued the college’s public announcement regarding Hamid’s passing via email.

“We are obviously saddened by this news and the impact that the apparent escalation of military action in the Middle East will have on our students, both current and former,” Crow wrote. “We send our deepest condolences to Nawres’ family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

Best Picture nominations you need to see before Hollywood’s biggest night

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Joaquin Phoenix performance in “Joker” earned him an Academy Award win for Best Actor. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros)

For the first Academy Awards ceremony of the decade, there are many films nominated that usually don’t fit the description of the typical “Oscar-winning” movie, as the Academy usually tends to favor indie, arthouse-style films. But with comic book-based films like “Joker” and action-thrillers like “1917”, the Academy may be looking to break the norm this year. Here are the Oscar nominations for Best Picture:

 

 

  1. “Parasite” (Bong Joon-ho)

 

This Korean-language film is nominated in six categories at the Academy Awards, including best foreign language film. The plot centers around an impoverished family of four, who weasle their way into working for a wealthy South Korean family, and the mental and physical toll they deal with from entering the lives of this family. With exceptional cinematography, acting and storytelling, “Parasite” has generated Oscar buzz since its release.

 

 

2. “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” (Quentin Tarantino)

 

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film is nominated in 10 categories, including Best Actor for Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Rick Dalton, a struggling actor who is attempting to revive his career in late 1960s Hollywood. Tarantino’s unconventional style of filmmaking combined with stellar comedic performances from DiCaprio and his co-star Brad Pitt make this movie a standout at the 92nd Oscars. 

 

 

3. “1917” (Sam Mendes)

 

“1917” is a war-thriller set in the backdrop of a war-ridden France during World War I, as two British soldiers who embark on a perilous mission behind enemy lines. What makes “1917” different from the other nominated movies is the way it’s filmed. The entire movie is made to look like it was completed in one take, which is typically difficult to pull off. Director Sam Mendes’ latest film is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including best cinematography for Roger Deakins.

 

 

4. “Joker” (Todd Phillips)

 

It’s a rarity that comic book-based films get nominated for an Oscar, but “The Hangover” director Todd Phillips has managed to change that perception with “Joker”. Set in early 1980s Gotham, the film follows Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) as he slowly continues his descent into madness and devolves into the early stages of the Joker we know from the movies and comics. 

 

 

5. “The Irishman” (Martin Scorsese)

 

“The Irishman,” adapted from the novel, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” is up for 10 Acedemy Awards, among these including Best Picture, Best Director, two nominations for Best Supporting Actor and surprisingly a nomination for Best Visual Effects. The film was nominated in this category for the incredible achievement of technologically de-aging the characters several years, since the film spans over 25 years, 1955 to 1982. The film centers around Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who finds himself involved with high ranking Pennsylvania mobster, Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his crime family. As Sheeran proves his loyalty as a hitman, he also finds himself going to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), a well-known community leader involved in organized crime. The film gives some insight into Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975. With a run time of nearly three- and-a-half hours, watching this film requires focus and determination, but watching the film in its entirety is well worth it. “The Irishman” is promising with its all-star cast including legends such as Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel. This one may take the cake…

 

 

6. “Ford V Ferrari” (James Mangold)

 

“Ford v Ferrari,” only nominated in four Oscar categories including best picture and achievement in sound and editing categories, follows the true story of automobile designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and dauntless British race car driver, Ken Miles (Chrisitan Bale), as they attempt to build the first ever Ford race car, that can withstand the 24 hour Le Mans in France in 1966. Shelby and Miles fight Ford’s corporate interferences and their own personal struggles to defeat the long-time winning race cars of Enzo Ferrari. Ford v Ferrari is thrilling with unexpected twists and turns – pun intended.

 

 

7. “Jojo Rabbit” (Taika Waititi)

 

“Jojo Rabbit” is nominated in six categories, among these including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress and Best Costume Design. The film centers around a young German boy, Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), who finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic in the midst of World War II. Jojo is guided by his imaginary friend, Adolf Hitler, and soon has to come to terms with the moral issues regarding his blind nationalism. This film stars 12-year-old Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Betzler), Taika Waititi (Hitler) and Scarlett Johansson (Rosie Betzler), nominated for best supporting actress. This is Johansson’s second nomination for this year’s Oscars. “Jojo Rabbit” plays with serious themes in a quirky, satirical and comedic style, which makes it a more approachable watch. 

 

 

8. “Little Women” (Greta Gerwig)

 

“Little Women,” adapted for the big screen for the seventh time, is nominated in six categories, including Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. “Little Women” displays an all-star cast, with returning Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan (Jo March), Laura Dern (Marmee March), Timothee Chalamet (Theodore Lawrence) and three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep (Aunt March). Familiar face Emma Watson (Meg March) also graces the screen, along with fresh up and comers Florence Pugh (Amy March) and Eliza Scanlen (Beth March). The film follows four sisters and their individual journeys into womanhood. An unexpected love triangle forms following Jo’s rejection of Laurie (Chalamet), Jo pursues writing in New York, Amy pursues painting in Paris, Meg pursues love at home while timid youngest sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family together. Gerwig’s “Little Women” is a lovely triumph of feminine choice and power.

 

 

9. “Marriage Story” (Noah Baumbach)

 

“Marriage Story,” is nominated in six categories, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. The film follows the inevitable divorce of a theatrical couple (Charlie and Nicole Barber) played by Oscar nominees Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. Charlie Barber is a New York stage director married to young actress, Nicole, who originally hails from Los Angeles. Charlie and Nicole endure the challenging process of a coast to coast divorce and ultimately make the decision that is best for their young son. This film was directed in a very interesting dialectic style, since the actors recite their lines as if they are reading them off from the script, with line delivery on a spectrum ranging from monotone to incredibly over-dramatic, which reveals the role-playing nature of a marriage that was fake from the start. “Marriage Story” is a fascinating take on love lost in a marriage that may have never had real meaning. 

ARC gives students the option to major in social justice

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Social justice is about all groups in a society working to create a physically and psychologically safe environment for all its members. (file photo)

It’s no secret that American River College is a thoroughly diverse campus. As ARC continues to become more diverse, social justice is becoming more of an interest and concern among students. Recently, ARC became the first in the Los Rios Community College District to offer Social Justice Studies courses and students now have the option of majoring in social justice and acquiring degrees in the field.

Pam Chao, department chair of sociology, said ARC now offers  two separate social justice degrees. The first focuses on Race and Ethnicity Studies and the second focuses on Women, Gender and LGBTQ Studies. Both of these Associate Degree for Transfer (AA-T) degrees prepare students to transfer into a variety of California State University major programs. 

According to Chao, social justice is about all groups in a society working to create a physically and psychologically safe environment for all its members. Chao defines social justice as striving to make distribution of resources equitable to every individual.

“Social justice is really about society, and who is othered and who belongs, and how that plays out,” Chao said. “That has an impact in just about every realm of our lives. It’s a way of using a lens and a map to navigate the world around you.”

Dennis Lee, English professor and author of the new social justice program at ARC, said in an email interview with the Current that the program was written because many students at ARC have expressed interest in social justice.

“Activities in our UNITE and Pride Centers and other programs such as our UndocuScholar Resource Connection have increased awareness on our campus about social justice issues,” Lee wrote.

He also said that smaller degree programs such as African American Studies, Ethnic Studies and Queer Studies at CSUs do not have Associate Degree for Transfer programs at the community college level. This has made it more difficult for community college students to transfer to CSUs into social justice degree programs, Lee said.

“The Social Justice Studies Transfer degrees were designed to make it easier for students to transfer into smaller programs in these areas and still receive the benefits of a transfer degree program at the CSU [level],” Lee wrote.

According to Chao, there are now two core Social Justice Studies courses offered at ARC, SJS 300, Introduction to Social Justice Studies, and SJS 310, Introduction to LGBTQ Studies. 

Chao said SJS 300 will primarily focus on introducing students to the foundations of social justice and understanding the social courses of action that create and resist brutality.

The course will also explore how creating and breaking down asymmetrical power relations are connected to and influence social structures, institutional processes and culture.

Chao explained treating people the same way is not always fair, and undoing these power relations can create ways for people to feel more included in society.

“We need to provide students with what they need to create a common success standard. We have to acknowledge the differences and how those differences attach to power,” Chao said.

According to Chao, both SJS degrees consist of 60 units and include sociology, psychology, English literature, political science, anthropology, journalism, history, humanities and statistics courses.

Now that these degree programs are transferable to CSUs, students can complete graduate degrees in related fields. Chao said students with degrees in the social justice field often continue into careers within activism, community organization, political campaigning, human rights, religious organization, international agency, lobbying and mediation. 

Chao said this program is also a great entryway for students wanting a career in law, law enforcement, social work, clinical psychology, social sciences, politics, business, education or public policy.

Chao said understanding principles of social justice is important for any career field. Social justice impacts the way people navigate their careers because it’s about restructuring their concept of how individuals should be treated. 

According to Scott Crow, ARC’s public information officer, the Los Rios Board of Trustees approved and added a commitment to social justice and equity to its new vision and values, since students are showing such a strong interest in this area. Crow wrote adding this commitment to the mission statement was approved back in March of 2017.

“I think there’s an interest because this speaks to the needs that people have in day-to-day life. Social justice is about how we create that inclusion,” Chao said.

In addition, Chao said that all other Los Rios Community Colleges are working on adding social justice degree programs and SJS courses. According to Chao, it’s all part of moving forward as a community and promoting equity on all of our campuses.

“For us as a society we tend to be much more individualistic, and we tend to leave things to individuals to solve, or [treat] things [as] isolated incidents when they are actually systemic,” Chao said. “You as an individual can always act, but when the systemic nature is recognized and people unite, then it’s a much more powerful action that occurs.”

 

ARC among top 150 community colleges in the country

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American River College ranks 148th in the country for community colleges in August due to offering low tuition costs and providing good career outcomes for students. (Photo illustration by Emily Mello)

A recent analysis done by WalletHub, a personal finance website, of 710 American community colleges, determined that American River College placed 148th overall, and 22nd among California community colleges.

Sacramento City College and Cosumnes River College also made the list, ranking slightly lower than ARC. Of the four community colleges in the Los Rios Community College District, Folsom Lake College ranked the highest placing 118th. San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton took the top slot, coming in fourth in the country.

According to its website, WalletHub’s ranking system is based on factors like tuition affordability, and overall educational and career outcomes for students. ARC tied for third lowest in-state tuition along with FLC, SCC and SJD colleges.

ARCs Public Information Officer Scott Crow spoke to the Current through email on behalf of ARC. Crow said ARC is pleased to see research studies reinforcing that community college education is a great option for students, since they provide lower tuition costs and high quality outcomes for all students.

“ARC is a smart move for students as we offer not only affordability but also excellence in our teaching faculty and partnerships with industry that help place students in good jobs,” Crow said.

Film major Jessica Kolb said this is her fourth year at ARC and she was not surprised ARC received the ranking that it did. Kolb said she’s had a great experience at ARC with tuition costs and professor’s teaching quality. Kolb said she did not qualify for financial aid, but was pleased to find ARC’s tuition cost is very affordable.

“I think it’s pretty reasonable considering it’s a community college,” Kolb said. “I think it’s the best option if you don’t have a lot of money to start [at] a community college and then transfer.”