California university taps Mr. Rogers to remind students of COVID protocols

School chancellor asks students to be considerate of their neighbors as they return to campus after 18 months of distance learning.

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Students at a California university were welcomed back to school this week by Mr. Rogers explaining some new school rules. Well, not really Mr. Rogers, but rather the university's chancellor, mimicking the beloved preschool TV show host to remind students of the COVID protocols in place on campus.

In a video posted this week to YouTube, University of California Riverside Chancellor Kim Wilcox is seen entering a room while singing Rogers' familiar welcome song Won't You Be My Neighbor. After removing his mask, swapping his sport coat for a cardigan sweater and putting on more comfortable shoes, Wilcox uses a soothing voice and a puppet named Scotty to explain the school's new indoor mask and daily wellness check requirements.

"This has been a tough, tough time through this pandemic, we're not done yet. So I'd ask every neighbor to think about their friends, and all those around them, and use a little kindness, a little bit of respect," Wilcox says in the nearly three-minute-long video. "Help each other through the pandemic. And that way, we'll come through this like Highlanders."

The school's fall quarter began on Thursday, as its roughly 26,000 students and 1,100 faculty members returned to campus for the first time after 18 months of distance learning.

The mask policy and social-distancing reminder are part of the school systems' efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. The University of California and California State University systems, which have a combined student population of more than 750,000, announced in April they would require that all students and faculty be vaccinated against COVID-19 if they're on campus this fall once the FDA has fully approved at least one vaccine and that adequate supplies of the shots are available.

Rogers' show was on the air for nearly 50 years before he hung up his sneakers and cardigan sweater for the last time in 2001, some 20 years ago, so it's unclear how many of today's college students had much exposure to the show. Wilcox's video appeared to be generally well received by those who viewed it, although the 7,300 views at this writing suggest the message isn't getting to all the students.