SILVIA OAKLAND, TRUMPET EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
UPDATE: Regarding quarantine procedures on the Wartburg College campus, students who do not take a COVID-19 test and do not have any symptoms would only need to quarantine for 10 days after encountering someone who is positive for COVID-19 or seven days if they receive a negative result from a test administered at least five days after first contact and do not have any symptoms. Any student who has symptoms will be required to quarantine for the full 14 days.
As students returned to campus January 18, two changes to COVID policy greeted them: public health ambassadors and new quarantining guidelines.
The Wartburg Public Health Ambassadors joined campus to help promote safety and encourage healthy habits during the pandemic. The group will not be policing students on their mask wearing. The team is student led and made up of seven students.
“Their role is not about enforcement or catching students, we want them to foster a culture of both caring for each other and compliance to the guidelines,” Daniel Kittle, Dean of Students, said. “Yes, you or I would love to be able to gather with a friend and watch a movie and, I mean, do all these things that are good for our mental health and for our personal well-being, but [right now] they conflict with our physical health.”
Yusra Malik and Emma Williams, 2020-21 president and vice president respectively, said the Wartburg Public Health Ambassadors are not a part of Student Senate and would support their initiative and encouraged students to reach out to Skylar Cunningham, an ambassador or Jo Dorrance, advisor of the Wartburg Public Health Ambassadors.
The future of the group after COVID-19 is unknown but Kittle said the group serves as a great representation of the mission of the college and will provide an opportunity for public health majors.
“I think there’s potential for the program to continue. To me it’s a perfect intersection of our leadership and service pillar and our public health program,” Kittle said. “Warburg is uniquely situated to have a program like this. I don’t know of any of our sister institutions that have something quite like it [Public Health Ambassadors].
Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, students who do not take a COVID-19 test and do not have any symptoms would only need to quarantine for 10 days after encountering someone who is positive for COVID-19 or seven days if they receive a negative result from a test administered at least five days after first contact and do not have any symptoms. Any student who has symptoms will be required to quarantine for the full 14 days.
“We’re able to make this transition, not just we at Wartburg but the general public, is because this is a CDC and an [Iowa Department of Public Health] transition. And another reason is the fact that there is more readily available testing,” Kittle said. Due to a partnership with Hy-Vee, the college is receiving an increased amount in testing.
Kittle said the changes to quarantine would not affect the current contact tracing provided by the college. Contact tracing will continue for students, faculty and staff on campus and is based on the John Hopkins’s system, which follows the infectious contact and works to create a timeline to find others who might have been in contact with the infectious. From there an investigation begins and people are moved into either isolation or quarantine.
Since last semester the college has added three more symptom checkers, those who routinely check in on students who have been contact traced or tested positive for COVID-19 for a total of 17.
While some changes to campus protect the community, some changes were a result of COVID-19. The Vogel Library announced a change in hours due to the low number of students using the library.
“It’s a symptom of COVID … the library really works hard to track the number of people in the building at any one time,” Kittle said. “That’s not a permanent decision, and how we’ll monitor it is based on the last hours of a library being open.”
Another result of COVID-19 was the added mental health days for students and faculty to the academic calendar. The dates include February 9, 23 and April 2, 5. These days were added after expressed concern from Student Senate and the student body during the Fall Term. Malik and Williams said they hope to add programing to these days off from classes to help students maintain high morale and will announce the official activities closer to the dates.
“I hope that my colleagues and students think about what they need so that day provides them with some space to address those needs,” Kittle said. “If what they need is to dive in and catch up on homework to relieve some stress and put them in a good place, then that’s what I hope they do and if what they need is to step away entirely from their studies and from social media, I hope they do that for themselves.”