OLIVIA FOSTER, TRUMPET EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Through the ups and downs of COVID-19, the Wartburg College community persists with a hopeful and safety-minded attitude.
Students and staff of the college have come together, creating groups to inform about and fight COVID-19, the coronavirus at the center of the ongoing global pandemic. They put together community events with specialized safety guidelines, and continue to uphold Wartburg’s values.
Over the summer as cases decreased, COVID policies at Wartburg shifted to allow for more normalcy than was possible during the 2020-21 academic year. Six-foot social distancing is no longer required in classrooms and sports seasons are back on a regular schedule.
With these changes, students and staff of the college are beginning to see the end, they said.
“Even though some of the changes are small, there’s a sense of freedom, and it feels good to know that we are getting closer to this being over,” said Peace Iteriteka, a third-year. “It’s easy to just see the negative. But there’s a light at the end of the rainbow.”
The COVID regulations that are active at Wartburg are in place in the hope that the campus will be able to get to that light at the end of the rainbow. What are the regulations in place right now?
Mitigation efforts at Wartburg rely upon several factors, said Dean of Students Dan Kittle. Vaccination rates, CDC guidance, and the number of positive Covid cases at and around Wartburg are all factors that impact the COVID protocols on campus.
As of September 12, 67 percent of the Wartburg campus population reported being fully vaccinated against COVID according to the Wartburg Knights Care COVID Dashboard. Comparably, out of those who are eligible to get vaccinated, 53.8 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, according to the CDC COVID Data Tracker.
“It’s been interesting to me that the campus population has really mirrored the broader community in terms of vaccination,” Kittle said at CHATS, an open-forum discussion held September 7. “We’re tracking closely with the rest of the country. It’s important to continue improving those numbers.”
Since six-foot social distancing is no longer required in classrooms, vaccination rates and masking have become the central methods of COVID mitigation at Wartburg.
“I would love for 100 percent of our campus community to be vaccinated,” said Wartburg College President Darrel Colson. ”I think that everybody should roll up their sleeves and get a vaccine. I regret that so many people are uncertain, suspicious, nervous, or fearful of vaccines because I think that they are the key.”
Guidance from the CDC plays an important role in COVID mitigation at Wartburg.
“We have been using the CDC as a benchmark for the whole pandemic,” said Colson. “We look at what the CDC is saying and make our decisions as midpoint of what they suggest along with what is happening in this area.”
Along with vaccination rates and CDC recommendations, regulation efforts at Wartburg depend on the number of active cases on campus and in Bremer County.
On September 12, there was one positive cases of the virus on campus according to the Wartburg Knights Care COVID Dashboard and 3,180 positive cases in Bremer County according to the New York Times COVID Case Tracker.
The policies at Wartburg are created by the Campus Health Recovery Team (CHRT) and then brought to Colson for approval before becoming active on campus.
CHRT is chaired by Kittle and made up of several members of Wartburg’s faculty, staff, and administration from across various departments. Student Body President Connor Moore and Vice President Olivia Hobson also sit on CHRT to offer a student perspective.
CHRT will be reviewing the current policy and updating it on September 17. The review will be focused on whether or not to continue the masking mandate.
While students have varying opinions on how they think Wartburg should handle the pandemic, most understand that the college leaders are doing what they believe is best.
“It’s not like anyone loves wearing a mask all day but I know it’s the best decision for everyone’s safety, so I support the decision to require masks at the beginning of the year,” said Britta Williams, a third-year.
The mask requirement has been a hot-button topic among students since the most recent mask mandate began on August 23. Classes began September 1.
“It’s tough to go back to wearing masks because that’s not what we anticipated for this fall,” said Kittle. “I know that it’s disappointing for many students, but with the delta variant, it’s what we need to do now. It’s good to see that most students are taking masking seriously.”
Some students are even pleased that Wartburg is requiring masks indoors.
“I think the fact that we are still wearing masks is a good sign that the college cares,” said Nathan Onsgard, a third-year. “Starting the year off with masks is a good way to get into things so we can see how things are and go from there.”
During the most difficult times, the Wartburg community relied on a variety of coping methods to keep spirits high.
Some, like Kittle, turned to physical activities to get their minds off of the pandemic.
“I’m at the W [Wartburg-Waverly Wellness Center] several times a week shooting hoops,” said Kittle. “Even if it’s just 20 minutes in the gym to decompress, getting that activity in has been really healthy for me. I get worried about the day when I’ll be too old to play.”
Others turned to activism to deal with the negative impacts of COVID. Jo Dorrance, the internship coordinator, said that spending time with student groups on campus, such as the Public Health Ambassadors, helped keep her mind off the bad things happening in the world.
“Being able to work with students who are so passionate about changing the world inspires me,” said Dorrance. “It’s just so cool to be able to work with others to make a difference.”
Colson has been inspired by the perseverance that he has witnessed on a daily basis.
“Among the 2,000 students and staff at Wartburg, there are a wide variety of mixed opinions about COVID,” said Colson. “And yet, it seems to me that we are unified in our devotion to the mission and conviction. It’s been gratifying to see everyone working so darn hard.”