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Provost Responds to Iowa Student Action Rally

In September, Iowa Student Action had a rally on campus calling for a COVID-19 dashboard with complete data, testing for all faculty, staff and students and ultimately, the closing of campus. 

Provost Sue Mattison said in an email that the Emergency Operations Committee monitors three data points that guide their decision making: contact tracing, isolation capacity and surveillance testing. She said conditions for closing campus would entail a “rapid, uncontrolled and sustained increase” in students in isolation and a decrease of available space to house those isolated students. The email also said the capacity of isolation housing has not exceeded 10% during the fall semester.

The weekly surveillance testing that began in early September helps the university track asymptomatic cases in addition to testing for symptomatic faculty, staff and students. The most recent COVID-19 Drake Update sent on Oct. 23 said 1 out of 184 students tested positive in the current cycle of surveillance testing. With on and off-campus numbers combined, 9 students were isolating and 76 were in quarantine as of Oct. 23.

Students and community members at the rally also raised concerns about BIPOC being more at risk for the coronavirus, and that campus was reopened because of the university’s financial needs. Mattison said BIPOC, first generation college students, students from low-income families and those who are essential workers are all at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. The university’s response to the increased risk is giving all students and faculty the option to operate virtually.

“Those who are at increased risk are able to stay safely away from campus, and the number of people on campus is greatly reduced, resulting in reduced risk of transmission,” Mattison said.

Students voiced their concerns partly in response to the university’s initial decision not to share detailed data about coronavirus infections with campus. Other responses included a petition from the Times-Delphic to release data as well as a town hall with students and university administration. 

The first COVID-19 update to include key data points was sent on Sept. 14 and campus now receives weekly updates on the current round of surveillance testing,  and the number of isolations and quarantines. Mattison said since the regular release of the key data points started, she has not received or heard of further reactions from students.

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