As the 2022 Drake Relays approach, the days of toilet paper shortages, weeks of solitude and the halting of everyday life seem to be in the past for the Drake community. The Relays will be in full swing by the end of the month, and restrictions at the events are lifted.
Some students are anticipating the upcoming events without much concern for COVID-19. Alexis Cosatino, a current pharmacy student, acknowledged the potential that COVID may bounce back but seemed excited to celebrate Relays.
“It’ll definitely be nice for things to feel like it’s actually Drake Relays again … I mean, Relays are a huge draw for potential students, and it’s a staple in the community,” Cosatino said.
Brian Gentry, a virologist at Drake, gave an optimistic view of the threat COVID-19 could pose to the upcoming Relays.
“We don’t want to rule out the possibility, but if we’re talking about likelihood, my answer is no —there is very little chance of Relays becoming a superspreader,” Gentry said.
Gentry said that COVID is not easily spread outdoors — with the wind, sunlight and the open air all hindering the spread of the respiratory virus. As the events will be hosted in the glow of sunlight, Gentry said there is little more that Drake students and faculty can do to protect themselves.
“I don’t think a mask mandate at Relays is gonna do much besides make people mad—with the events being outdoors, there is little chance of Relays becoming a superspreader.” Gentry said.
On April 19, Drake had two confirmed cases of COVID-19 off campus, according to Drake Chief of Staff Nate Reagen. On April 15, Drake had five confirmed cases of COVID-19, Reagan said over email. On April 8, there were two cases, down from 11 cases on April 1, according to Drake University’s reported COVID numbers.
Reagan said that 73 percent of all students and 89 percent of on campus students have reported their vaccination to the University. 27 percent of all students and 48 percent of on-campus students have reported their booster vaccinations, he said.
The low COVID numbers have given Drake the confidence to let the restrictions fall and continue the Relays tradition.
“We are continuing to monitor the situation closely,” Relays director Blake Boldon said over email. “The CDC considers Polk County as low risk for community spread. We do not have restrictions in place but encourage all to participate and attend at their own comfort level.”
While restrictions have been lifted, Public Safety director Scott Law encouraged students to protect themselves from the virus by washing their hands, wearing masks and maintaining distance when possible.
Law recommended that anyone coming to campus get vaccinated for COVID-19 if they can, including a fourth vaccine for those who are eligible. In addition to the Test Iowa site in the Olmsted Center, Law said that Drake has rapid COVID-19 tests available.
“We’re hoping that people are using their best judgment,” Law said. “As we approach the Relays this year, obviously we’re going to have a lot of visitors. Some of which are members of our community, some of which are not members of our campus community.”
Andrew Kennard contributed reporting.