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Campus Health News

Drake urges community to remain cautious as reporting of new COVID-19 cases slows

Photo Courtesy of Katherine Crockett

Update 8 p.m. on May 6

Drake University reported 321 confirmed student cases of COVID-19 early Friday afternoon. 102 of those students are in Drake-provided isolation housing, while 219 are off-campus. 

The pace of the rise in confirmed cases at Drake has declined. Cases have increased by 66 since Wednesday evening, compared to an increase of 148 cases between early Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday evening. 

The COVID-19 update sent to the Drake community said that “it remains likely there are unidentified cases on our campus.” Drake was still waiting on the results of over 500 student COVID-19 tests on Wednesday evening. 

In an email response on Thursday morning, Public Safety director Scott Law said that Drake’s response plan for the pandemic “was designed to be fluid and respond to variances in caseloads.” 

“However, in no way were we anticipating this quantity of positive students,” Law said.  “It is truly unprecedented at Drake.” Law said. 

Law said that Ross Hall and other Drake properties are currently full, and that the Holiday Inn Express cannot be used for isolation housing because it is under renovation. Masks are “strongly recommended” for all Drake community members in Ross. Law noted that all hallways in Ross are exterior to the building and open to fresh air. 

The Holiday Inn will provide a new residence opportunity for students in the fall. It has served as a backup option for isolation housing in the past in case Ross Hall ran out of space, Drake provost Sue Mattison said in an interview on Feb. 18. 

Law said that the meal process hasn’t changed for students: Sodexo is delivering meals to Ross Hall, and students can take snacks and water throughout the day. 

“With the exception of a couple of cases that were quickly addressed, we are not aware of any wide-spread problem of students missing meals,” Law said.

This is a developing story.

Original article posted on Wednesday, May 4

Drake University to move online for the last week amid COVID-19 surge after Relays

Drake University will be returning to online courses for the last week of the semester, Drake President Marty Martin announced in faculty senate Wednesday afternoon.  

“With the move to on-line finals, all resident undergraduates who are not in isolation are encouraged to move out of the residence halls as soon as you can,” Martin wrote in a campus-wide email on Wednesday. “This will mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus, thus freeing up resources to support those residential students who need to isolate due to infection.”

There are 255 students who are currently positive for COVID-19 on Drake’s campus, Martin wrote. 75 of these students live on campus. This is up from 107 cases on Tuesday, 44 cases on Monday and just one case last Friday. On Tuesday, Martin strongly recommended wearing masks in shared indoor spaces and specifically referenced N95 and KN95 masks.  

Provost Mattison said in faculty senate that Drake is getting case updates every hour. Martin wrote that students are awaiting results from over 500 COVID-19 tests and that Drake expects the demand to provide isolation housing for more residents to grow. 

Martin noted in faculty senate that when a student takes a COVID-19 test, the university does not receive the results unless the student reports them. This is the result of the switch to the current Test Iowa site at the Student Services Center in the Olmsted Center, The Times-Delphic previously reported

An exception to the move to online classes is the Drake Law School, Martin said, which does not have the capacity to move online for this testing cycle and will be in-person with precautions. Martin wrote in the email that the John Dee Bright College will also be in-person and has a unique academic schedule. 

Martin said that Ross Hall, which houses students in isolation for COVID-19, is currently full. 

Drake student Jacob Lish said they notified Drake that they were positive for COVID around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, but they didn’t hear back from contact tracing until almost 9 p.m. They weren’t moved until the next day, and they were told by Public Safety that they would be getting a roommate.  

“He said something about me getting a roommate, and I was like, ‘What do you mean?’” Lish said. “This is isolation, aren’t I supposed to be alone?’ And then, sure enough, I have a roommate.” 

Martin said the university has begun moving students to rooms in Drake West Village, and that they have also connected with two different hotels to start moving students there. 

“These hotels have internet connectivity and students will be fully supported by Drake staff, including making provisions for dining needs,” Martin wrote in the email. 

On the behalf of professor Nate Holdren, faculty senator Carol Spaulding-Kruse asked Martin why there was not a mask mandate prior to Relays, why there was no plan for COVID after Relays and about consideration of people who are immunocompromised. 

Martin said in response that Drake did not know that Relays would be a superspreader event, though they knew it created risk. He also referenced the process by which students with disabilities can request accommodation. 

Drake’s policy allows students and employees who receive legal accommodations through Student Disability Services to require those “in close proximity” to them to wear masks, Martin said in a campus-wide email on Feb. 28.

Faculty have the power to choose whether to teach in-person or online and whether masks or social distancing will be required in the classroom for the remainder of the week, Martin wrote. 

Faculty senator Joan McAlister said some faculty found it jarring to have this responsibility shifted to them. 

Provost Sue Mattison said that she made the decision to empower faculty based on case numbers at the time. She said she expected that everyone would require masks in the classroom and said that faculty are the closest to the situation. 

Mattison said that the majority of cases have come from social events. She said that the Relays were outdoors and that outdoor events do not lead to significant spread of the virus. Similarly, Drake virologist Brian Gentry said that there was “little chance” of the Relays becoming a superspreader event because it was outdoors, The Times Delphic previously reported

Martin said that the goal is still to have an in-person graduation ceremony, though he suspects that masks will be mandated. He wrote in the most recent campuswide update that all extracurricular and co-curricular events will either be “postponed, moved online or canceled as decided by event organizers.” 

Martin also wrote that Drake encourages managers to “allow staff to work remotely for the next two weeks where practicable.” Remote work changes will be communicated by individual departments and managers “based on departmental needs.” 

Lish said he thinks this is by far the most people have ever had COVID on campus. 

“I’m just kind of riding it out, kind of confused as to what’s happening,” Lish said. “Every Drake student, even if they’re not COVID positive, probably doesn’t know what’s happening.”

Emma Brustkern contributed reporting. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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