Special COVID-19 pandemic regulations for residence hall move-in days were lifted this semester for the first time in two years, while new protocols for Monkeypox Virus were introduced.
Per the instruction of an Aug. 8 email from Chief Student Affairs Officer Jerry Parker, students were not required to wear masks, test for COVID or quarantine upon their arrival to their residence hall.
“Currently the CDC only recommends testing if an individual has symptoms… or testing in certain high-risk settings, which does not include living in a university residence hall,” said Chris Nickell, Drake’s Director of Environmental Health & Safety.
Based on this recommendation, Nickell said he and his colleagues deemed it safe to drop the COVID move-in requirements.
Remaining protocols include that COVID-positive students must report their test to the designated university form, residential students who test positive must isolate either at home or in Ross Hall and free PCR tests are available in the Student Services Center in Olmsted.
“We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves,” Parker said. “Should the CDC publish new guidelines, we will update our policies and practices accordingly.”
One first-year student moving into Carpenter Hall, Carissa Phan, said she felt Drake’s COVID procedures were a “pretty adequate plan” for move-in and the semester at-large.
“Because more people have gotten vaccinated, the spread and severity of COVID has decreased, and I think Drake’s measures do a great job of adjusting the regulations to fit the current status of COVID,” Phan said.
Despite fewer protocols to combat COVID, however, Drake rolled out a new set of regulations to address the recent outbreak of MPV, commonly known as Monkeypox Virus, and its potential threat to campus.
Another university-wide email sent on Aug. 17 stated that any student with a confirmed case of MPV will be “required to isolate in consultation with the Polk County Health Department.”
Additionally, because of the CDC’s current recommendation that affected persons should isolate for two to four weeks, any residential students who contract MPV are encouraged to isolate at home or somewhere off campus.
Nickell said that Drake’s decisions about handling the potential MPV threat were informed by the CDC, the Iowa Department of Public Health and Polk County Health Department officials.
“Having experience navigating COVID-19 over the past 30 months has positioned Drake to institute protocols and plans to mitigate threats to our public health,” Nickell said.
Despite the decline in overall COVID-19 risk, Parker said he and all Drake staff will continue to stay attuned to public health and its potential impact on campus.
“Although I don’t intend to speak for my faculty and staff colleagues, I do feel folks are ready to return as close as possible to the true intentions of our work prior to the pandemic,” Parker said. “Plus, it’s great being able to see our students around campus enjoying all that Drake has to offer.”
Phan shared a similar sentiment of excitement.
“Because so many events have been canceled during my high school years, it’s refreshing and exciting to know that I will have as much of a normal freshman year that I can have,” Phan said. “There’s so much to get involved in at Drake and I can’t wait to experience it all.”