It was a warm sunny day here in Des Moines, Iowa. The birds were chirping, the squirrels were squirreling and there was a sense of joy in the area around campus.
Drake Relays were back in full force for the first time in 2 years! What was supposed to be a time of fun and celebration quickly turned into a campus superspreader event. I am, of course, referring to last year’s Relays and what became known as the “Peggy’s Plague.”
Last year was the first restriction-free Drake Relays since before the COVID-19 Pandemic. Thousands of people from all over came to our little campus, filled up our stadium, cheered on their favorite athletes and partook in the street festivities.
For the most part, Relays itself went perfectly fine. It was after it ended that the problems started to arise. Within a week of Relays, Ross Hall had completely filled up and the university was renting out hotel spaces to quarantine students.
COVID numbers on campus spiked exponentially to numbers not before seen on campus. Not just students were getting sick; professors too started canceling classes for being out ill.
Within a week, the spring semester came to a screeching halt and students were sent home early.
Not to brag, but I, for one, survived the plague. I never got sick. Though my girlfriend at the time and a few of my other friends… let’s just say the odds were not in their favor.
So, for those of you living under rocks or who were not around here last year, you may be asking: “Why was it called the Peggy’s Plague?” Well, I can answer that for ya!
In all honesty, it wasn’t just the fault of Peggy’s Tavern next to campus. The name came from the fact that during Relays, Peggy’s puts up a tent in their back lot to accommodate the surplus of people who will be visiting. Thus there were lots of people packed into close quarters and that’s what caused the spread.
While that is most definitely one of the reasons, it’s not the only one. Besides Peggys, there were many different parties and activities going on, not to mention thousands of people from outside campus. Relays, in general, was a superspreader event.
What surprised me the most was that for only the first couple weeks of it happening, it was considered news. After that, it felt like it was swept under the rug. Even President Marty Martin never fully acknowledged it, even going as far as claiming that the outbreak had nothing to do with Relays before never mentioning it again.
Even this year, no mention of anything related to an outbreak or potential spread of illness the week’s events could cause.
Now, I know the majority of people are vaccinated now, COVID numbers are next to nothing on campus and there hasn’t been any major outbreak at all this year. But with that said, people from all over the world are coming and cramming onto campus, so there’s some risk.
I’m an optimist. I’d like to think everything will be fine. Just putting it out there that COVID isn’t dead. I’m going out like everyone else and engaging in the festivities the week has to offer, just maybe some recognition of last year’s events would be nice.
I’d rather the university be prepared for something to happen and have nothing happen then for there to be another outbreak and the university is unprepared and chaos ensues just like last year.
Anyways, that’s all. Enjoy your Relays!