COVID mask policies tighten; College informs of new OSHA guidelines



Mask usage will be required indoors for at least the first two weeks of the semester.

by Evan Burley and Amelia Schafer

As winter break draws to a close, the COVID Management Team has announced Simpson College will be ushering in updated COVID-19 protocols with the spring semester.

In an email sent Jan. 6 to the Simpson community, COVID Management Team chair Heidi Levine detailed the changes made to Simpson COVID-19 protocols—including wearing masks, quarantining and testing—which will begin Jan. 10. The update comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidelines in response to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

 Starting Jan. 10, and following new CDC guidelines, masks will be required in public, indoor locations on campus regardless of vaccination status. If a person tests positive, then they must isolate for five days. After five days, the person may leave isolation if they are asymptomatic and must wear a mask for an additional five days when around others. Students sharing a living space must isolate in temporary housing and dine alone for ten days.

“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after,” the CDC said in a media statement, which can be read in full here.

If a person is to COVID-19, their vaccination status determines the protocol. Anyone vaccinated during the proper timeframe and received a booster shot and asymptomatic are not required to quarantine, but must wear a mask for five to seven days. 

Individuals who are not vaccinated or were not vaccinated within “vaccine-specific timeframes” must quarantine following the same protocol for isolating after a positive COVD-19 test, which can be found on the updated Isolation and Quarantine Guidelines page of the Simpson College website. 

The new guidelines do not address the visitor policy in residential areas. Previously, there was no limit to how many students could be in one room at a time aside from the fire code. 

A COVID-19 booster clinic will take place on Jan. 19 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

According to the Spring 2022 Campus COVID-19 Dashboard, there have been 14 new positive COVID-19 cases during the week of Jan. 3, with 13 of those cases currently active as of 10:50 a.m. Jan. 6. One student is in quarantine on- or off-campus. According to the COVID-19 in Iowa Positive Case Analysis, 16% of the COVID-19 tests administered in Warren County have been positive in the last seven days as of Jan. 4. Due to new campus protocols, updates to the dashboard are expected to increase.

Additionally, it is recommended that meals from campus dining locations are taken to-go as frequently as possible; limited seating will continue to be available to those dining in. Rapid testing will resume Mon. through Thur. from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the on-campus testing location at the Campus Services building across from Station Square, though randomized testing has been suspended due to new Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines. 

OSHA Guidelines 

The new OSHA guidelines will impact mask use policies on campus for unvaccinated employees. 

A Jan. 7 email from CMT said that the new OSHA guidelines will require non-vaccinated college employees to wear a mask and be tested weekly. Any infraction may result in a $14,000 fine to the company or institution that the individual works for. 

This includes students in work-study positions, Undergraduate Assistants or other paid positions. 

An unvaccinated employee can be unmasked only when eating or drinking or completely alone, or if they have an exemption. 

Unvaccinated employees must cover the $7.00 per test cost. 

Any individual employee who does not follow this policy will be asked to leave the workplace and will only be able to return when they agree to comply. 

Anyone seeking exemptions for medical or religious reasons may do so through the Director of Accessibility Services, Monica Lewis. 

“I know we are all disappointed by the need to roll back campus protocols,” the email said. “It’s important to keep in mind these changes are due to the rapidly evolving nature of this pandemic phase. As has been the case throughout, we are committed to basing actions on our shared obligation to safeguard our community, especially those at greatest risk.”

If you are vaccinated but have not sent in proof of vaccination or have since received a booster, information should be sent to [email protected] as soon as possible. 

**Updated on Jan. 8 at 3 p.m. previous edition stated that Warren County had a 16% positivity rate.