COVID cases drop; mask use recommended in most public spaces

by Riley Fletcher, Website Editor

Simpson College announced via email on Feb. 21 that the campus would be returning to the mask use recommended protocols similar to what was in place before winter break. The college cites the recent downward trend in COVID-19 positivity rates on campus and in Warren County.

As of Feb. 23, the campus test positivity rate is 0%. The latest data reveal a campus test positivity rate of 0% for the past two weeks. The Warren County positivity rate is 14%. There are currently two active cases and campus isolation/quarantine occupancy is at 1%. There have been 152 cumulative positive COVID cases since Jan. 3. 

Mask use will continue to be required in all classrooms until further notice. Guidelines for campus events vary. Event sponsors may opt to require mask use even if the general campus is not requiring universal, indoor masking. When masks are recommended or optional, larger events are to provide areas where mask use is required. 

Food and drink are permitted at events but at events where masks are required, people should be masked when not actively eating or drinking.

When asked how they felt about the new guidelines, many students admitted they stopped reading the email updates. Those who did read the email were confused about the wording and weren’t sure what protocols the college was following. 

According to guidelines set by the school, mask use is required if the campus positivity rate is greater than 8% for two weeks. Mask use is recommended so long the campus positivity rate is less than 8% for two weeks and the Warren County test positivity rate is greater than 8%. Mask use becomes optional when the campus positivity rate is less than 8% for two weeks and the Warren County positivity rate is less than 8%.

Many students have been taking advantage of the masks recommended policy and have lessened their mask usage in public spaces, which is evident when walking through Kent Campus Center.

Simpson continues to encourage students to get vaccinated and boosted to avoid serious illness and protect others. If sick, students are recommended to stay home and get tested. Health services continues to offer COVID-19 testing Monday through Thursday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Campus Services building. 

The college asks students to be considerate of those who still wish to mask as they may be doing so because of conditions one might not be aware of such as being immunocompromised.

Junior political science major Mallory Burkhart is conflicted about the change in policy.

“I feel like they are not taking my safety seriously,” Burkhart said. “Because, yes, I might be fully vaccinated, but you can still catch COVID and I don’t want to do that again. It really sucks.”

New reported cases and hospitalizations in Iowa both dropped for the fifth week in a row, reaching the lowest number in six months across the state. The federal health department reports 38 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in Iowa, a number that was nearly halved in the past week. However, there is still a high number of COVID-related deaths with 137 deaths reported this week.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Iowa is likely higher because of asymptomatic cases or those who test at home and don’t report, but numbers indicate the omicron variant is making its retreat.

CMT will continue to monitor events and adjust protocols accordingly.