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IOWA CITY — Despite surging COVID infections and hospitalizations across the state, Iowa’s Board of Regents on Wednesday announced no changes to its campus guidance or operations for the upcoming spring semester, which begins Jan. 18.
“The current COVID-19 guidance from the board for the fall 2021 semester remains in effect for the second semester and going forward,” board President Mike Richards said during a regents meeting Wednesday. “The campuses will continue to implement policies within the guidance provided and in conjunction with the board office.”
The board’s fall guidance mandated faculty and staff return to their pre-pandemic on-campus duties; required the universities offer the same level of in-person educational experiences as before; and barred the institutions from mandating masks, social distancing or vaccinations.
Still, Richards encouraged campus community members to get vaccinated.
“We are all tired of COVID. I'm sick of it,” he said. “But the single most important thing anyone can do is to get vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are very safe and effective. They overwhelmingly stop serious illness, hospitalizations and death.”
Since Monday, the University of Iowa is reporting 81 new self-reported student COVID cases and 108 new employee cases, bringing the total since Aug. 23 to 776 student cases and 842 employee cases.
Statewide, Iowa has added 31,748 new cases over the last seven days — nearing the seven-day record of 31,898 on Nov. 15, 2020. The seven-day total last week was 20,075, and the week before was 11,234, according to The Gazette’s analysis of state-provided data.
The state currently reports 923 COVID hospitalizations, the most since 960 on Dec. 5, 2020.
Johnson County has seen its seven-day case number skyrocket to 2,308 — after its record 1,612 cases last week. Iowa’s seven-day positivity rate jumped from 18 percent to 24 percent in the past week.
Among the hospitalized, 22 are children — including two who were fully vaccinated.
Regarding a federal vaccine mandate for companies of more than 100 and those employing federal workers and contractors, Richards said regents plan to wait to act until legal challenges play out.
“There are current legal challenges pending,” he said. “We will await further decisions by the courts before determining how to proceed that region's institutions.”
Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.
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