CORONAVIRUS

Iowa State reports 112 more COVID-19 cases

ISU, University of Iowa communities hold second 'sickout'

Iowa State University. (Still from ISU Facebook video)
Iowa State University. (Still from ISU Facebook video)

After last week’s seven-day add of 330 new COVID-19 cases on the Iowa State University campus, the institution Monday reported another 112 cases over the last week — showing a downward trend after administrative warnings and new policies threatened students with suspension.

The 112 new ISU cases between Sept. 7 and Sunday includes 91 students and four staff cases identified through on-campus target testing and another 15 students and two staff cases reported following off-campus testing.

The additional cases bring Iowa State’s COVID-19-case total since Aug. 1 to 1,553 — including on- and off-campus testing and the 175 students identified through required move-in testing. Many of those cases emerged in the second and third week of classes — after students were seen partying in close quarters without masks or much distance earlier in August.

ISU President Wendy Wintersteen responded with a scathing rebuke of such behavior, enacting a new social gathering policy threatening reprimand — including suspension — for violators.

University of Iowa, which has been reporting new COVID-19 case numbers every two days, on Monday reported another 76 self-reported cases on campus since Friday — bringing its total less than a month into the fall semester to 1,831. That total includes mostly student cases, which accounted for 72 of the new positives and 1,804 of the semester tally.

UI too had maskless students barhopping in the days before classes began, prompting administrators to threaten sanctions for those found violating the campus COVID-19 agreement.

University of Northern Iowa on Monday updated its COVID-19 case load for a total 135 identified through its Student Health Center since Aug. 17. That campus is releasing less data than its sister schools — as Iowa’s Board of Regents has given the institutions leeway to handle their respective coronavirus response plans differently.

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Although UNI didn’t previously share publicly data on self-reported cases identified at off-site testing locations, it started doing so recently — although it’s only sharing data dating back to Sept. 1. Since that time, UNI has received 48 self-reports, although it warns about adding those to the 135 — in that some of the cases could be cross-reported.

All three of the universities are providing space on their respective campuses for positive students needing to isolate and for their contacts directed to quarantine for two weeks.

UNI is reporting 13 students in residence hall quarantine and one in isolation; UI is reporting 30 residence hall students in isolation and two in quarantine; and Iowa State on Monday updated its dashboard to report 38 residence hall rooms are being used for isolation and 49 are being used for quarantine.

In reporting total number of campus community members in isolation and quarantine, Iowa State between Sept. 7 and Sunday had 132 students, faculty, and staff in isolation and 819 in quarantine.

The campuses are using a range of metrics in weighing whether to shift all courses online and end any hybrid portion of this fall semester — which prioritized in-person learning while keeping many undergraduate hours in the virtual realm.

Those metrics include number of cases and resources to handle them — including residence hall space. ISU this week is reporting it still has more than 80 percent of its quarantine rooms available for use and more than 75 percent of its isolation space available.

Still, some Iowa State and UI students, faculty, and staff on Tuesday continued their call for a shift to virtual-only learning by holding a second “sickout” of the semester.

“As students and teachers, we know that in-person classes are not safe during this pandemic,” according to Tuesday’s sickout pledge. “But instead of protecting us from illness, the administrators of our schools have resorted to finger-pointing, blaming students and local businesses for their own failures of leadership.

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“By signing this pledge, we commit to call in sick from attending or teaching class on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. By calling in sick, we demand that the University of Iowa and Iowa State University protect the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff, as well as every resident of the state of Iowa, by moving to 100% online instruction, effective immediately.”

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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