Education

Iowa State University reports first coronavirus case

The infected community member last was on campus weeks ago

Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (The Gazette)
Beardshear Hall on the Iowa State University campus in Ames on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2015. (The Gazette)

Joining Iowa’s other public universities, Iowa State University has announced its first confirmed COVID-19 case involving an ISU community member.

The person self-identified to administrators after testing positive — marking the first time anyone in the Cyclone family has done so and prompting ISU President Wendy Wintersteen to send a notice to her campus community.

“We thank this individual for taking all of the appropriate actions to self-identify and self-isolate,” Wintersteen said in a Friday message. “The individual shared they were not exposed on campus and were last on campus three weeks ago.

“Consequently, there is no increased risk to the campus community.”

Iowa State — like UI and UNI — doesn’t plan to issue notifications every time one of its own tests positive for COVID-19, according to Wintersteen, who urged her campus to “resist rumors, and rely on factual information from credible sources.”

“We ask that you avoid speculating or spreading misinformation about the identity of this individual,” she wrote. “Instead, please show compassion to others and do your part to mitigate your risk of infection.”

The University of Iowa in mid-March became the first Board of Regents university to announce a positive COVID-19 case in its community — a UI dentistry student who had seen a patient while symptomatic. That student self-reported to administrators, prompting a campuswide communication and other measures within the College of Dentistry.

About a month later, in mid-April, UNI disclosed its first employee had tested positive for COVID-19 — although the employee last had been on campus more than 30 days ago and had been self-isolating, according to a message from UNI President Mark Nook.

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Neither UI nor UNI have announced any more positive cases among faculty, staff, or students — excluding UI Health Care, which reports infected employee numbers daily. Monday’s report showed 90 total UIHC employees have tested positive to date.

The three public universities have gone to great lengths to avoid exacerbating the state’s COVID-19 spread, including moving all in-person classes online, urging employees to work from home when possible, closing laboratories, shuttering residence halls for most students, and canceling in-person meetings, activities and events — including commencement.

Timing of each of the campuses’ first cases coincides with the pervasiveness of COVID-19 in the counties they reside.

Johnson County, home to the University of Iowa, had the state’s first cases and has been among the hardest hit — reporting 555 cases as of Sunday.

Black Hawk, home to UNI, reported its first cases well after Johnson — although it has seen numbers soar in recent days due to an outbreak at the Waterloo-based Tyson Foods plant, which has reported more than 1,000 infected workers. Black Hawk’s case total as of Sunday sat at 1,512.

And Story County, home to Ames and Iowa State, reported its first cases later and currently has 61 — despite its closer proximity to Polk County, Iowa’s largest county with the most cases to date.

Nonetheless, in Wintersteen’s message about her campus’ first COVID-19 case, she urged her campus to remain vigilant in its “infection control strategies,” including social distancing, wearing face masks, washing hands often with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, avoiding touching your face, and staying home when sick.

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

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