Hawkeye football players who want to start participating in voluntary workouts can do so beginning June 8 — a week after the University of Iowa will begin returning select coaches and athletics staff to work, according to a new UI “pilot program for returning to campus.”
Announcement of the plan Friday came a day after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance for colleges and universities planning to reopen. And it came three weeks after UI President Bruce Harreld broke the news of his intention to “get back to practice” on June 1.
In addition to Hawkeye football players, UI men’s and women’s basketball players can start voluntary workouts June 15, according to the pilot program — which also will phase in College of Medicine research in hopes of testing health and safety protocols that could be scaled for the fall semester.
All three of Iowa’s public universities are phasing in returns to campus this summer, in hopes of bringing students, faculty and staff back for the fall semester. They canceled in-person instruction mid-March due to the novel coronavirus and subsequently canceled on-campus activities — including all athletic events and graduation ceremonies.
The UI Carver College of Medicine is ushering in the first phase of that campus’ return, with modified daily research operations starting Tuesday. UI officials will unveil subsequent phases of a more robust return in the coming days, along with guidelines — such as those crafted for the research ramp-up and student-athlete return.
For example, UI student athletes must participate in a formal clearance process to return to voluntary practice that follows NCAA, Big Ten and campus best practices — with supervision from UI Health Care. The athletics guidance that’s being finalized will, like the College of Medicine guidance, include an array of measures mitigating the threat of COVID-19, including:
• Use of protective equipment, such as face shields and masks, and good hand hygiene and sanitation
• Space configuration that supports social distancing
• Occupancy limits in building, rooms and other spaces
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• Various operations revisions affecting transportation, purchasing and custodial practices.
UI guidance for resuming some College of Medicine research activities — between 30 percent and 50 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels in the first phase — involves cleaning stations at entrances and exits with shields and hand sanitizer; laboratory staffing limitations; and strict mandates around cleaning, equipment sharing, and staying home when sick.
Under the new guidance, research involving human subjects can resume — although it must preserve the subject’s safety.
“The pilot program will give the university an opportunity to operationalize recommended health and safety measures in specific settings and learn how to best implement these practices on a larger scale,” according to a UI communication that went out about the plan Friday afternoon.
Right now, the university has not announced official plans or expectations for athletics games and events come fall. And it’s not shared a date for a campuswide return of employees who’ve been working remotely.
Iowa State University, in its phased return to campus this summer, is bringing select supervisors and limited staffers back on or after June 1.
More faculty will be invited back after units develop specific plans for their spaces.
Some ISU researchers also will begin following a “measured and phased approach to resuming normal on-campus” activities beginning June 1.
And University of Northern Iowa — last week — unveiled it’s in the planning phases of a return to the Cedar Falls campus.
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The CDC guidance for colleges and universities eyeing a return to on-campus activities lays out a range of high-, moderate- and low-risk activities and behaviors for all kinds of normal higher education operations — from residence halls to dining halls to lecture halls.
For on-campus housing, for example, it characterizes shuttered residence halls “lowest risk,” lower-capacity use with closed shared spaces as having “more risk” and normal use of residence halls as “highest risk.”
It also recommends reinforcing use of face coverings, signs and lots of hand-sanitizing resources.
Its only guidance around collegiate athletics among the new higher education-specific recommendations advises schools “pursue options to convene sporting events and participate in sports activities in ways that reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to players, families, coaches and communities.”
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