Over a week ago Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a new proclamation closing bars, nightclubs and taverns in six counties, including those housing large universities within the state. Reynolds stated a current surprise in COVID numbers were connected to the 18 to 40 years of age category with a main focus on 19 to 24 year olds.
While the new proclamations and closures are targeted to only select businesses within these six counties, all colleges across the state are being affected by the COVID pandemic. Iowa began making headlines across the U.S. with the rising cases in nearly all counties statewide.
In Johnson County, home of the Iowa Hawkeyes and University of Iowa campus, 607 positive COVID cases were confirmed by the university following just one week of students in classes. The rising numbers have changed college campus life for those that recently moved in.
Wayne Community School 2018 graduate Brady Hackney has entered his junior year at Iowa where his college experience looks much different this year.
“All of my classes were set online except for one, but I am opting to go fully online because of the current COVID-19 situation in Johnson County,” said Hackney. “The most extensive change I see happening due to COVID is the lack of students on campus. It seems that most classes are online, so instead of seeing thousands between passing times, you see much less.”
Recent 2020 Wayne graduate Gunner Fogle selected the University of Iowa to attend for his first year of college, and he is seeing the same as Hackney.
“All of my classes have been recently moved to online learning,” stated Fogle. “Our whole campus was shut down along with any extracurricular activities around campus.”
With the Hawkeyes playing in the BIG Ten Conference, all fall athletic events were put on hold until spring of 2021. A recent statement however was made regarding this decision, with a possible attempt to restart the fall sports season as early as mid-October.
As of September 2, Johnson County sits with over 4,160 positive cases. Of those cases, 76 percent are accounted for in adults 18 to 40 years of age. With the uptick in cases, on August 6, Johnson County Supervisors issued a mask mandate for the county that included fines for those violating the mandate.
“I see about 95 percent of people on campus wearing a mask and gathering in smaller, socially distanced groups,” Hackney said. “As of September 1, the University of Iowa has one of the highest confirmed COVID cases among its’ students and faculty at nearly 1,000 cases. Testing in Iowa City is becoming complicated because of the significant number of people developing symptoms.”
“I was tested on August 28 and to my dismay, was tested in a mall, where after testing was completed I was instructed to exit through the interior where hundreds were,” Hackney added. “A sense of fear is draping itself over Iowa City, while hospitals and testing sites are becoming overrun.”
To the west in Story County where Iowa State University and the Cyclones call home, case numbers are climbing and as of September 2 reached over 2,580 positive cases. Just one day earlier Ames City Council approved a mask mandate with a five to one vote for the city.
Lane Kunzie, also a 2018 Wayne graduate and now entering his junior year at Iowa State University where he is studying Criminal Justice, Psychology and Spanish is seeing the changes on campus as well.
“I am taking 18 credits at the moment, but 15 out of those 18 are online,” said Kunzie. “There isn’t much going on at campus and less students are out and about with more restrictions in classrooms and facilities in place. There are hardly any clubs holding events as well as events being hosted by the university.”
The Cyclones are preparing for their first football game of the season on Saturday, September 12, following early season cancelations. The university hoped to allow 25,000 fans to attend in stadium, but later reversed the decision to deny fan access for the game.
“I don’t have to wear the mask because I’m not around people currently,” said Kunzie. “They are required on campus unless you are unable to wear one or be socially distanced from others.”
A whopping 81 percent of adults aged 18 to 40 account for the positive cases in Story County currently while 61 percent are symptomatic cases.
Black Hawk County, home of the University of Northern Iowa and Polk County where Drake University sits, are seeing similar numbers in the 18 to 40 age group. As of September 2, Black Hawk County listed over 3,840 positive COVID cases with 53 percent in the 18 to 40 age group. Polk County, being a much larger populated county listed over 13,540 cases but a smaller 51 percent tracing back to the 18 to 40 age division.
In the September 2 press conference held by Governor Reynolds, it was stated Test Iowa resources were being made available to campuses to help testing abilities during these unprecedented times.
Sixty colleges are listed in Iowa with Carnegie Classifications of Higher Education. Further south, Graceland University sits just above the Iowa/Missouri border in Decatur County. While being the last county in the state to report a positive COVID case, Decatur now sits with 47 positives total.
Regardless of the low number in county, over half the positive cases trace back to the 18 to 40 years’ age group and Graceland University is taking many protective measures to ensure the health and safety of students and professors alike.
Tylar Greene, Wayne 2018 graduate has entered her junior year at Graceland while 2020 Wayne graduate Brady Langloss stepped onto campus for his freshman year. Both Greene and Langloss are Graceland athletes competing with teammates in seasons that as of this week, have not been halted.
Greene’s current class load is split with two classes taking place online while four other classes this semester are taking place face-to-face.
“Some of the biggest changes I have seen so far is how people aren’t being social compared to before,” said Greene. “It does create some learning struggles also.”
Langloss is experiencing similar encounters.
“We are having classes both online and in person, but it depends on the day and if your screening comes back yellow or red you then have to stay home,” Langloss stated as a freshman and member of the Yellowjackets football squad. “I had to get tested when I got to campus and we have had a few positives in the beginning. They went to quarantine and they are now back.”
Greene is a third year member of the Yellowjackets softball team and notices the impacts COVID has made on her team and coach.
“Coach Todd [Verwers] has said his scouting was totally different, as we have a ton of girls and he said he hasn’t even seen all of them play,” Greene began. “For our fall season when we would play other colleges, it has changed to where we can only scrimmage ourselves now. Our spring season, which is our actual season, we only have conference games put on schedule for now, but we are looking to get more.”
“If we carpool we have to wear masks but we can take them off as soon as we get out of the vehicle and we don’t have to wear them as long as we have an outside practice,” Greene added.
Getting caught without a mask on Graceland’s campus can come at a price, especially if you are an athlete. Those caught without a mask on a first offense are written-up, fined $25 on a second offense, fined $75 on a third offense and if found without a mask a fourth time, you are expelled from campus.
“If a coach gets regular emails about athletes not wearing their masks, then practice times or some games can start being taken away,” said Greene.
To the east in Appanoose County, a slight rise compared to Decatur is noticed with 87 positive cases. While the numbers are slightly higher, a smaller 39 percent is accounted for in 18 to 40 years of age adults.
Appanoose County holds one of Indian Hills Community College campuses where 3,900 students are enrolled in the combined campuses in Centerville and Ottumwa. While numbers remain low, IHCC is also taking steps to mitigate the spread of COVID.
“I’m in my second, sophomore year and all of my classes are in person,” said 2019 Wayne graduate Bayleigh Kellis-Naill. “I haven’t seen a single person not wearing a mask! Everyone is wearing masks and some professors wear a shield cover. The desks have been spread out and do not touch other desks.”
Meanwhile 2020 Wayne graduate Rayleigh Snyder is beginning her freshman year at IHCC. With a crazy ending to her senior year at Wayne, including spring sports being canceled and graduation not taking place until mid-July, she is seeing the COVID pandemic carry into her college experience.
“I am taking three classes online and only one at the Centerville campus in person,” said Snyder. “I definitely believe my school year would look so much different had COVID not been a continuing thing. I would be taking all of my classes in person most likely and the worry of the spread of COVID has really restricted me to want to do online learning.”
In a time when kids are becoming adults and learning to live on their own on campuses, college students are feeling the impact from COVID restrictions and the limitations create a less than desired experience.
“Life as a college kid during this time isn’t fun, that’s for sure,” said Fogle.
“I wish we could attend all the events and really wish we didn’t have to wear the masks, but other than that it is still going well,” Langloss agreed.
We have heard the term, “new normal” used frequently in recent months and while no one can predict what is to come, people of all ages are learning to adapt. College students over the years have had to adapt to new surroundings, new friends, new schedules and being away from everything they once were accustomed to knowing.
The students entering college in the Fall of 2020 are transitioning once again in ways no one could prepare them for. Learning to adapt to remote learning is just part of the battle as students also must try to remain healthy and COVID-free.
“I do feel that Indian Hills is doing everything they can to keep everyone safe so we can continue having in person classes,” Kellis-Naill continued. “All of the students are doing a great job following all of the new rules as well!”
As of September 2, Wayne County Public Health confirmed 59 total positives which doubled in one week, yet still remains one of seven lowest counties in the state. Eighteen remain active while 39 were listed as recovered with two deaths in the county.