Community Health Resources
With thanks to campus conversations and partners, I write to provide a set of resources, frameworks, and future work for community health at Grinnell College. As our community continues to work to manage COVID-19, the pandemic is also shaping responses to general community health concerns. The information below is shared for your reference and will continue to be assessed by Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) and discussed with representatives of faculty, staff, and student governance bodies.
Fall 2022 Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know how many cases of COVID have been confirmed on campus?
COVID case numbers for students living on and off campus are reported weekly in the Campus Memo in the Health and Wellness Updates section. At the time of this writing (9.20.2022), there is one active case of COVID, within a cumulative total of 128 reported cases since Aug. 8, and a one-day peak of 56 cases. We are also monitoring confirmed cases of influenza and other diseases of concern. We currently have recorded four cumulative cases of influenza A and two cumulative cases of influenza B since Aug. 8, as well as 12 active cases of strep throat within 23 cumulative cases since Aug. 8.
Who is making academic and campus decisions about public health measures?
Grinnell College uses a collaborative decision-making model. This fall, that includes input from Terry Mason, Dean of Health and Wellness; Kasey Herbers, PA-C from Student Health and Wellness; and Heather Cox, Director of Emergency Management, in addition to:
- Dean Beronda Montgomery, VP of Academic Affairs
- Myrna Hernandez, Chief of Staff
- Sarah Moschenross, VP of Student Affairs
- Ben Newhouse, Associate VP of Student Affairs & Dean of Students
- Ben Cooprider, Staff Council Co-Chair
- Loyal Terry, SGA President
- Clark Lindgren, Executive Council Chair
What guidelines does the College consider in making public health decisions?
We continue to look to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Iowa Department of Public Health, Poweshiek County Public Health, as well as Johns Hopkins University, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and the American College Health Association. We are currently employing the CDC guidelines for counties experiencing Medium or High community COVID levels. You can view the current level for Poweshiek online.
Who will be making public health decisions for the College going forward?
As we transition from emergency response to ongoing management of COVID and other illnesses, Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) will provide guidance for student health concerns and Human Resources (HR) will provide guidance for employee concerns, both in partnership with the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI). SHAW and HR will notify the director of Emergency Management if we are seeing high numbers of confirmed cases reported to SHAW or spiking absenteeism among students, to determine if an emergency response is needed.
What is the threshold for taking emergency response measures?
Ten percent of students being absent is a commonly used threshold in education for moving to a community health emergency response. Within the current enrollment numbers, the ten percent threshold would be met if 163 students were ill at the same time with the same illness. I will be charging a group of faculty, staff, and students, led by Terry Mason at SHAW, that will consider this and other issues regarding public health decision making at Grinnell.
Will the College change its attendance policy to slow the spread of COVID and other viruses?
There are a series of decisions that will need to be made as we continue to transition from pandemic to endemic episodes of COVID and other illnesses. Prior to the pandemic the assumption would more likely have been that students would come to class to show their dedication and commitment. Now, there is greater reluctance to go out and expose others to any illness. The Executive Council, Curriculum Committee, and other governance bodies oversee academic policy and will need to discuss how to move forward.
What is the status of masking at the College?
The CDC’s research and endorsement of high-quality N95 and KN95 masks affirm their high effectiveness in protecting the wearer. This is reflected in the current CDC guidance that individuals at high risk should wear a high-quality N95 or KN95 mask or respirator when indoors. This is true at all levels of community transmission. The College makes KN95 masks available for this purpose and asks the community to be respectful of individual choices that students, faculty, and staff may make to mask based on their individual risk factors.
A Sept. 1 message communicated that masks are no longer required in campus buildings. Masks not being required does not mean that masks cannot be requested; for example, faculty may request that students mask in their classrooms. Please remember that anyone is welcome to wear a mask at any time. Please respect each other’s choices. High-risk individuals should mask as appropriate and can use the accommodation process if needed. High-quality masks will continue to be made available to students and employees.
What can individuals do if they are at high risk and wish to seek an accommodation?
Students, faculty and staff who are at high risk may seek a confidential accommodation process by reaching out to the appropriate contact for accessibility and disability resources.
Will the College offer bivalent boosters that offer specific protection from the Omicron variants?
The new bivalent COVID boosters are available at the Grinnell Hy-Vee Pharmacy. Search for available appointments at the Grinnell or other Hy-Vee stores or call 888-713-7040. Poweshiek County Public Health also has a limited supply of bivalent booster doses available. SHAW is partnering with Hy-Vee to bring a mobile vaccination unit to campus on Oct. 5, 6, and 7 that will be open to students, staff, and faculty. Please sign up to receive your flu shot and/or the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 bivalent booster vaccine.
If you have any questions, you can address them to firstname.lastname@example.org or to your representatives within College governance bodies. We will continue to work across the long threshold of this global pandemic in its complexities and connections to each other.
All the best,
Anne F. Harris