Northwestern College recently released a revised set of COVID-19 guidelines after the Iowa Department of Public Health redefined who is considered a “close contact.”
Previously, a student would need to quarantine if they spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of another student who tested positive. Now, that is not necessarily the case.
Close contacts of COVID-positive cases will no longer need to quarantine for 14 days if a face covering was worn consistently and correctly by the positive case and close contacts. The positive case must isolate. The close contacts should self-monitor.
If a student is by a positive case, they are asked to self-monitor. This means filling out Raider Check and checking for symptoms daily. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chills, body aches, a sore throat, loss of smell and taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or a headache.
For campus, this means if students wear their mask properly during time of exposure, only the positive case will have to quarantine.
For many students, this makes the difference between missing two weeks of class and extracurriculars or keeping the same routine. However, roommates will still have to quarantine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still defines a close contact as any individual who was within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from two days before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated. It does not matter who was wearing a mask.
Whether NW will continue these new policies will depend on the trend of positive COVID cases.
As of Oct. 14, NW had a total of 20 active cases, 18 students and two employees. Additionally, 75 students and 21 employees have recovered from COVID-19 since detailed tracking began in July. The number of students quarantined due to close contact is not shared on myNWC.
This is the second change in guidelines, as campus saw additional temporary mitigation measures go into place on Sept. 19. These included wearing masks in residence halls except in your room, in close proximity with others and getting together with friends. These additional measures came as a result of a spike in cases. Campus has had a steady stream of positive cases since mid-September.
Some students are struggling with how to properly wear a mask.
In an email, sent on October 2, Vice President for Student Life Julie Vermeer Elliott outlined the correct way to wear a mask. Masks must be worn over both the mouth and nose to protect yourself and others. In addition, neck gaiters, bandanas and face shields are not proper coverings.
That being said, with consistent and correct mask wearing, the risk of having to quarantine decreases.
Other changes on campus are seen in the cafeteria. Before, students would receive their cup and utensils at the entrance. Now, students are able to grab their cups by the fountains. Staff in the cafeteria hand out the utensils.
“These new rules decrease our anxiety on campus,” Chloe Harskamp, a sophomore business administration and marketing major, said. “As long as we mask up, I can feel safe about seeing my friends.”
These constant changes are also a result of the surrounding county and entire state. According to New York Times COVID map, Sioux County continues to be a hotspot in the state. Iowa also ranks in the top 10 with one of the highest positivity rates as it totals 7,190 cases in the last seven days.