Iowa State not planning to move to online-only instruction


Iowa State President Wendy Wintersteen and other members of administration announced in a town hall there is currently no plan to move classes all online.

Michael Craighton

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect a letter that was sent to the Iowa State community following the town hall, and to add context to President Wintersteen’s characterization of the increase in cases. In it, President Wintersteen amended the statement that the second week’s test results were not expected, although the original quote as given in the article is accurate.

There are no current plans for Iowa State University to move to all-online instruction at this time, as discussed at a town hall meeting Monday.

President Wendy Wintersteen, along with several members of university administration, provided updates on the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and announced the opening of a new testing site on campus.

Wintersteen indicated the majority of cases of transmission of COVID-19 are attributed to large social gatherings off-campus, at which students are not adhering to social distancing and face covering guidelines, rather than on-campus transmission.

Because of low transmission rates on campus, several members of the university administration, including Windersteen and Senior Vice President and Provost Jonathan Wickert, reiterated at this time that they are not intending to move to an online-only model.

Wintersteen also announced the opening of a second Student Health Services-run testing center at Johnny’s in Hilton Coliseum. This new site, separate from the Test Iowa location in Story County, will become the primary location for COVID-19 testing on campus.

Assistant Dean in the College of Veterinary Medicine Alex Ramirez addressed the question of whole-campus testing, which is currently not being recommended in favor of individual testing.

“Iowa State is not a closed herd,” Ramirez said. “We would test people only to have them leave the campus […] and have contact with other individuals.”

Ramirez also discussed the additional mitigation efforts the university has put in place to protect students and faculty, such as daily cleaning of classrooms.

The university is continuing to review and update the procedures for students who have tested positive or have been in contact with someone who has.

Wintersteen gave an update on the new positive case totals for the second week of the semester. Out of 1,749 tests performed, 503 returned a positive result. The positive tests included one staff member but no faculty.

The tests performed include the routine tests required of student athletes, but the results reported for the semester do not include the students who tested positive as part of the residence hall move-in process.

“This uptick in cases was not expected given our targeted approach to testing,” Wintersteen said.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for 10 days, and those who have had close contact will quarantine for 14 days. For on-campus residents, they will be moved to Linden Hall for isolation and Oak-Elm Halls for quarantine.

COVID-19 Public Health Coordinator Kristen Obbink said Thielen Student Health Center and the Department of Residence will provide assistance for students who have to move into any of those dorms. Mental health resources are also being offered to students who have to isolate or quarantine.

Frank Peters, chair of the University Response Team, discussed how student absences will be handled.

Course instructors will be notified if a positive case is discovered in a classroom. The existing notification process through the Dean of Students office will also be utilized to alert instructors of a student’s extended absence due to a health issue such as coronavirus.

Peters said any absence due a student not feeling well is automatically excused. The university is also working to increase space, both indoor and outdoor, to accommodate students participating in online courses while on campus.

Wintersteen concluded by saying the administration is continuing to monitor the situation and review data and information on a daily basis to judge if any additional action will need to be taken.

Following the town hall, Wintersteen sent a letter to the Iowa State community in which she restated the points she and others had addressed earlier. It also clarified her statement regarding the uptick in positive cases. 

The increase in cases and the positivity percentage is not unexpected due to our targeted testing strategy,” the letter said.