Our changing COVID-19 regulations

Bethany Abrams

The members of the Augustana College community have been working together diligently to try to combat the global pandemic.
We have seen college campuses be torn apart by the whirlwind of this plague, many of them turning into COVID-19 hot spots.
According to the New York Times, colleges have contributed over 88,000 coronavirus cases, and the numbers just keep rising. As circumstances worsen, it is more important than ever for safety to be our first priority.
Luckily for Augustana, we are heading in the right direction so far. In a recent briefing on Sept. 14th, President Steve Bahls explained how our cases overall are low and how we have been adhering to the COVID-19 policies of face masks, social distancing and limited gatherings in a way that has kept our campus safe.
With the established policies in addition to temperature stations and the CampusClear app, students have prioritized safety while still getting to experience their beloved activities of welcome week, bingo and trivia nights, comedy shows, wellness classes, intramural sports and more.
With these activities, we have safely been able to form a community of togetherness and camaraderie.
It is hard, though, when students become more restless; yearning to experience more of the Quad Cities and craving the release of going to a store or getting food. In addition, certain off-campus trips have become a necessity despite the college’s vast supply of resources and essentials.
In response to this, the COVID policies of the school are gradually changing, and those changes try to strike a balance between safety and freedom.
In the aforementioned briefing, President Bahls and Dean of Students Dr. Wes Brooks announced that the college will open up for a restricted amount of off-campus travel as long as individuals abide by the college’s protocols.
Certain places or activities, such as going to The District in downtown Rock Island, are not permitted. A few outdoor activities, such as visiting local parks, are allowed as long as masks are worn and distance can be maintained.
Dean Brooks said during the Sept. 14th briefing that “Augustana College is not out of the woods,” and students have been encouraged to limit their off-campus trips as much as possible until Sept. 28th when the school will reevaluate.
It is understandable that the campus is opening up, considering how it is practically impossible to confine 2,500 students to 115 acres of campus ground. However, this may harm the campus community if people proceed in an uneducated and uncaring manner. I hold faith in the students and faculty to be socially responsible; but there is no way to guarantee what happens outside of our “augie bubble,” and thus no way to guarantee true safety.
Iowa in particular is a cause for concern. Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, has yet to establish a mask mandate as she deems masks ineffective.
The CDC has emphasized the importance of face masks as one of the best ways to prevent the spread; but she has chosen to ignore the empirical evidence.
With that and Rock Island’s total of 2,833 cases, reported on the Rock Island County Health Department’s website, opening up campus exposes students to an outside world where safety is endangered.
We all know how easily the virus can spread as we watched it happen back in March.
Our lives completely changed in the span of a few days, and that same change may occur if the virus spreads from the Quad Cities onto campus.
Thus, while opening up gives the students the freedom they are wishing for, I do fear that this freedom puts the campus in jeopardy.
However, if we handle things in a conscientious way, our security will be less likely to falter. We do not have to become a ‘hot spot’ just because we relax restrictions a bit.
We are all slowly realizing that we live in a world now where safety must prevail over everything else in order to preserve our collective well-being.
Reminding ourselves that we are in this together will hopefully implore everyone to take on an individual responsibility and accountability.
We have already exhibited resilience and persistence by managing to create togetherness and closeness whilst undergoing a completely new, frightening experience.
Through maintaining that willpower, we can continue prioritizing our health in a way that makes ourselves and others proud of the efforts here at Augustana College.