• Olivia Stam

Briar Cliff University Lifts Mask Mandate

The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed many changes upon the lives of college students in the last three years. For Briar Cliff University, the surge of positive cases following Christmas break forced faculty such as Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Todd Knealing, and Director of Student Health Services, Jo Morgan, to make decisions that had the best health interest of their students and fellow employees in mind.

After following data from both Siouxland District Health and the Iowa Department of Public Health, Knealing and Morgan felt that a mask mandate was necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus on campus.

“So we had seen, especially on the coast, the Omicron COVID surge hitting kind of those states, and saw across several weeks, really increasing numbers. It hadn’t hit Iowa yet, but the week before first years [students] came back we started seeing the numbers increasing in Iowa and Woodbury County,” Knealing said. “We had Des Moines Hospitals releasing that they had large numbers of hospitalizations, so as a precaution we put the mask mandate in before everyone got back to campus.”

The surge of COVID-19 cases was expected following Christmas break travel, so upon return to campus, those precautionary measures were necessary.

“We knew COVID is not going to take a vacation. They’re not taking a holiday.” Morgan said.

According to the Siouxland District Health Department, the percentage of positive cases in Woodbury County was around 10.7% as of December 13, 2021, and as of January 10, 2022, that percentage was up to 33.2%.

The mask mandate that was put into effect on January 10th was then lifted as of February 2, but masks are still recommended on campus. Students have been asked to monitor any COVID symptoms they may have, continue to take precautionary measures such as hand washing, social distancing, masking, and vaccination if possible, and to contact Charger Health with any health questions or concerns. Data from the weeks of January showed positive cases trending downward, with the most recent percentage around 13.3% on January 31.

With the ever-changing state of the COVID-19 virus, Briar Cliff Students are encouraged to monitor their emails for updates and stay informed with outside resources such as Siouxland District Health and Iowa Department of Public Health.

Photo Credit: Liv Stam / Cliff News: Signs around campus urge students to wear masks to help slow the spread of Covid-19.

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