IOWA, USA — A group of students, parents, staff and faculty is asking the Iowa Board of Regents for stricter COVID-19 policies ahead of the spring semester, which begins this week.
The letter specifically asks for the board to consider the risk the omicron variant poses to children, citing high positivity rates and hospitalization numbers.
"Our campus and Regents leaders can and must do more to protect our campus communities, with special attention to children of faculty, staff, and students; these children are too young to be vaccinated or ineligible for COVID vaccine boosters," the letter reads.
The letter requests the following measures be implemented:
- Universal mask mandate for all campuses by the start of spring semester
- Additional mitigation measures in campus and contracted childcare centers/homes, including:
- Air filtration devices and CO2 monitors in classrooms and common areas
- Mask requirements for ages two and up in all spaces used by childcare classes and groups
- Classroom-level notifications of positive cases
- Ability to have university childcare students regularly tested through existing campus student health services
- Paid leave options for employees who are caregivers impacted by the COVID case of a dependent and/or wishing to temporarily remove children or other vulnerable dependents from daycare/school settings, regardless of open status of those settings
Josh Lehman, a spokesperson for the Board of Regents, said the board received the letter and appreciates hearing from the community.
"The Board’s overarching principle for this academic year has been to give students a return to as much of a traditional educational experience and student life activities as possible," Lehman said. "This includes in-person coursework and other campus opportunities."
The board announced earlier this week it would not be changing it's COVID guidance for the upcoming semester. Under the current guidance, "All faculty and staff are required to return to campus to the extent their traditional (pre-pandemic) employment responsibilities require."
The current guidance also removed masking and social distancing requirements.
"The single most important thing that anyone can do is get vaccinated," said Michael Richards, the president of the Board of Regents. "We all need to use our common sense and take individual responsibility for managing our own health care."
The Board of Regents oversees Iowa’s three public universities—the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa and Iowa State University.
The full text of the open letter is below:
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