Luther President updates ‘return to campus’ protocols

In a letter to students and parents last week, Luther College President Jenifer K. Ward outlined the updated information concerning returning to campus in Decorah in the fall, including advanced mitigation protocols, safety measures, move-in information and campus policies enacted to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

Following is a portion of that letter to parents, dated July 24:




Detecting and Preventing Spread of COVID-19 


In order to detect and monitor the potential presence of COVID-19 in the Luther community, Luther is taking a three-pronged approach: 1. working closely with state and local health departments on cases of symptomatic individuals, 2. conducting tests of asymptomatic individuals through a contract with Tempus and 3. using CampusClear, a free phone app allowing individuals to daily screen for symptoms of COVID-19.


Testing of Asymptomatic Individuals

The college has purchased 2,000 viral tests from Tempus for use during the fall semester. The Tempus PCR test detects active SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Tempus tests will be used for asymptomatic testing protocols in the following manner: 1) all student-athletes partiipating in fall athletis will be testd upona rrival to campus in August; and 2) randomized testing will then proceed for students throughout the fall semester.

Luther Health Service staff will oversee the collection of samples, using a simple nasal swab. Samples will be analyzed at Tempus labs in Chicago. Luther Health Service and the students tested will receive the test results. If a test is positive, Luther Health Service will work with the student and Winneshiek County Public Health to treat the student’s illness, isolate them from others, and conduct contact tracing. 


Testing of Symptomatic Individuals

Students, faculty, or staff who experience symptoms related to COVID-19 are asked not to report to class or to work, and to consult with their health care provider. Luther Health Service will refer students with symptoms to Winneshiek Medical Center for testing. Faculty and staff exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be tested at either Winneshiek Medical Center or Gundersen Clinic in Decorah. State or local public health officials will interview anyone who receives a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 and notify close contacts of these individuals. Public health will give contacts direction as to whether they need to self-quarantine, and release individuals from quarantine.


Living Arrangements for Students Who Need Quarantine


Luther has designated space in the Luther College Apartments and college-owned houses, and secured rooms at the Fairfield Inn in Decorah if needed, for students who need to be in isolation as they await COVID-19 test results. Students who test positive for COVID-19 will complete a quarantine period in Norby House (or other designated space) under the supervision of local public health and Luther Health Service. Campus Safety and Security will deliver meals to all students in isolation or quarantine, and the Associate Dean for Student Life will provide case management.


Daily Symptom Monitoring

Luther  has contracted with CampusClear to make available to all students, faculty, and staff a free phone app. The use of this app is in development and the college will communicate more details in August. 


Personal Safety Practices


Face Coverings

All faculty, staff, students, and visitors are required to wear face coverings during the fall semester in both indoor and outdoor public spaces on campus. Individuals may remove face coverings on campus in specific circumstances such as a private office or a dorm room with registered occupants (full guidance is on the Luther website). This policy is based on CDC guidance on protecting yourself and others. The CDC notes that while face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE), they may help prevent people who unknowingly have COVID-19 from spreading it to others when used in combination with physical distancing. 


Students who are unable to wear a face covering for medical reasons should contact the Student Academic Support Center (563-387-1270; Employees who are unable to wear a face covering for medical reasons should contact Human Resources (563-387-1134; The Student Academic Support Center or Human Resources may approve a face shield as an appropriate substitute for a cloth or disposable face covering.


Physical Distancing


The CDC recommends avoiding close contact with others to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Because people can spread the virus while they are asymptomatic, it is important to practice physical distancing at all times by staying at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) from other people, especially those who are sick or live outside of your household. Physical distancing is best used in combination with face coverings.

At the same time, we realize that students who are living and dining on campus together need to be able to bond socially and interact with each within safe boundaries. Student Life is considering ways of promoting these ideas and practices, and they will be working with student groups on these ideas. Student input also is welcome through a feedback form set up on the website.


Travel to and from campus

During the fall semester, Luther College will limit college-sponsored travel from campus to recruiting, fundraising, and varsity and junior varsity athletic competitions (pending affirmation of the fall athletic schedule and concurrence on conference-wide mitigation protocols by the American Rivers Conference). Luther recommends students remain in Decorah and refrain from returning home on weekends.


Following guidance from the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), Luther College is not requiring that students, faculty, and staff who arrive on campus from locations within the United States self-isolate, as long as they remain well and have not been identified as a close contact of an ill individual. 

In alignment with our community ethos, Luther College asks students, faculty, and staff to do everything they can when traveling to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Luther College recommends that students reduce social contacts for 14 days prior to departing for campus, as it is one step that they and their families can take to increase the likelihood that we can begin and complete the fall semester in person. All students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to review the stated considerations developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for travel within the United States. 



Facilities Services will provide both routine cleaning (defined as standard cleaning and disinfecting) and enhanced cleaning (defined as disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as door knobs, door push plates, water fountains, elevator buttons, handrails, and light switches) of all academic, athletic, and general-use buildings at least once daily, Monday through Friday. Facilities Services will clean all residence halls at least once daily, Sunday through Saturday. Cleaning protocols in the Regents Center (bleachers and locker rooms) and the Legends Fitness for Life Center will use a disinfectant misting device. Facilities Services will place hand-sanitizing stations in all classrooms, at the primary entry points of all residence halls, and within all other campus buildings. 


Facilities Services will not routinely clean private offices, residence hall rooms, and the restrooms in Baker Village and Prairie Houses. The users/occupants of these spaces are asked to keep them cleaned and disinfected.



Facilities Services and the Registrar’s Office have established modified classroom capacities. The classroom furniture has been arranged to account for physical distancing and air handling. In laboratories, students will work in staggered groups when possible, in order to de-densify these spaces. Prior to dismissing each class, faculty will direct students to keep moving and avoid gatherings in the hallways outside of classrooms. Some classes will be held outside during favorable weather and when pedagogically appropriate.


All classrooms will contain cleaning supplies. In addition to the routine and enhanced cleanings performed daily by Facilities Services, faculty will spray desks/tables with a disinfecting spray after each class. Faculty entering a classroom will wipe down all desks/tables before a class begins.


Faculty will take daily attendance and maintain records of seating arrangements to facilitate contact tracing, if needed.

Students who are ill are excused from attending class in person. Attendance policies will take into account that students are excused for illness. Faculty will work with students who are ill, as well as those who are in isolation or quarantine, on a case-by-case basis so that they may maintain progress in their courses.

Faculty who are ill will not attend class in person. In the case of illness, faculty will work with their department and/or program head to make arrangements for covering classes.


Residence Halls

Residence Life will assign students move-in dates and times as part of a phased process to prevent large numbers of people gathering in close proximity inside the residence halls during move-in. Residence hall staff will use a low-contact check-in process.

First-year students may have two family members enter the halls during move-in, and returning students may have one family member enter the halls. Additional family members may come to campus for move-in days, but we ask that they not enter the residence halls. 

Study lounges and laundry rooms will remain open throughout the fall semester with requirements for face coverings and physical distancing. Residence Life will reduce the furniture in common areas to create more space between occupants. Signs will alert students to the occupancy limits of a common area. 

Residence Life will limit the number of individuals within the residence halls using a four-phase visitor/guest policy. Residence halls visitor policy will begin at Phase 1, which specifies that no off-campus visitors and no visitors from other residence halls are allowed, and move upwards or downwards, depending upon the conditions on campus and in the local community.




All locations (CAF, Oneota, Marty’s, Sunnyside) will operate at 50% capacity, with six feet between tables and no more than six seats at each table. Attendants will sanitize tables and chairs between each use. Dining Services will provide alternatives to self-service for all beverages, salads, and desserts; add an additional Grab-N-Go location in Marty’s; and modify line spacing and traffic flow to promote physical distancing.




Coaches and athletics staff developed plans and protocols for safe practices, events, and facility operations based on guidance from the NCAA and the American Rivers Conference, including new policies for the athletic training clinic and hand-free hydration methods. Coaches and athletics staff will educate all student-athletes on infection prevention and control. All student-athletes will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival in August and throughout the fall competition schedule. The national situation for college athletics in the fall is dynamic and adjustment of the fall competition schedule by the ARC remains possible. 


Recreational and Fitness Facilities


Students, faculty, and staff may use the Legends Fitness for Life Center and the Aquatic Center on a limited basis. Users of the Legends Center and the Aquatic Center must apply hand sanitizer when entering and give their ID number verbally at the door. Users of the Legends Center must wear a face covering at all times and thoroughly clean the equipment after using it. Users of the Aquatic Center must wear a mask while entering and exiting the building and register in advance, as swimming is restricted to one user per lane.


Campus Events

Family Weekend has been cancelled. Homecoming will occur virtually, with signature reunions postponed until May. The Center Stage Series has been cancelled for the fall semester. Decisions regarding Christmas at Luther will be announced in September. The Director of Intercollegiate Athletics will make decisions regarding spectators at athletic events two weeks in advance of each event.


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