Nodaway County was moved to a Category 3: Serious Risk ranking Feb. 8, a COVID-19-related designation that removed occupancy limits and other restrictions. With this change, student organizations on Northwest's campus wondered what was to come for events for the rest of the semester.
Kori Hoffmann, assistant vice president of student engagement and development, sent a letter in an email to student leaders and advisers on campus outlining the Northwest mitigation for events on campus now that the county has moved categories.
Events are still allowed to be held virtually on or off campus but are expected to follow previous Northwest measures of social distancing at 6 feet and wearing face coverings.
Though occupancy limits are off in spaces within Nodaway County, Northwest is still limiting their capacity in rooms to accommodate social distancing.
Vice President of Student Affairs Matt Baker said Northwest is sticking to the limits that were set on individual rooms around campus. The Ballroom in the J.W. Jones Student Union had a capacity of 400 but was lowered to follow the guidelines set by the county and the University.
“In the summer we came up with our COVID occupancy limits which set that room to 50,” Baker said. “Hopefully in the fall we could go back to 400, but for now we want our students to stay here, so we are committed to social distancing and other guidelines.”
Philanthropy Chair for Sigma Kappa Avery Biga said that although there was a change in the categories, she didn’t know if she should change her events.
“I knew that some of the girls would still be uncomfortable with being in person, so I continued to plan for both in person and virtual,” Biga said. “I plan to keep things generally the same with mitigations but will be looking to plan more in-person interactive events.”
One of the biggest changes that was made due to the category shift is that events on campus can now have food and drinks, while off-campus events are still not allowed to. These events with food must follow all University mitigation procedures and meet COVID-19 requirements like ordering food through Aramark and campus dining.
“Our campus dining provider has helped us develop and is managing our COVID protocols around food on campus,” Baker said. “If you walk past the bookstore in the Union, there is a door that says ‘Campus Dining,’ and you can walk in there, and they can take your catering order.”
Off-campus events are allowed to continue as long as all University mitigation efforts are still being enforced. These events are not allowed to happen if social distancing cannot be maintained, and all of the events must take place inside Nodaway County.
When it comes to holding both on-campus and off-campus events, maintaining guidelines are completely up to the people hosting the event. Baker said accountability is a big part of making sure campus can stay open and case rates stay down.
“We don’t have an army of people who go out to make sure student organizations are following the rules,” Baker said. “We have been pretty clear since July that we want to have safe activities.”
The future of Northwest events is up to those students and advisers who are hosting the events. They have the responsibility to make sure they are following guidelines from the University and the CDC to keep people safe.
“You have done a wonderful job of this so far, but if numbers trend in the wrong direction, then we could be moved into a more restrictive category again,” Hoffmann said in his letter to student leaders. “It is up to each of us to continue to follow mitigation measures so COVID numbers continue to decline and we can allow more opportunities for organizations to host events and socialize while still being safe.”