INDIANOLA, Iowa — Simpson College dealt with the toughest test in its history when COVID-19 arrived in 2020. Campus leaders now hope staff and students vaccinate themselves to avoid another challenge with COVID-19’s delta variant.
“We are hoping that throughout our region, people are taking this new surge seriously,” said Simpson College vice president for student development Heidi Levine. “Even though it’s been hard, our students have really pulled together and have done the right things, which we saw in how well we came through last year.”
Levine said Simpson had randomly tested unvaccinated students for COVID-19 throughout the past academic year, and will increase the scale of those tests in the coming year if the delta variant continues to spread. Additionally, vaccinated Simpson students are automatically entered in a raffle to win $200 from the college.
While the vaccine is strongly encouraged, Simpson College will not require the vaccine. Levine said it would threaten their funding to do so because of recently-passed state mandates.
“It would mean jeopardizing our students’ access to an ability to use Iowa tuition grants to attend Simpson,” Levine said. “It would have had tremendous implications not only for the college, but for the students.”
Masks are also optional at Simpson, but Levine said the college could reconsider if the delta variant tears through Indianola and Warren County.
“If we don’t get to the vaccination rate threshold we identified, we will go back to wearing masks indoors,” Levine said.
The college measures its threshold with a color-coded system, in which the top level requires more than 80 percent of staff and students to be fully vaccinated. Levine said she is optimistic the college will get there by the end of the academic year.