Read the Weekly COVID-19 update. 

Since we don’t have updated dashboard numbers this week due to Spring Break, I decided to give Dr. Spicer the week off from the weekly COVID-19 message so I could share a few things on my mind as we begin the final stretch of the academic year.

One year ago, our daily habits massively changed. Almost overnight, we learned and practiced the term social distancing. We stopped gathering. We began carrying masks with us at all times. Now, most have us have a spare mask or two in our car, our desk, and other spaces we frequent.

These habits are well entrenched, and that was done with great intention. Here at Morningside, we have reminded our community each and every week to keep wearing masks, to diligently wash hands, and to follow the guidelines we know can help keep us all safe and healthy. We have committed to taking care of one another.

As vaccines become more widely available and the percentage of people who have been fully vaccinated continues to climb, we know we are going to begin to see some of those new habits fade away. It won’t be all at once. Hopefully some – like handwashing – will stick better than before. The dial, though, is going to begin turning back.

Here at Morningside, we will end the academic year as it began. We will continue to require the use of masks. We will follow guidelines surrounding COVID-19. We might try a few more gatherings here and there, but for the most part, we will maintain the practices we have followed throughout the year.

As spring fades into summer, though, we must begin turning the dial back. Already, we are seeing signs indicating that we need to begin thinking about how that might look. More and more of our faculty, staff, and students have been vaccinated. This past fall, the COVID-19 weekly updates were being viewed by more than 1,000 people on the day they were released. Since December, those updates are only being viewed by an average of 200 people. Additionally, we are getting more frequent questions from outsiders about when we will resume hosting outside events on campus, and we have received occasional questions about when masking requirements might begin to relax. Right now, the questions aren’t urgent, but we know they will only continue to get louder and more frequent.

Additionally, preparing to welcome the Class of 2025 and putting Morningside in the best position possible as we prepare for a new year of academics, activities, a presidential search, and so much more is paramount. Beginning to safely operate in green makes those goals more achievable. While we won’t be making changes today or even in the next several weeks, the next phase in the pandemic is not far off. Vaccines will be widely available soon, and the threat of COVID-19 will be less imminent.

There have been no decisions made about what the movement toward green looks like yet. It’s important to me, though, that we begin talking about it. We need to start considering what life will look like at Morningside after graduation, as vaccines are widely available, as we welcome new students this summer, and as we prepare for a new academic year next fall.

With that in mind, I also want to urge each and every member of this campus community to get the vaccine when it becomes available. As the old guy on campus, I was fortunate to receive my second dose a few weeks ago. I’m so grateful for that opportunity. It feels good to have taken that important step toward returning to normal.

Your turn to get a vaccine is coming, and it’s possible you may already qualify.

In Iowa, individuals who have underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, who have a BMI over 25, are diabetic, or any number of other common conditions listed here can sign up to receive the vaccine. Within the next several weeks, I expect that vaccinations will open up even more broadly. Presently, Drilling Pharmacy and HyVee, are among the places you can sign up to receive a vaccine. We are also staying in regular conversation with local health officials to offer the vaccine here on campus should that option become available. If it does, you will be the first to know. But again, I urge you to take the opportunity to get vaccinated if it becomes available to you. The more the spread of COVID-19 continues to slow, the better our chances are for resuming something that looks closer to normal.

On behalf of the Senior Staff and I, please know how incredibly grateful I am to this campus community for sticking together and caring for one another this academic year. Though we aren’t quite to the finish line of this academic year yet, we are getting closer, and that wouldn’t have been possible without all of you. Thank you.

Be well,
John Reynders